Jay Blades: My favourite small-scale artists

Our columnist explains why he finds little-known artists more exciting than big names

Portrait of Jay Blades by Jesse Wild

When I’m looking at art, there are a few things that draw me in: colour, movement and texture are vital, but it also needs to be doing something different and exciting. That’s why I often find I’m interested in lesser-known artists – they are the ones doing things that haven’t been seen before.

Advertisement
I’m often interested in lesser-known artists – they are the ones doing things that haven’t been seen before

For instance, when I first saw the work of fine art photographer Alyson Fennell, it took my breath away because there was such great colour and a real sense of movement in her images. I’d not seen anything like it before. I’m always drawn to static objects that have some motion in them – I love to get a sense of that with my own designs, and it’s really inspiring to see it in art – so Alyson’s stuff really speaks to me. What she is doing is new and cool. Her process fascinates me – she grows these plants herself and waits for the exact moment to shoot them. I had one of her works printed up to put into a hotel room I designed – the graphic quality looks perfect next to my furniture. 

Parrot Tulip photograph by Alyson Fennell
Parrot Tulip photograph by Alyson Fennell

The other thing that will draw me in is texture. Again, it’s something that is really important in my furniture design. Whenever I’m out and about looking for inspiration, I’m always touching things – be it the bark of a tree in a wood, or the smooth surface of a vase in a design store. It was the texture that first attracted me to the work of my favourite glass artists, Stephen Gillies and Kate Jones. What these guys can do with glass is just, wow! Such rich colour, a real feeling of movement, and the surface – so smooth and tactile. Gorgeous. 

Ball vases by Gillies Jones glassware
Ball vases by Gillies Jones glassware
Advertisement

So that’s what grabs me, but you have to go with whatever gets you. I can’t tell you what to buy, but your gut will tell you what you like. When you buy a piece that you love (rather than one that you have been told is good) it will look right in your home. It will look like ‘you’.