Q&A: Curating Christmas in the V&A Shop

Our Visual Manager Charlene Betteridge, and illustrator Lynn Hatzius have transformed the shop into a wonderful ‘Winterland’ for this year’s Christmas display. Charlene and Lynn explain the inspiration and process that went into creating this beautiful display…

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Where did you first see Lynn’s illustrations?

Charlene Betteridge: I first saw one of Lynn’s illustrations of an owl sitting on someone’s desk at work.  It was for a book cover and I loved the way that elements of the story were incorporated into the design. I love these kinds of details and the depth that it can bring to an image.

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What made you get excited about them and why did you think they would suit the V&A Shop display for 2014?

CB: In the summer, I saw the designs for our new Printmakers Christmas card set, I instantly loved all of the designs and actually created a mock-up of them all to see how they would look in the window display.  Lynn’s Design “Winterland” stood out and her use of warm colours complemented the shop and the surroundings.  I added a graduated white polkadot graphic to the back of the window (instead of the plain background on the card) to add some transparency and allow the design to look like part of the shop.

I also get asked to incorporate Christmas trees in my displays every single year (which I never do), so I thought her designs made for a suitable compromise – just this once!

Because Lynn’s design is made out of so many smaller and complete illustrations,  I thought that it would be nice to pull these apart for the shop interiors.  Lynn kindly adjusted and re-worked her design to fit on different surfaces such as the walkway columns, till points and feature plinths which looked perfect.

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The ‘Winterland’ tree is made up of various enchanting components, there are owls, deer, foxes, skiers, houses – Where do you find the inspiration for your illustrations?

Lynn Hatzius:

Living in a big city often makes me long for and dream of a calmer more natural place, so I tend to seek out environments within my imagination and also on my travels, that will inspire and nurture this yearning. In recent years I have been particularly drawn to the landscapes and lifestyle of Scandinavia – it’s snow peeked mountains, still lakes, thick forests, lone islands, wildlife and houses dotted across wide open spaces.

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The ‘Winterland’ tree appears to have a strong a narrative that spirals up and down like tinsel wrapped round a tree – Are there any hidden meanings/fairy tale stories to be told within the design?

LH: Not any in particular, but Christmas is always a time for evenings spent reading and reminiscing, so I guess childhood memories and stories told in front of the lit tree may have well woven their way into the design subconsciously.

You were born in Germany but came over to London in 1998 so you must know the city extremely well – is there a place in London that particularly inspires you?

LH: It would have to be Hampstead Heath with its old gnarly trees and sheltered swimming ponds, hidden clearings and wide views of the open sky and across the city. I also like the canals that stretch across London like green veins interlacing urban and natural habitat.

Your work involves various print processes and a combination of detailed paper cutting and collage – do you have a preferred medium?

LH: I love the element of play and surprise when working on a collage. I consider collage to be fundamental to any medium I work in, as the process of collecting a range of visual material, then editing and combining particular elements underlies my general creative process. Most often I will apply this way of working to printmaking techniques and to developing an illustration or paper cut design.

When Charlene first asked whether your design could be spread throughout the shop, did you envision how the final outcome would look?

LHTo begin with I found it hard to imagine the illustrations on such a large scale, but once I understood how the main tree design would be laid out across the glass cabinets, I was able to compose the scenes and landscapes to fill each particular space.

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Curating Christmas Competition

How does the V&A inspire you to curate Christmas?
Show us what inspires you to get creative at Christmas by sharing a photo of your curated Christmas installations, displays, decorations or festive features.
Simply upload your photo to Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #CuratingXmas for your chance to win a fantastic prize
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