At only 24 years old, British interdisciplinary designer and digital artist, Lucy Hardcastle’s alluring images provokes a sense of the touchy-feelies, that is both fantastical and sensual.
A designer with a fine-art touch, here, Lucy Hardcastle, lets us into her protected ‘third-space’, and reveals her deep connection with colour, why she respects nature, and her addiction to infuse the unexpected into everything she creates.
Your work evokes a sense of child-like playfulness, yet it is also quite sophisticated. Did you have a creative upbringing?
I grew up in London and at the age of eight, my family relocated to Norfolk. Dad is an illustrator and mum was a clever creative in her earlier years [photographer, cartoonist and craft-maker]. We [my little brother and I] were brought up to draw and be creative – we weren’t allowed to watch much television and were given super-simple toys to play with.
My dad is a freelance illustrator and his work is flawlessly-detailed. He specialises in this one technique and does it really well. He works with a proper quill and black ink, millions of lines, cross-hashing, and all done by hand! I remember watching him and seeing him work, and realising this creative career path being possible.
Being the older sibling, I had a lot of responsibilities growing up. It was quiet difficult at times and it made me mentally independent from an early age. I guess this made me grow up quickly.
Do you feel your work is a reflection or supplement to a time that passed too quickly?
Visually, my work is super-clean and super-polished. I really like playing with the idea of something being untouchable or just out-of-reach. I also like to play with the idea of perfection and digital perfection and mixing it with craftsmanship, trying to achieve perfectionism through hand-craft, yet not always being 100% successful. There’s definitely running themes of comfort along with a kind of protection that is reflective and almost reflexive.
Textiles was where it all began, who inspired you?
I was greatly influenced by my textiles teacher in high school and loved the potential of fabric in terms of different outcomes and intentions. It was a combination of always feeling like a designer who creates visuals, and wanting to place it onto something with movement and 3-D flexibility.
Meditation is part of your creative process, can you share more about this?
My work is self-therapy. I am interested in chromotherapy and the idea of different types of emotions that can be conjured up though colour. I personally work better with colour, sometimes when I am trying to communicate an indescribable mood, I will often apply it through colour – it makes much more sense than words in my brain!
On an intimate level, I like to inject happiness into things and combining it with cognitive behavioural therapy and making connections. Over the years, I have produced a fair amount of work and people are still catching up and enjoying work I made a while ago. It is really interesting to see how people react or what they’re drawn to when they experience my work.
Nature plays a key role in your process too?
A huge part of the way I work has been influenced by my personal lifestyle [vegan]. Nature is my inspiration – in its unharmed state, everything we need to survive and be healthy already exists and comes from the earth unprocessed. There is an energy we get from interacting with the earth, skin on the earth just can’t be replicated in any other way – so I see it as being precious.
Whenever nature is associated with my work, I want to make a heightened-version of it. We’re really numbed by what we choose to look at all day on our devices, so I feel like, to get someones attention, it can’t just be a strawberry – it has to be a glossy black evil strawberry!
Of all your senses, what is your strongest?
I am driven by the connection of sight and touch, I like to create the feeling of textures and play with the idea of how something should feel and vice versa. When I make visual work, I always ask myself, how I would want someone to feel when they experience it on their screen. One of the common reactions I get all the time is “I just want to lick your work through the screen.” I love the boundary the screen creates! [laughs].
You’ve achieved some commercial success with Nike, Alexander Wang and now Chanel. What was the feeling you wanted to create with the latest project for Chanel’s fragrance – Nº5 L’Eau?
For Chanel Nº5 L’Eau, it was one of the senses I hadn’t worked with, yet it was totally up my alley with bringing a sense to life. The brief was to reinterpret a classic scent and the idea of the site being used globally was really exciting to me.
I was inspired by the process of fragrance making and how people react differently to a scent and translating that feeling – that doesn’t really have to make sense!
Together with i-D and Stinkdigital, I created a space that felt personalised and unique, whilst at the same time, feeling like we are all part of a network, a bigger connection that goes beyond something that only exists online.
This immersive, interactive, digital space feels explorative, spontaneous and tranquil. There is a sense of empowerment and satisfaction in a safe space via a video game direction – the result: Intangible Matter.
Biggest lesson so far?
One of my goals is to find a harmonious balance between commercial projects and personal work. I think going through these experiences has taught me to reassess how to measure success; am I measuring it the right way for me? Right now, success to me means; not putting work before my health, enjoying everything I participate in, and keeping a roof over my head.
In the future, what do you hope for?
A world with more tolerance and understanding for one another, I hope I can keep doing what I do now, forever!