The bohemian mashup home showcasing a lifetime’s art | interiors

There is a dresser or display cabinet in almost every room in artist Mark Hearld’s house. In the front room, for example, I have commissioned a local furniture maker to build an enormous, architectural “cabinet of curiosities”. Placed on the shelves or tucked under the arches are objects and ephemera gathered over a lifetime of making, finding, swapping and collecting. “The Laurence Sterne bust on the top shelf is based on the one in Shandy Hall by Joseph Nollekens,” explains Hearld. “The crepe paper party hat he’s wearing is from the Porte de Vanves flea market in Paris. I’ve brought the two together in an irreverent pairing, because I felt that the bust was a little too serious for my house. The party hat brings him to life in a sort of fusion of high literary culture and 1930s party culture – a bohemian mashup, if you like.”

For Hearld – whose work encompasses collage, textile and wallpaper design, linocut printing and sculpture – the art of bargain hunting is akin to an act of creativity. “I find buying or finding an object is quite similar to actually creating one yourself,” he has previously explained. “They both satisfy a similar aesthetic impulse. Obviously if you make it, it’s a bit more virtuous, but if you find something cheap and you bring it home, that does feel almost like an act of creativity. And then, placing it next to other things is like making a 3D collage.”

Storey time: pictures line every inch of the hall. Photographer: Hermione McCosh

Hearld lives in the center of York, in a late-Georgian, four-storey house. Over the years, a Victorian extension has been added and a 70s infill extension has been given a glass roof, making it “good for exhibitions”. From the street, passersby will notice an illuminated, super-sized robin looking out of the central bay window – a salvaged 1960s Christmas decoration that once perched above a shop awning. “I like things that are decorative or theatrical,” says Hearld. “And objects that feel slightly unlikely in an interior. Even if I wanted to be tasteful, I would probably end up being a little bit raucous by mistake.”

Animal magic: peacock tiles in the kitchen and his pet dog. Photographer: Hermione McCosh

Raucous is an apt description. Hearld’s latest exhibition and forthcoming book are both titled Raucous Invention – The Joy of Making. Together, they celebrate the vitality and imperfection of Hearld’s work. The book in particular explores how the exuberance of his work flows into him and throughout his home. “I definitely have the sense of art and life being one and the same,” Hearld explains.

Hearld’s work is endlessly inspired by nature. He studied illustration in Glasgow, followed by natural history illustration at the Royal College of Art. It follows that creatures of all shapes and sizes appear throughout his home – a lifesize terracotta goose on a dresser, decoy ducks, a pied hare frozen behind a glass display case and a glorious tiled mural in the kitchen depicting a free-ranging flock of peacocks.

The overladen fireplace in the front room.
Crowded house: the overladen fireplace in the front room. Photographer: Hermione McCosh

But birds and animals are just one area of ​​interest for this semi-obsessive collector – Staffordshire pottery, children’s toys and mochaware also abound. Hearld is similarly drawn to workday, artist-designed objects, such as his 1930s coffee set designed by the English artist Graham Sutherland. On another overladen dresser in the “stone room” (the original Georgian kitchen – hence the flagstone floor) is a display of pieces by contemporary slipware potters, such as Dylan Bowen, Geoffrey Fuller and Paul Young. “I’m very interested in living artists’ work and I love the idea of ​​not just being a fine artist,” he explains. “I love the idea of ​​designing things that people use, or rather ephemeral objects that just delight and enrich.”

Mark Hearld with a stuffed hare, pottery and mochaware displays.
‘I like things that are decorative or theatrical’: Mark Hearld with a stuffed hare, pottery and mochaware displays. Photographer: Hermione McCosh

I ask Hearld to explain in what way the making of his home – which he describes as “just the right side of bohemian chaos” – is comparable to the process of creating a collage. We study the yellow mantelpiece in his front room of him and he describes how there is a formality to the placement of the two corn dollies, which have been formed into the shape of Devonshire crosses. His EQ Nicholson collage is positioned just so, as are the candlesticks and the pack of wooden hounds that run along the picture rail above. But, rather than leave it at that, the scene is layered with letters, cards and found objects – “the detritus and the ephemera that life throws at the interior finds its place,” says Hearld.

The yellow bathroom with collections on the wall, including a ship's anchor
Water ways: the yellow bathroom with more collections on the wall and a ship’s anchor. Photographer: Hermione McCosh

At home, as in his art, it’s about finding the worth in discarded bits of paper. “Placing objects in a room is the same as pasting bits of paper,” Hearld explains. “With collage, certain artifacts or pieces of paper are placed thoughtfully and schematically to provide structure. And then other aspects – maybe surprising or discordant – find their way alongside those thought-out elements. It’s being open enough to find that discarded bit of paper, really only to represent itself, but in being there, adds exponentially to the dynamic of the picture. It’s the tension between those two things that creates energy and vivacity. For me, that’s why so many interior designed rooms fall short – they feel too rehearsed. It’s a life lived in a room that makes it exciting, I think.”

Raucous Invention: The Joy of Making by Mark Hearld is published by St Jude’s Prints, £35 (stjudesprints.co.uk)

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