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BEHIND THE SCENES

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This month saw the re-opening of our new look café. We spoke to Stewart Walton, furniture designer and Director of Hastings and Bexhill Wood Recycling Project, about the inspiration behind the new cafe design.

Tell us a bit about yourself and the work you do in the local area.

I have an art background, having studied painting, graphic design and illustration and could hardly believe our luck when I heard about the plan to bring the Jerwood Collection to Hastings.

My company Hastings & Bexhill Wood Recycling has been involved with the gallery shop from the word go. They have stocked our nest hut birdhouses, blackbirds and small versions of the colourful Christmas trees that we made for the gallery foyers. It's such a fine building and I was thrilled to be asked to work on the refurbishment of the cafe area.

What inspired you when designing the café new furniture?

I took my inspiration from the fishing beach. All shapes, patterns and colours echo those of the boats that can be seen from the gallery. The diagonal plank table tops were inspired by the bow of a clinker built boat and the shape of the metal legs is taken from the steel framework on the decks of the newer fishing boats. I wanted the café to look as if it had been freshly swept in on a wave.

What were the challenges that you faced during the design and production?

We were working within a beautifully designed building which could have been intimidating but it helped to think of the white café area as blank canvas. Time was limited by the gallery's closure period in January for exhibition turnover and I was out of the country for the first half of the month. Still, there is nothing like a deadline to focus the mind.

A number of different designers worked together on the new café design, how did you find the collaborative process?

It was an absolute pleasure collaborating with Stuart Taylor and Philip Oakley on this project. Philip's red net lights link the cafe to the fishing beach in a witty, contemporary style. Stuart's art direction and layout pulled everything together and the end result was certainly better for us by working together.

What are your overall thoughts about the finished design and the new look of the café?

I really like its boldness and feel that the project's urgency has worked in its favour. Courageous decisions were made and I really appreciate Paul (the Operations Manager) and Liz's (the Director) confidence in our ideas and their enthusiasm for the end result.

We went to the opening of the new exhibitions, Jerwood Collection: Revealed and In Focus: Alfred Wallis, and felt very proud to have made this design contribution in the café. The space now feels warm, intimate, welcoming - and quite a lot of fun.