Mette Hay on art, design – and the nuances in between

Copenhagen-based CHART is the leading Nordic art event bringing together inspiring professionals to impact the future of the arts community in the Nordics and beyond.

Built on the principles that everything we make draws from three primary sources of inspiration: art, architecture, and fashion, HAY is excited to work with CHART Art Fair and CHART Book Fair to exhibit Icelandic artist Loji Höskuldsson's hand embroidered HAY Mags Sofa – this very special piece of art, literally weaving art and design together, will be on display throughout the art fair. Alongside the books and prints of the CHART Book Fair are the Two Colour Tables designed by Muller Van Severen for HAY exhibiting Nordic publishers.

Learn more about how HAY Co-Founder and Creative Director of HAY Accessories Mette Hay describes her own relationship to art and how it can be different to design.

What is the difference, for you, between art and design?

Mette HAY: For me, art doesn’t always have a direct purpose while our designs are always created out of a need or demand.

Can good design be useless and good art be useful?

Mette HAY: This is a very good question. My answer is yes, it can. Just as much as good design can be useful and good art can be useless.

How do you feel about owning art? Do you see yourself as an art collector?

Mette HAY: Both my husband and I like to surround ourselves with beautiful things in our home, including art. I don’t see myself as an art collector, though – when I think of an art collector, I think of someone who purchases art more strategically, which is something I definitely don’t do.

How do your briefs and expectations differ when you collaborate with an artist rather than a designer?

Mette Hay: When we work with an industrial designer, for example, the design process tends to be slightly more open in the sense that we can influence details such as size, the choice of materials and color, or shape, more easily. A piece of art would most often feel more definite. That being said, any designer’s and artist’s approach to their work is highly individual and so are their approaches to collaborating with us. 

During the past 20 years, we have been lucky to have had very close relationships with many different designers, the creative process being of a highly collaborative and reciprocal character. There’s no blueprint procedure, though, so I cannot tell you in advance in which cases I would feel the need to make adjustments and in which ones I’d consider as more or less definite. That’s the beauty of it, too.

Does the art you own need to harmonise at home in the way a design object would? Or can it be awkward, outspoken, difficult, oppositional?

Mette HAY: In my work at HAY, I always approach each project individually, without thinking of its compatibility with our existing collection as such. Even though our products often do match within the bigger HAY universe, it’s not intentional to an extent where it is something we factor in during the creation process. It’s similar in our home: We would always select a piece, be it design or art, individually. At the same time there is probably a subconscious read thread regardless, as all pieces have one thing in common, and that is that they are chosen by Rolf and I.

Does art at home serve a different purpose to art in a public context, in a museum, or a gallery?

Mette Hay: Another good and complex question. I can only speak for myself here obviously, but I definitely perceive different purposes of art depending on its context. Public spaces often offer a completely different scope and scale than most homes, and I like that art can unfold differently there. For example, an art installation is temporary, and it has different elements in it than any other type of art you could have at home, so it would serve a different purpose by nature, offering something that can’t be transferred to the home. Another thing is that sometimes, art in public spaces would intentionally invoke strong feelings – most people probably wouldn’t want to install these feelings in their homes permanently. So yes, I think the purpose of art is influenced by the context it is linked to.