I feel delighted to have nabbed the artist Mark Hearld for this weeks Tete a Tat, having been a fan of his for quite some time. I first came across his work in WOI in 2007, and so I was filled with joy when he agreed. Many in the interiors industry will be au fait with his work. His designs have been so cleverly adapted to fabric and wallpaper by St Judes, adorning houses across the country and being featured in many interiors magazines. But today we are focusing on the man himself and finding out those all-important questions that only Tete a Tat seems to answer (favourite puddings? Do you believe in ghosts? - You know the drill). We wanted to jam this interview in so that you, dearest of readers, can be one of the first to get your hands on his newest book, 'Raucous Invention - The Joy of Making', which is out at the end of February. But before we get to said questions, I would like to give you a little background of this true Renaissance man.
Mark was born in York in 1974. He moved to the outskirts in his teenage years where he began developing his skills: "I spent all my time on farms with ponies, chickens, Muscovy ducks. I got fully involved in it. And I did lots of drawings from life of poultry."* This gave him an excellent foundation for his subsequent studies at the Glasgow School of Art under Mick Manning. Mick has an MA in Natural History Illustration from the Royal College of Art and encouraged Mark to go outside to study plants and animals; Mark felt as if he had found a kindred spirit.
Mark went on to the Royal College where he studied under distinguished illustrator John Norris Wood, who had in turn previously taught Mick. Norris Woods had worked with Edward Bawden in his studios and attended Cedrick Morris' summer school at Benton End*. Helping give Mark access to the heart the mid 20th Century art and design. Other inspirations came in the form of a friend's collection of Piper's lithographs; these helped influence Mark's way of viewing things.
When he left the Royal College, he discovered collage: 'I found a medium that really really worked for me, it gave me a graphic quality, a capacity to compose in a really strong way'. His portfolio shows him to have covered a range of mediums, whether it is college, linocuts or painted ceramics; his signature style however is so clear that the moment you see it you can tell it is one of his pieces. So many have fallen for his work. It has been used to illustrate books, curate galleries and even to give the set of Nanny Mcphee the artistic feel. With all this, his work continues to gain a cult of admirers, of which I am firmly one.
What is your favourite day of the week?
I love Saturdays, particularly in the summer when I might head off first thing in the morning to York car boot sale to hunt for treasure, before breakfast and a dog walk with friends.
Do you believe in ghosts?
Although I don't actually believe in ghosts, I love M.R. James' ghost stories. I also occasionally stay in an Elizabethan house which some people say is haunted. It's certainly amazingly atmospheric and redolent of past times, so I'm always open to having my non-beliefs reversed by a spectral presence!
There's something really poignant about Louis Mac Neice's poem Soap Suds. The smell of a particular brand of soap evokes a man's childhood memories and makes him realise that the hands under the tap are no longer the hands of a child.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I've actually fulfilled my childhood ambition since I really wanted to be either an artist or a vet. I was incredibly lucky that my primary school headmaster recognised and nurtured my creativity, entering my work into competitions and really encouraging me. He has followed my career all along. My art teacher at secondary school was a huge source of encouragement too, and she and I have become friends over the years.
One of your favourite pictures?
The Vision of Saint Eustace by Pisanello in London's National Gallery is definitely a favourite. It's a small Renaissance painting depicting a man's vision of Christ appearing between a stag's antlers. It's filled with magical birds and beasts, and it has the power to transport me to another world entirely.
I'm picturing the pudding of my dreams, which would be the most exquisite fruits of the forest tart. The shortest, biscuity pastry would be topped with crème anglaise and a tumbling profusion of glistening berries.
If you were stuck in a museum/gallery for a day which one would it be?
I'd choose the Musée Picasso in Paris, where I'd happily spend the day wandering from picture to picture, marvelling at Picasso's astonishing breadth of innovation and experimentation. From finesse and refinement to brash risk-taking and the use of a range of implements, Picasso's work always makes me so aware of the endless potential for creativity.
Top Destination in the UK?
There are so many places that spring to mind but I'd probably choose a really special, secluded cove I know in the far west of Cornwall. Reached by a farm track, the sea is the most incredible turquoise and the sand is sparkling white. I love heading there for a walk with my dog before breakfast.
What is the worst job you’ve done?
It's really tricky to think of an answer to this since I've been so lucky to be able to pursue my dream career. Having to wade through admin is probably the worst aspect of certain teaching jobs I've done because admin is absolutely my weakest link but I've been really fortunate not to have had any horrendous jobs.
A film you can watch over and over again?
I love the upbeat message and the wintriness of It's a Wonderful Life.
Favourite find for your home (or latest)?
I once popped into a shop in London and spotted what I thought – just from looking at the mark-making and having seen her work in books – might be an E.Q. Nicholson collage hanging on the wall but it wasn't signed. I asked how much it was and got about a metre and a half before turning on my heel and getting out my credit card because I loved the piece so much that it didn't matter who the artist was. I know E.Q. Nicholson's daughter and was delighted to discover that the collage is actually one of her pieces. It feels as if has somehow found its way home, so it's really special.
A song that can always make your foot tap?
I must admit that whenever Christine and the Queens' Tilted comes on in the studio, I certainly can't stop at foot tapping! I'm more likely to break out into some experimental contemporary dance.