FINDERS KEEPERS | ART & CULTURE | CABANA MAGAZINE

 

In the rarefied world of styling and art directing for interiors magazines, Jessica Hayns is a legend. Her exceptional eye is evident throughout her Georgian home in south east London, which will be exclusively revealed in the next issue of Cabana. Here, she shares her 'finders keepers': a museum-worthy flea market find and the emotional piece she'll keep forever.

 

INTERVIEW BY ROS BYAM SHAW | ART & CULTURE | 25 MARCH 2024

Vintage wall-mounted plates in the Georgian home of Jessica Hayns, which will be exclusively revealed in Cabana N21, available to pre-order now.

 

In the late 1990s, as a recent graduate in textile design, Jessica Hayns replied to a small advertisement in The Guardian which asked, ‘can you mix concrete, and tie a bow?’. Penned by Min Hogg, it was an appeal for a stylist on The World of Interiors.

‘I didn’t even know what a stylist was,’ she says, ‘but I got the job and stayed for 30 years.’ As Creative Director, she was responsible for a series of memorable and influential shoots in remarkable locations. Now freelance, Jessica’s peerless eye, and extensive collection of objects and textiles, are in constant demand.

 

 

My greatest find: 17th-century Indian water jug

"I spend my life getting up early to go to car boot sales and street markets in the hopes of finding something lovely, and sometimes I do. I think my best ever find was 20 years ago in a very grotty South London street market that I used to go to more for the spectacle than in the hopes of seeing anything I would want to buy.

"It’s a brass ewer, and I spotted it from a distance on a table full of junk and bought it for £10 because I thought it was exquisitely beautiful. I didn’t know what it was but a knowledgeable friend instantly recognised it as a 17th century water jug from The Deccan in India - there’s one like it in the Met. Like so many of my things, it’s fragmentary - missing its lid and handle - but it’s cast and chiselled in this wonderfully generous form with fluted gadrooning that winds around its body in a sinuous curve, and a spout in the form of a dragon’s head.

"It must once have belonged to someone incredibly grand in the world of the Deccan court - and for me it’s one of those object that tells a story, making me wonder what journey it could possibly have taken all the way from a palace in India to have ended up for sale in a grotty street market."

 

 

The piece I'll keep forever: Neolithic leaf-shaped arrowhead

"Choosing this was difficult; I am not good at parting with things. But it would have to be the Neolithic leaf-shaped arrowhead I found on a beach in Scotland 30 years ago with my dad. He was an electrical engineer by trade, but he loved and collected 18th century ceramics, and was a bit of an amateur archaeologist.

"From when I was about eight our family holidays were taking a caravan to Ardnamurchan in Scotland, which is an incredibly remote-feeling coast with wonderful beaches. He and I would spend a lot of time together, foraging in a particular stretch of dunes where over the years we found various interesting bits and pieces, like a 16th-century bronze ruff pin. I remember looking down and the arrowhead was at my feet, standing proud of the sand which had been eroded by the wind. It is only one and a half centimetres long, and is pale yellow flint, incredibly delicately knapped and with an amazingly fine point.

"My father was so jealous - though he did find his own arrowhead later, which he generously gave to the museum in Fort William. It will always feel remarkable to handle something last used 3,000 years ago - though it’s possible it had already been found and lost more recently as apparently people in the Highlands used to keep flint arrowheads as charms, thinking they had been made by fairies."

 

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CABANA N21: 10TH ANNIVERSARY ISSUE

Jessica Hayns is a key contributor in Cabana Issue 21, the birthday issue, which will be published in April. To see Jessica's Georgian gem in south-east London, exclusively revealed in the new issue, pre-order your copy of Cabana Issue 21.

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