Happy New Year, to start this year off HMVM meets one of the Artists featured in Selfridges current window scheme ‘Bright Old Things’ See how Roger Miles prepares to unveil his window concept in celebration of the 70’s music scene.
HM: Selfridges Bright Young Things annual window campaign, in your opinion what made Selfridges change the focus from emerging graduates to more established designers/ artists? And how do you feel about being referred to an ‘old thing’?
RM: I think Selfridges were looking for extreme career change's, coming from being an accountant to artist it’s an interesting starting point to explore. They have picked up on an emerging trend happening within the industry and in general, due to people living longer many people decide instead of complete retirement to take up a new skill. I myself studied as a chartered accountant in 1975 for 30 years then ‘5 years ago I thought, in the words of Neil Young, I won’t retire but I might retread’ so decided to go to art school.” It was very noticeable the number of mature students on my degree course, It also follows on from the fashion/ advertising trends that are looking at mature models to feature in their campaigns. Any title that has bright in is ok with me!
HM: How have you developed/adapted your skills to project manage a window scheme or altered the concept of your design being mindful it’s viewed in a retail space?
I presented 2 options, firstly to up-cycle the current Christmas windows using the props to recreate something new in the space – taking inspiration from my 2 month artist-in-residence at my local recycling and re-use centre. My second option which has been selected for the window was to recreate my final degree show installation, resonate/generate taking elements from the mobile library and capsulate and creating an edited version of this.
HM: Has the window restricted your artwork in anyway? What challenges have you had to overcome during the process?
RM: I have faced a few challenges along the way, based on the success of the piece in my final degree show, where I was able to interact with the visitors to the mobile library, engaged in conversation and play music for people to appreciate. This is something that needed re-thinking, as I was unable to play music in the window which was the main feature of the piece originally. Also I think the scale of the project and all the different layers involved I don’t think I ever thought about previously. I will be producing Cyanotype prints for the back wall and the quantity needed is 140 which was an unexpected quantity. All the artists have been asked to produce a window, a piece for the atrium space (which I am making a scaled down model of the mobile library) and also producing limited prints/photographs to sell in store.
HM: What does your window concept represent?
RM: ‘My window is a memorial to a 70’s record store selling my perfect selection of vinyl records of the 70s – a safe haven from the turmoil outside – everyone with heads full of music”
the original installation at my degree show was a showcase of my experiences and the poignant effect of this time. The piece also raises many questions about how much progress we have made as a society during the past 50 years.
I actually worked in Selfridge’s bedspread department for 4 weeks during the Christmas of 1975, it’s a seems only fitting to come full circle and be invited back to the doors of Selfridges almost 40 years on as an artist. The Weston family dedicates themselves to the arts and invests heavily, which is great to see as it’s for non-commercial gain.
HM: Have you had to compromise any creativity when working with the Selfridges team? Have they had much influence in the design stage or are you very much left to your own creative vision?
RM: Selfridges have been very supportive of my vision and what I want to achieve during the project and have been there giving the best advice to help balance the window and advise on fashion elements. There was no pressure to include product placement which I was a little surprised about that looking at it from commercial point of view.
HM: Did you seek any advice before thinking of your concept, to be appropriate in a retail environment
RM: I knew from my previous experience that the concept would work and even with adapted elements it was still a positive experience that would involve the viewer. My wife Amanda has been very supportive and given me lots of words of retail wisdom from her background in display/visual merchandising industry. I have been thinking of many ways to enhance the retail experience that’s linked to my window one being selling the 70’s vinyl’s – I believe there is a growth in vinyl sells in retail (reference Urban Outfitters) so it seems to me they are missing a trick here for additional point of sales.
HM: After this experience do you think a relationship between mature artists and retailers is something which should be explored more, if so in what way?
RM: There is defiantly a trend in art at the moment for immersive and interactive art pieces. Performance art is more key, and I believe this can really play into the hands of a retailer to get the customers in-store and more importantly to stay in-store rather than choosing to shop online, so immersive and performance art can provide this experience.
HM: What are your future projects for the New Year?
RM: I have a 2 month residency (March/April) with Proportion London; this will be during the time their Walthamstow factory is closing down as the company is moving to new premesis. I will be partly documenting the closing of the factory through the methods of photography, print and film. Then also taking any other inspiration from the old mannequin parts and machinery remaining in the factory. I am also looking for a residency somewhere else in the world, to take inspiration from somewhere different - ideally in California or Tokyo.
HM: Is this sort of exposure a platform you can use to develop your presence as an artist?
RM: I hope so, this form of showcase is always great to be a part of, it will be tricky to judge people’s reaction with it being transformed into a window space, but maybe I will be able to interact with people in the atrium space in-store.
HM: Do younger artists get more exposure or is the creative industry an industry that doesn't have a 'use by date'?
RM: I think the focus is just about mature artists as it is young at the moment. On my degree course there was a higher percentage of mature artist than young, it feels like there is no ‘used by date’ in the art world no matter what your age you can always carry on being innovative. The fashion world I guess is more focus on youth, but also having said that in recent years mature models have lead big advertising campaigns with huge success and appreciation.