Jaime Hayón explains the art of storytelling through design
In Jaime Hayón’s world, finding a place to sit is a fine balance between comfort and experimentation. It’s no surprise that before tucking into his breakfast at The Drake Hotel in Toronto, he had to go around the room, sitting in every chair, until he found the most comfortable one. Chalk it up to being a world-renowned designer who has created furniture and lighting collections for several brands – including Parachilna – all while blurring the lines between art, decoration, and functionality.
The Madrid-born, Valencia-based designer aptly describes himself as “someone you can jump from the plane with.” As a teenager, he immersed himself in skateboard culture (see below) and graffiti art, and to this day, he still puts his fearless attitude to the test. Case in point: he walked for one hour (on a frosty January day) to Toronto’s Interior Design Show, wearing nothing but a light jacket.
As Hayón steps onto the stage for his Azure Trade Talk, he jokes that he is still cold. Known for his sense of humour, Hayón brings a cheeky element to his work, which often embraces symbolism, storytelling and a touch of whimsy. These qualities have earned him several accolades, including multiple ELLE Deco International Design Awards and being named one of the most influential creators of the last decade by Wallpaper Magazine.
Speaking to a full house on International Trade Day, Hayón touches on his artistic background. Installation projects have always been a platform for him to experiment. His recent collaboration with Caesarstone, a manufacturer of quartz surfaces, is a perfect example. The expansive Stone Age Folk installation features furniture and decorative items topped with graphic mask-inspired faces. Clearly, Hayón has never lost the creative fire that he first kindled as a ceramics artist, long before he collaborated with Swarovski, Cassina or designed the well-known ABALLS lamps for Parachilna (below).
His first project, 12 years ago, was a bathroom, but for Hayón, it meant so much more. It was an opportunity to experiment.
“For me, it was like a sculpture. It wasn’t a normal project. I wanted to create something joyful, feminine and playful,” says Hayón. “I never put boundaries on or classified what I was doing… I’ve always believed that by doing things, I was learning and developing my style; a dynamic aesthetic that, today, is really easy to recognize. I’ve never tried to be someone else.”
Behind Hayón, images of some of his key works appear on a screen: the FAVN sofa for Fritz Hansen (above), the Monkey Side Table for BD Barcelona and the Catch Chair for &tradition. All of them are reflective of his imaginative approach to industrial design. He likens being a designer to being a magician – someone who does not just beautify spaces, but also transforms them.
Behind every project is a story, Hayón explains. After seeing a group of men with walking sticks exit a car, he created a collection of lamps based on the scene. Upon admiring the shape of musical instruments like the harp, he made the Arpa Chair. He even designed a Smartphone with a separate analog clock in one corner, a throwback to the days of the pocket watch.
“I’ve always felt that a product could talk to you,” he says. “Sometimes, I start a project with just one image. It’s usually an image that tells me something and brings about a solution in line with the identity of a product.”
Hayón often carries his sketchbook with him, conceptualizing as he travels. History is one of his most prominent influences. He has a special interest in how old-world materials like rattan and porcelain are connected to certain regions, and how they can be modernized.
His collections for Parachilna illustrate his penchant for combining traditional techniques, like hand-blown glass, with contemporary innovation. When he can, he prefers to work with local artisans and materials. Oftentimes, these resources are found close to his home on the Mediterranean coast of Spain.
Chinoz table lamp by Jaime Hayon for Parachilna
“I live in a village where I’m the only artist,” says Hayón. “I love it that way because I have a contrasting life. I go around the world, working on projects – to Tokyo or Africa – and then I come back to my city and enjoy the tomatoes!”
With a love of agriculture, Hayón has already pinpointed his next project: crafting his own olive oil, tomatoes and wine, the latter which he’s already started to make.
“I think it’s very special to be able to eat what you make. It’s a whole other level of creativity,” he says. “The power of imagination is always behind my work. That’s what drives the emotion of making things.”
Before stepping offstage, Hayón leaves the audience with one last image: a photo of himself sitting on his Green Chicken rocking chair. For a designer with no limits, it’s quite possibly the most comfortable seat of all – emblematic of his ability to propel tradition into the future, and never stop moving.