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Alex Eagle’s Design Heroes

Alex Eagle’s Design Heroes
In Article, News

What do the following have in common: Peggy Guggenheim, Alexander Calder, Donald Judd, Ray and Charles Eames, Henri Matisse, Charlotte Perriand, Barbara Hepworth, David Hockney? They are all creative icons, of course, but for Alex Eagle, together they represent something unique.

“There is a happiness to their work. It’s not self indulgent or inward looking, it’s outward looking. They were – indeed, are in the case of Hockney – artists, designers, makers who loved what they did, and kept doing it. They never seemed to look back, they were just always creating, and what they created was designed to make you feel good, put a spring in your step, add happiness and embellish your life,” she says.

In homage, Eagle commissioned artist Fee Greening – known for drawing on the traditional iconographical representation of saints and muses – to reimagine her pantheon of design heroes. The results are now available at Alex Eagle, as both prints and greeting cards.

“Fee just got it. It chimed with what she was doing already, making these beautifully hand crafted icons. We agreed on the people too – they are artists who inspire her as well. I love her work – she is definitely a future icon herself.”

Here Alex talks through her icons, the people whose work, style and sensibilities inspire her to work, dress and think further and faster.

Peggy Guggenheim

I’ve been obsessed with Peggy Guggenheim for as long as I can remember. She is a massive inspiration, her story and her life is so inspiring and mesmerising – it’s crazy. All the artists that she worked with and collected and were her friends are ones who I love. Because she wasn’t an artist herself, she was an outsider to the group, and through her you gain a unique understanding of those artists and what was happening. And a little bit I relate to that. I am not an artist, but I love being with artists and seeing their process and maybe she’s an inspiration like that.

Barbara Hepworth

I came across her when I was very young, when I was studying Ben Nicholson who I loved. She was his wife and they lived in St Ives together influencing Mondrian and all these other artists. She was just cool, you know. She got on with her own thing, inspiring all the people around her. I love her different use of mixed media, her objects, her sculptures, her sketches, her lithographs, her paintings. Everything she put her hand to has the most beautiful form, and feels really natural and organic and feminine. She was working according to the style of the time, finding structure and peace and beauty in abstraction and minimalism and modernism, breaking everything down, but it never felt contrived or organised. It just felt very soft and feminine and beautiful.

Donald Judd

If I had one day left on earth, I would go first, quickly, to Palazzo Fortuny in Venice, and then I’d spend the rest of it at Donald Judd’s house on Spring Street in New York. His use of light and space is phenomenal. Everything he did, his collection of art, his furniture design, his own art, his curation. He is the king of less-is-more. He’s just fab.

Henri Matisse

You can’t help feeling happy when you look at a Matisse. There is so much light and energy in his work which just makes you feel really good. It pares back fantasy – it’s not too ornate, too ostentatious, but it really takes you somewhere. And his use of colours is just unparalleled.

Alexander Calder

Calder started out making wire jewellery for his sister’s dolls when he was five, and he carried on making beautiful, light-hearted work for the rest of his life. His pieces are joyful, original and charming, apparently just like Calder himself. He had the most fascinating friends, with Jean Arp and Marcel Duchamp he was part of the Parisian avant garde, and Duchamp actually coined the phrase “mobile” for his hanging sculptures. He tried everything, knew everyone. He made earrings for Peggy Guggenheim, made sculpture with Jean Prouvé, Jean Paul Sartre wrote the introductory essay for one of his shows, in the 1970s he painted a commercial airplane – he had fun with his work, as well as making beautiful things.

Ray and Charles Eames

I love mid-century furniture and the Eames were the original and best. Their work was all about making practical, useful objects beautiful, with the result that a house was pared back, full of light and space, didn’t need much but everything it had was beautiful. They prioritised simplicity and beauty in their lives and work. By all accounts they were amazing people to work with as well.

Charlotte Perriand

Perriand was also part of the mid-century modern movement, my favourite design moment in history. She was working with Pierre Jeanneret, Jean Prouvé and Le Corbusier, travelling the world, dedicating her life to form and function and making furniture beautiful, life beautiful. You wonder why her furniture is so good – it’s only a few lines, one drawer, two shelves, but somehow she’s just nailed it. She has a magic touch. There is something so simple and small about it, but it’s just the placement of a line, that creates something harmonious and perfect.

David Hockney

Everything he does is an explosion of colour and fun and just makes you feel so good. Growing up in the 1980s, I was surrounded by his imagery at every turn so it also has a real sense of nostalgia. I grew up with Hockney being ever present – posters, books, friends had real Hockneys in their homes. It was so recognisable, but not difficult to understand. And he lives to create. It’s what he’s been doing since he first started as an artist, making work all day long, and still, today, he’s working. Everything inspires him. He can paint a vase of flowers, he can paint a swimming pool, he finds beauty everywhere and captures it in such a simple way, and that’s really inspiring.

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