Art & Photography / Culture Talks

Meet the Emerging Set Designer Marrying Performance Art with Diana Ross

In two short years, Amy Stickland has already worked with the likes of Molly Goddard, Ben Toms, Robbie Spencer and Richard Malone, cementing her status as one to watch

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Molly Goddard S/S17 CampaignPhotography by Theo Sion, Set Design by Amy Stickland

The way in which contemporary fashion imagery is digested – gluttonously, through the screens of multiple smart devices – dictates that the impetus to create visually arresting work is greater than it has ever been. Subsequently, in 2018, the role of the set designer is front and centre in the production process of editorials and shows, in conjunction with photography, hair, make-up and styling. 

Amy Stickland is one such figure carving out a career in the ever-expanding field of set design. The London-based creative – a frequent collaborator with AnOther, Another Man and Dazed – utilises commonplace objects and unconventional materials to achieve a surreally lo-fi aesthetic. “I’ve only been doing this for around two years now,” she says. “But once you get going and start collaborating it spirals from there.” Despite Stickland being a relatively new name, she has already worked with the likes of Molly Goddard, Ben Toms, Richard Malone, Gareth McConnell and Dazed’s creative director Robbie Spencer. Here, she explains how it all began. 

On her move into set design...
“I grew up in Plymouth and studied Fine Art Painting in Cardiff. It was there that I started making giant cardboard cut-outs of Old Masters paintings, and things naturally progressed into making large-scale props and scenery. After graduating, I moved straight to London and took on various jobs in coffee shops, before I started working for the performance artist Marvin Gaye Chetwynd. I first met her when I was finishing my degree and she invited me to come and start making work for her, so I started creating props and costumes for her performances and was lucky enough to travel the world with her. It was through this that I became more interested in the idea of creating theatrical environments. Then, my friend Ben Toms asked me to work on a project with him – and everything continued from there.”

On her collaborations... 
“I am lucky to know an amazing network of artists, performers and creative people. I actually grew up with Ben, so we have been friends for years. It was through him that I met Robbie Spencer and we have collaborated ever since. I love working with photographers and stylists, both in and out of fashion contexts. Some of the work I most enjoy is made in collaboration with artist friends such as Urara Tsuchiya, New Noveta and Zoe Williams, too. I created the sets for Molly Goddard’s S/S17 campaign, and more recently Richard Malone’s A/W18 show – it was inspired by the aesthetic of carpet warehouses, the sheer abundance of these rolls and rolls of carpet. I took this idea and tried to translate it into something that would sit right with the collection and work in the show space. It wasn’t without difficulty... I think we moved approximately 100 rolls of carpet out of the space for the next show to start in the duration of about ten minutes!”

On the process of making...
“My aesthetic is never too slick – it’s just not me. With set design, it is a constant dialogue with the photographer – and a lot of batting with concepts, back and forth! It’s really exciting when you understand each other and ideas flow freely, so that you can work intuitively together. It’s also great when someone comes to you with an idea you’d never have thought of executing. It becomes a challenge to interpret that in your own visual language. I always have a backlog of ideas I’d like to try, references and weird props I’ve collected, waiting for the right job. With a show, for example, it is about responding to a particular designer’s collection – it’s more personal to their vision and being sensitive to their aesthetic. I like the live aspect of a fashion show, too. It’s theatrical, I enjoy the performance of it all.”

On future projects and Diana Ross...
“I’m looking forward to more collaborations with friends and emerging designers, and would love to work on a play or an opera one day! I like fashion but I’m not in love with it – most of my influences are very disparate and come from art, film and music. It changes all the time, but I often go back to painting: de Chirico and Picabia are two of my favourites. I also really love Beryl Cook. Three Women by Robert Altman was a big influence and I’m also obsessed with the set in this performance of Diana Ross covering Aquarius songs. I would love to make something inspired by it for my next project.” 

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