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Behind The Hampstead Collection

Behind The Hampstead Collection
02.12.2020

To mark the opening of Cubitts Hampstead, we’ve created a capsule collection of silhouettes inspired by the incredible history and culture of the local area. But, unlike our other store collections, this time we enlisted the help of some local experts from the Hampstead School of Art. The result is a collection of Bespoke and Bespoke+ silhouettes that are truly rooted in Hampstead’s heritage.

Here, we speak to our new frame designers about the design process, where they found inspiration, and who they envision wearing their creations.

Sculptor Anna Reading wears the Reading frame, above.

When designing your Hampstead Bespoke frame, where did you look for inspiration and what references did you draw upon in the creative process?

My initial inspiration came from a house in Hampstead, 5 Church Row. It’s a striking building, which overhangs the street and has white-painted slatted wooden panelling. The house feels boat-like and reminded me of a process I use in my sculpture of lining up oyster shells in rows, iridescent side up, to catch the light. I decided to try to replicate the slats of the house with mother of pearl and developed a design inspired by the shape of an open Black Lipped Oyster shell, the source of mother of pearl.

- Anna Reading

Hampstead is full of beautiful architecture, and I wanted to make these frames a tribute to the Modernist buildings around Hampstead, namely those designed by the Isokon group. In coming up with the look for the glasses, I aimed to emulate the design language used to create these buildings, while including the constructivist values of exposing some of the inside structure as part of the overall aesthetic.

- Gil Sherman

My references for designing the Hampstead Bespoke frame for Cubitts have their roots in the sculptures of Henry Moore who was the first and a lifelong patron of Hampstead School of Art, where I am the Principal as well as an international Public Sculptor. The changing social, contemporary landscape of Hampstead which is undergoing change, in particular the building of cycle highways, have combined my idea of shape and form with the aesthetic of a bicycle chain.

- Isabel H Langtry

A few years ago, Ami Bouhassane gave a talk about her inspirational grandparents Lee Miller and Roland Penrose at the art school. Hampstead resident Penrose was at the fulcrum of the British Surrealist movement, befriending the likes of Andre Breton and Salvador Dali to organise the first International Surrealist Exhibition in London. I have always been interested in what inspires one to make artwork and often use a derivative of the Surrealist process of ‘automatic drawing’, which was influenced by the writing of another famous ex-Hampstead resident Sigmund Freud. This process of free association is antithetical to functional design so I thought this was an interesting dichotomy to set up.

- Martin Darbyshire


HSoA student Gil Sherman wears the Sherman frame, above.

How does spectacle design differ from your usual work? And how did you find the process of creating a silhouette for the human face?

I saw the project as entirely sculptural. The difference being scale. The focus here is the position of the human eyes in relation to the geography of the face.

- Isabel H Langtry

It was a really exciting opportunity to be able to design spectacles, mainly because trying to effectively balance aesthetics and functionality is a much more delicate process than what we would normally do in the studio, where there are usually few limits to how someone might decide to make a work look. Creating a silhouette, in this case, was both challenging and rewarding.

- Gil Sherman


Sculptor Isabel H Langtry wears the Langtry frame, above.

Hampstead is renowned for its artistic heritage, and particularly its many Modernist residents. Is this something you frequently draw inspiration from in your own work?

Hampstead was the home of Modernist Barbara Hepworth. Her sculptures are pure objects, foregrounding form and material. The materials in her sculptures are sculpted to show off their natural idiosyncrasies. Her links to the organic world are what inspires me, as her work references shell-like forms and surfaces which curve in on themselves, blurring the lines between the inside and the outside. Henry Moore is another famous sculptor connected to the area. He would take organic forms such as shells and bones, and build directly onto them with plaster to create maquettes in his studio.

- Anna Reading

The work I created during my time as an art student in Leeds was heavily influenced by British Modernism. Both Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth form part of the cultural capital of the Yorkshire region so their legacy was inescapable. What interests me now about the heritage of Hampstead is the importance of the relationship between internationalism and the local within the artistic community. British Modernism was heavily influenced by what was happening in Europe and so the relationships formed in Hampstead proved vital to its development.

- Martin Darbyshire


Artist Martin Darbyshire wears the Darbyshire frame, above.

What colour do you envision your spectacle frame looking the most resplendent in?

The Modernist buildings around Hampstead all have very clean, and sometimes playful, colour schemes which work really well in drawing attention to the shape language of the buildings themselves. Being inspired by this approach to design I think the same would go for the frames themselves.

- Gil Sherman

In the book ‘Modern Sculpture’ Herbert Read, a Hampstead resident, wrote about ‘truth to materials’, which at the time he associated with the direct carving of Henry Moore. For Read, the white of marble represented the purity of humanism, an idea contrary to the Surrealists’ use of ‘found materials’. I thought the frames could riff on one of the many Modernist contradictions.

- Martin Darbyshire

And what sort of person do you imagine the wearer to be? An elegant art collector living in the Isokon perhaps, or a Hampstead Heath rambler whose frames will be as red as their frostbitten cheeks?

The glasses are for beach-combing conchologists and salty sea-dog shell-collectors found trawling Hampstead’s antique markets.

- Anna Reading

Anyone who wouldn’t mind taking a bit of a risk and having some fun with what they wear. Just like the buildings the frames were based on, I would hope that the wearer wouldn’t be afraid to stand out a little from the crowd, celebrating both Hampstead and its artistic roots.

- Gil Sherman

Keeping with the theme of Freud, anyone who has spent time sitting on any couch.

- Martin Darbyshire

The Hampstead Collection is available exclusively at Cubitts Hampstead through our Bespoke service. To book a Bespoke consultation, visit us in store or email Bespoke@cubitts.com. All profits from sales of the Hampstead Collection will go to the Hampstead School of Art.