Daniel Heath is an award-winning, artisan surface designer who prides on his work being made here, in England. He has a variety of skills from designing wallpaper, to up-cycling, which demonstrates his love for sustainable design. You may have seen him on the BBC show Money for Nothing, where he revamps old furniture by etching illustrations onto the surface.
We had a chat with the craftsman to find out what makes him tick..
We know you’re a surface designer, but how did you get into up-cycling?
I got into up-cycling through working with Retrouvius on interior design projects and through having access to their warehouse of architectural salvage. As reclamation specialists, Maria Speake and Adam Hills invited me to take away some materials that they had intended to use on future projects. Initially, they wondered if I could print onto some Victorian oak panels that came from a previous life as drawer bases in Natural History Museum specimen cabinets. I realised that if I learnt how to translate my drawings into digital files, then they could be burnt into the wood using a laser, so I went away and spent a week teaching myself how to do that. The outcome of this initial experiment was very inspiring and it fascinated me that you could create something beautiful out of something discarded. I also began to embrace the inherent qualities of salvaged materials, their patina and their character, and this is something that still continues to excite me.
Do you have a favourite project?
A personal favourite project is a residential project I completed last year for a private client in Hampstead. My client came to me with an inspiration for a substantial home cinema room, based around the architecture and skyscrapers of New York. The client was very enthusiastic and had taken many trips to NYC for inspiration, so it was great that I had recently visited myself and shared an interest in the same buildings (G.E, Chrysler etc) in Manhattan. It was a great excuse for me to read up on these buildings and for me to use them for inspiration in my own artwork for this project.
The client was interested in creating an artwork that would cover the rear wall of the theatre, creating a striking image that would adorn the cabinetry that would house the projector and other equipment. It was a very technical project because of all of considerations that needed to be made for equipment. The artwork became 24 meters of non-repeating imagery, engineered to the positions of various required openings and doors. I developed a surface that utilised digital printing onto polished stainless steel Formica, which was inlaid into the cabinet fronts by the joiner.
Later in the project we were approached to design the projection screen surround and speaker housings, which were black lacquered and inlaid with laser cut steel pieces. It was a fun project as the client was supportive in me exploring new ideas and the result really was striking. As a private residence, we have not yet had the chance to go back in and photograph it.
We love that you combine hand craft with technology such as the laser engraving machine. How do you feel about the take-over of technology in this era? Is it dangerous for artisans?
Embracing technology has enabled me to work across a broader range of materials than my traditional printing skills would allow. It is important that new and old technologies are approached with the same ethos. I think that it is dangerous only when it makes a person lazy, and artisans or craftspeople should be asking what new possibilities these new technologies allow.
Can you give us a little insight into your creative process? Where do you get your inspiration from?
My creative process usually begins with a personal interest, because as author of all of my imagery it is important for me to maintain interest in a topic throughout the creative process. I visit museums and read books, articles and papers around the theme. Next, I will go and see how I can delve further into the topic by collecting first hand imagery through photography and drawing. I will develop a drawing style that suits the theme, often through trial and error. My current inspiration is non-native or invasive species of flora and fauna and I have been drawing Chinese water deer and giant Chilean rhubarb, amongst many other of our successfully establishing guests.
What would your dream project be?
I thing a boutique hotel with a big budget paired with a client with a sense of romance and an appetite for rich narratives would be a wonderful project to work on.
Daniel’s East London studio also hosts many hands-on workshops, where you can design your own wallpaper and learn techniques such as screen printing. To join, and to find out more about Daniel Heath Studio, check out his website, Twitter and Instagram.
Image credit goes to Tom Fallon.