Hen’s Teeth recently launched their their new gallery, art and lifestyle store in Blackpitts. They tell us about their evolution and transition.
How would you describe Hen’s Teeth and what you all do?
We are now a very multi-winged bird with a gallery, store, diner and creative agency all operating out of one space in Dublin 8. At the core, everything we do is rooted in creating interesting experiences in art, music, design and food, whether that’s from our space or collaborating with artists or brands around the world.
Explain your collective journey to the point of opening up in Blackpitts? How did you get here?
It’s been a constant evolution with a lot of figuring out along the way. There was never a five or ten year plan, we had all served our time in jobs we didn’t love, so we set out to build a creative business in which we could do the things we loved. There have been some clear milestones along the way that have led to this point. The first was all leaving full-time employment and taking that risk. The second was winning Smirnoff as a client very early on and running the Move the Needle campaign – that proved to us that there was a space for our cultural understanding and expertise in big brand work. The third was getting our Fade Street building and very quickly opening a gallery / store space when we had never run a bricks and mortar.
The search for this building made us really evaluate what we had become in the two years since we moved to Fade Street. Ultimately, we knew that we had become more than a store on a busy street and that we wanted to build a cultural destination with community at the heart of it.
This step up is big and ambitious, which is to be applauded and commended. What words of advice and strength would you give people thinking of pushing themselves further ahead?
Thanks. Try to stop and enjoy the good moments because they go by quickly when they happen. Be honest and open and mind the people that you work with. Be kind, you’ll need people’s help along the way.
Your three favourite collaborations and projects so far? What made them so special?
60×60 with a certain Mr. Richard Seabrooke was a huge moment for us when we look back on our journey so far. Working with 60 contemporary Irish artists and throwing a huge exhibition at the RDS really helped put us on the map.
The new space in Dublin 8. We worked with AB Projects and what we’ve achieved together is a space that allows us total freedom, and one that we feel is genuinely world class. AB Projects were a dream collaborator. It’s probably our biggest and most important project to date.
Egle Zvirblyte is a Lithuanian artist we’ve worked with on a range of projects – we created a series of larger than life figures with her for Drop Everything 2018 that got a massive amount of international attention. Next year, we’re releasing our first limited edition ceramic with her too.
The three projects on your horizon you’re most excited about (without giving away any secrets of course)?
We’re working with Other Voices to run After Dark in Dingle for the third time in December. This year, we’re doing it with Algorithm, Red Bull and a very special top secret DJ. It’s a stellar squad and it’s always a killer party.
We first met the DJ Honey Dijon when we ran a talk and gig with her in 2018. She was really into what we did so we kept in contact and are launching a Hen’s Teeth x Honey Dijon exhibition in London in early 2020. This is the one we feel will put us on a global map.
We’ve worked with designer Annie Atkins twice over the last 12 months – once on our own Christmas window, which has led to a much bigger brand job together. It’s the perfect example of the evolution of our relationships with the artists we work with.
As part of the project you invited people to help fund the venue through Kickstarter and it was both interesting and inspiring to see the love and support you got. What were your biggest learnings and insights when it came to using the platform for your fundraising?
Don’t underestimate how much work it will be. It’s a hustle and can be all consuming but make the rewards sweet, be clear on the plans and turnaround, and don’t panic if it hits a slump halfway through (they all do!). Ultimately, if you’ve built a community and you’ve put the work in, it can be an amazing way of raising funds for your project.
The five books that run the risk of never making it out of the shop as they may be nabbed for your studio?
Hi-fi: The History of High–end Audio Design
Only Human by Martin Parr
A Very Serious Cookbook
Dublin is rapidly changing. Some see it as the loss of culture and others see it as the culture just changing, moving and morphing as cities always do. Where do you sit on the subject? Is the city at risk, is this just the ebb and flow of the streets or is there something more positive or sinister happening to our great little town?
Cities evolve and that’s a good thing. But right now, it doesn’t seem like anyone’s in control of that evolution and truly considering how people can live, work, create and survive, alongside a healthy tourism and business industry. It feels like there’s no long-term vision for the people that live here and the people that give the city it’s spirit and vibrancy. That needs to change quickly.
If there was one thing you would change about the city it would be…
The housing issue. It’s keenly felt by the majority of people we know, and the homeless situation is shameful. A distant second would be a beauty council, like in Stockholm. All potential builds go through them to make sure the city’s landscape isn’t pulled out of shape aesthetically. Oh, and can we start building up into the sky, please?
You are known for your client and self-initiated work. Why is it important to you to keep making passion projects over always working to client’s briefs and budgets?
None of us are agency people first and foremost. We’re all creative in different ways but all have a similar approach to every job – whether it’s a passion or client project – with the same zeal of creating something interesting, beautiful or meaningful.
The three dream clients you want on your books in two years and why?
We dream in shows or exhibitions and feel like if we keep that side of the house interesting and new and fresh that we’ll get the client work we want.
What’s on the Hen’s Teeth (custom Hatchett) sound system at the moment? What’s got you rocking, dancing, working, chatting and more?
An amazing afro-calypso style disco from Bro. Valentino out of Trinidad.
Reggae Don Tapper Zukie’s one attempt at disco was ‘Freak’, a spaced out reggae-tinged workout with huge bongos and excellent synths laid over a killer groove.
An excellent cover version of Sade’s classic cut ‘Sweetest Taboo’ by Caribbean Soca band Rebles from 1986. Guaranteed to get people moving!
Luther Davis Group’s disco classic ‘You Can Be A Star’ was recently revived for dancefloors with Daphni’s hugely popular re-edit. But it’s the original that still does it for us. Incredible record!
Connie Laverne’s little known North Soul gem is a regular in Floating Points sets.
The original 7” is highly elusive and coveted by record collectors across the globe. Guaranteed party starter!
Tell us more about the new diner you’ve launched in the space and its standout dishes?
The salted caramel doughnuts will get you into a lot of trouble, and there’s a fairly decadent open-faced crab sandwich if you feel like treating yourself. We’ve worked with Karl Whelan (Hang Dai Chinese fame) and Rich Lewis, our new diner manager and chef, on the food, so we’re in very safe hands.
You opened the space with the graphic maestro that is Niall Sweeney exhibiting. What’s next and next again up your sleeve? Share some sneak peeks of what wonders lie ahead as you push further forward?
We did, and what a show. Niall is such a massive inspiration to us, so it was fitting we opened the space with him.
In 2020, we want to explore other forms and objects when releasing new work (outside of prints), and we’re working on releasing a series as we speak. First up is Egle Zvirblyte and a beautiful limited edition ceramic piece. The Honey Dijon show is massive, we’re planning on a special neon exhibition in 180 The Strand in London with her.
The space is very different to anything you’ve run before. What can people expect when they call in and what have you got planned for the space over the coming year?
People can expect a warm welcome, very good food, nice wine and a space that is constantly evolving and trying new things. We’ve got magazine launches, book signings, exhibitions that differ in scale. With the new kitchen it means that if we’re doing a Matty Matheson book signing in store now, we’ve got him slinging food out from the pass. We’ve got a space now to match the ambition, so it’s a pretty freeing feeling.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
Ask us in a year’s time 🙂
Hen’s Teeth, Blackpitts, Merchants Quay, Dublin 8