‘I think we’re all born with the ability to be highly creative but the degree to which it develops depends on how much encouragement and opportunity we have to express it as we grow up.’
Benjamin Shine for Bergdorf Goodman
You may be familiar with Benjamin’s work from his exhibition, ‘The Dance’, at the Canberra Centre in 2015 or his collaboration most recently on a collection of tulle artworks for renowned New York department store, Bergdorf Goodman.
Benjamin’s work never ceases to amaze me. His client list includes Google, MTV, Harrods, Barclays, Eurostar and many others. His work varies from tulle portraits to fashion design and an incredibly innovative infinite candle.
He’s an award-winning international artist whose humble brilliance is striking. Benjamin brings the worlds of art, design, problem solving and creative thinking together in all of his productions.
Georgia: Where did your interest in fashion begin?
Benjamin: It started at age 15 when I undertook a work placement with a small fashion company. They decided to include two of my shirt designs in their range, which felt like a great achievement and gave me the confidence to pursue Fashion Design as my degree.
G: What lead you to work with tulle?
B: Studying fashion introduced me to the process of working with fabric and I later began exploring the idea of ‘painting with fabric’ to create sculptural artworks away from the body. I focused on creating portraits quite early on to demonstrate the capabilities of the techniques I was developing. The idea of manipulating a single length of tulle came later, around 2008 and I’m still fascinated by the scope of ideas it inspires.
G: Tell me a bit about Benjamin Shine Studio, when did it start?
B: After graduating I found myself juggling two companies and two very different career paths – one was dedicated to developing inventions and products and the other was making artworks and sculptures with fabrics and materials. After a few years I realised all the projects I’d been making had a common element of creative thinking and invention so I set up the studio as a multidisciplinary practice to freely develop all ideas.
G: What’s it like working with highly regarded brands such as Givenchy and John Galliano?
B: Every project is fascinating no matter if it’s a well-known brand or not, there’s always an enjoyable challenge to pursue. That said, working with these two masters, was particularly meaningful to me as I’d been inspired by them for so many years. Above all, I enjoyed seeing their creative approach and the methods they use to generate and develop ideas so quickly as the fashion world is so fast-paced.
Benjamin Shine for Givenchy
G: Who are your favourite artists?
B: This could be a very long list! I’m mostly inspired by creative minds – those who stretch and blur the boundaries of art and design, such as Thomas Heatherwick, Ron Arad, Mark Newson, Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor. I’m also really getting in to marble sculpture at the moment and love Antonio Corradini’s incredible draped veil works and the Australian marble artist Alex Seton. But I also take a lot of inspiration from music and musicians and even comedians – just seeing how and where they take ideas.
G: What drives you to come up with new ideas?
B: Once I’ve completed a project, its almost as if I lose my passion for it. I forget about it and I want to try it all over again with something else… I think that’s some sort of addiction pattern! Whatever it is, it boils down to wanting to stretch my boundaries and abilities – to find new territory and hopefully to bring something interesting into the world that has some benefit or that can provide some enjoyment.
G: Do you have a favourite tulle piece you’ve worked on?
B: Every few years I find myself answering this question with a different answer… and it’s usually the last piece I’ve made! It’s not so much the end result that makes a piece my favourite – it’s more about the challenge, which was overcome in bringing it to life. The most recent couture piece with John (Galliano) had so many challenges – from a functional aspect of how a person could wear or even get into the coat, to how the face could appear to be floating independently from the coat. This piece encouraged me to change my method from ironing the fabric into position, to hand stitching it instead, to ensure longevity and stability. It took a very, very long time!
A Benjamin Shine couture piece in collaboration with John Galliano for the 2017 Maison Margiela Artisanal Collection at Paris Fashion Week
G: Is there a goal you’re yet to achieve?
B: I really just have one overriding goal or desire when it comes to my work – and that’s just to produce something excellent. I know if I can achieve that, everything else will fall into place and any smaller goals along the way will have a very good chance of being achieved.
G: Do you think you were born with creativity or is it something you learnt growing up?
B: I think we’re all born with the ability to be highly creative but the degree to which it develops depends on how much encouragement and opportunity we have to express it as we grow up. I was extremely fortunate to have a family who recognised and encouraged my creativity.
G: Do you have any advice for up and coming artists?
B: I remember my St Martins tutor – the late, great Louise Wilson, said to me ‘always look at what you’re doing’. Often we can be so focused on realising the outcome of an idea that we fail to see the great things we’re creating in the process – of which may be even more interesting or potentially lead to better results than the idea we’d been striving for in the first place. To this day, whenever I’m working on something I take breaks just to look at what I’m doing.
G: Now to your most recent work, how did the Bergdorf Goodman endeavour come about?
B: This project was in discussion for quite some time, but this year seemed the ideal time to present it.
G: What were the challenges?
B: There were more challenges on this project than any other – the biggest ones being the transportation of the works, not just from my studio to New York – more so, getting them into the windows and completing them in such a small space!
Catching up with Benjamin is always so much fun. There’s usually new projects, exciting stories of travel and adventure and many of his partner, Danielle Shine’s (Natural Foods Chef) delicious creations.
His work is truly magnificent. The way he combines innovation, technology, arts and creativity is unique. I’m continuously inspired by Benjamin’s dedication and passion.
When we find something we love to do we create meaningful and extraordinary things.