Mountain View

How did you become a set designer?

I actually studied costume design at University but decided it wasn't really for me. It was too delicate. I wanted to be making more sculptural objects out of different materials and had a growing interest in interior design. About a week after graduating I was asked to be photographed by Tim Walker for his series east enders for W magazine. Iʼd always been a huge fan of his work and was beginning to realise that what I loved most about it aside from the imagination and composition was the set design. So I set about getting some experience in the field.

My first few jobs were working for set designer Gary Card. I then went on to assist Andy Hillman and continued working freelance for him for the next 3 years alongside working on projects of my own. Andy actually employed me at first for my sewing skills because I was good at upholstery and soft furnishings so I guess the costume degree turned out to be a blessing. Iʼve been working solely for myself now for a year-and-a-half. Things seem to have moved really quickly and more and more work is coming in all the time which is great.

Where do you find inspiration?

A lot of my inspiration comes from nostalgia. I was lucky to have really colourful childhood living in Mauritius where my Dad worked until I was 9 years old. We then moved to Nairobi and back to the UK in my early teens. The memories of the incredible Hindu festivals combined with the colours of the jungle and coral reef really stuck with me. I was always invited to dress up and celebrate with our neighbours and we would go to all the Hindu weddings of my parent's friends.

In a juxtaposition, the other side of my inspiration comes from my love of horror films. Ever since I was around 10 years old, Iʼve been hooked. I like the macabre combined with colourful fantasy and the idea of looking at something beautiful with a dark undertone is fascinating to me. I find art direction in horror and sci-fi films fixating. To me the Shining and Rosemaryʼs Baby are two of the most beautiful films ever made, or at least that Iʼve seen. I also gain a lot of inspiration from artists like Kahn and Selesnick and Bosch. I share their love of creating fantasy worlds for the viewer to immerse themselves within.

When was the last time you tried something new?

In terms of work I pretty much try something new every day. That's the whole thing with set design is you could be asked to do or make anything at any time so trying new things is something I have to be prepared for. Set design covers such a large array of skills from designing to set dressing and building, prop sourcing to prop making and for different medias weather it be video, stills, live performance and so on. Iʼm constantly learning and trying new things all the time.

I have a pretty good understanding of how to construct 3D objects so when I am asked to build props within a very tight timeframe. I can generally pull it off.

Which of your talents do you think people overlook?

I'm actually OK at drawing, I just donʼt get the time or opportunity to do it that much anymore. Sometimes I wish I had a week to work on a design but usually I get a couple of hours so I canʼt show off my full drawing potential.

What risk would you take if you knew you could not fail?

Time travel.

What's the most challenging thing you've ever created?

I had to make a giant Gorilla for Dover Street market once when I was working for Andy that was pretty challenging. It was about five times bigger than me.

What's the best piece you've ever created?

I donʼt know whats the best piece but Iʼm really happy with a lot of the work Iʼve done this year. Particularly the editorials because I feel those are the projects where I get to be the most creative and it's helped me to develop my individual style. Iʼve been so lucky to meet and collaborate with some amazing artists who share a similar vision which has been really rewarding.

What's the most provocative piece you've ever created?

Hmm I've done quite a lot of shoots with naked models and models covered in blood and guts but I donʼt know if that's that provocative?

If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring set designers, what would it be?

Try to assist as many people as possible! You can learn so much invaluable stuff from other people and gain good experience of the industry because it's so different to what they teach you in art school.

Lastly, what are you currently working on?

Nothing! Iʼve got 3 days off. Iʼve just finished 4 months of back-to-back jobs, from TV commercials to music videos to fashion editorials and advertising, events and even a bit of work on a feature film. Iʼve got some exciting projects in the pipeline including a music video, a book Iʼm making with photographer Scarlet Carlos Clarke, and an event that involves building a huge indoor winter wonderland.

Mountain View

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