Andy Hazell

Portrait of Andy Hazell'Delhi' 40cm tinplate'The Malt Shovel' in Burton upon Trent, 9.5metres high
Cleaning Windows' tinplate automata 1997
'Monday Morning' tinplate automata 2002

Multi-talented Andy Hazell can turn his hand to anything from shooting films to designing public artworks or making automata. But what unites Hazell’s highly varied output is the sheer enjoyment he gets out of the actual process of making. ‘The whole point of my life is that I make things,’ he says.


You’ve studied fine art, print-making, etching and sculpture as well as working in film and advertising during your career. How do you position your practice?

It’s a tricky question. There is no little box marked ‘craft’ or ‘design’ which I neatly fit into. There are so many different things that I do. At the moment I am making some short films, designing toilet floors in Colchester and working on a 14-metre-high sculpture for Pontypridd.

What part of your practice do you enjoy the most?

Making an idea real is the important thing for me, I love the process. It is very fulfilling, I love fiddling around with bits of metal, whilst listening to the radio – it’s like being six again. Making things is a way of making sense of the world, and putting a little bit of the mystery and wonder back.

What materials do you like working with?

I like to use ‘found’ objects, things that are worn, beaten and loved, objects that have traces of ‘humanity’. I don’t use driftwood, it has lost its soul. Tinplate is a wonderful material, it’s so quick to cut, fold and assemble.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Books mainly. I am part of the fine British tradition of making things up as you go along, everything you want to know is in a book, somewhere. I spend my life recording the last vestiges of ‘humanity’ in this bland, over-designed world. The world is being homogenised. Three years ago I found 11 different kinds of potato peeler in a street market in India, last November I wandered through the streets of Calcutta and found just two, a blue woody one and a red plastic one.

You’ve recently been working on a commission for Cranbourne School in Basingstoke. Can you describe the finished piece?

It’s a series of panaromas created from hundreds of small buildings made out of old tins. Each child made one or two buildings and there are all sorts of different styles ranging from 1930s Art Deco skyscrapers to Thai sheds. I enjoyed working with the children as they were all bright and interested. I think this type of project is a great chance for children who are not academically brilliant to excel.

You have worked on a lot of large-scale public artworks. What attracts you to these types of project?

I really like the challenge of public commissions. There are so many hurdles to cross and constraints to get through, it’s a bit like Challenge Anneka - you end up making something despite everyone’s best effort. Also, although in general I like the things to be human-sized I do like working to a really large scale. For example I made a sculpture of a 9.5-metre-high stainless steel shovel for Burton on Trent. It’s a bit like a folly and makes people stop in their tracks and say ‘Wow! Who put that there?'.

Your automata are very different in scale and level of detail from your public sculptures - why do you enjoy making them?

The little Tinplate people belong to a half-remembered world of librarians and dull civil servants bumbling through their lives, a world of Formica and Standard Lamps. I imagine whether or not they’d own a dog, or like foreign food. I can make them in a day, it’s really fulfilling, making a ‘life’. Automata appeal to all, people get a childlike joy out of the simple exposed bits of bent wire that make them move.