Here and Now

Danielle Hession preserves memories through her combination of art and design.

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Photographers, Brianne & Brittany Daigle.

After years of discovering artifacts in second hand stores and vintage markets, Danielle Hession began looking at found objects a little differently. She discovered that each one is unique and tells its own story.

By way of her fourth year thesis project at the Ontario College of Art and Design, Hession began making artwork that preserves these artifacts’ memories. Her talent to combine her love for graphic design, three dimensional artwork and fashion are all evident in her personal and commissioned pieces.

Nicole Siena: How did you get into creative design and art? What sorts of art do you do to combine them?
Danielle Hession: I’m a bit of a jack of all trades. I majored in graphic design at OCAD. I’d always loved art but I thought knowing the skills behind graphic design would be valuable. I was always making art on the side. When I took breaks from working on the computer I’d be making things with my hands. The way the art happened was through my thesis in my last year of school.

I was on a quest to better understand how we preserve memories and share life stories. More specifically, peoples personal effects. You’d go into their home and ask them to find the most important belongings they have. It was an observation of today’s society, what’s most important to us from generation to generation. For our generation, technology seems to play an integral role. It’s an important part of how we document our memories. I have always had a deep fascination with the way things were documented in the past. I would visit antique markets and find myself spending hours looking at stranger’s photos and scrapbooks. Questioning how these memories could be discarded or misplaced and the commodified.

NS: Tell me about your favourite types of original artwork that you’ve done?
DH: The classic example was when a family handed me a shoebox of items they didn’t know what to do with. It had an old passport, letters, telegraphs, photos and a blueprint from the first house they built.

I took those items, scanned them in and then return the originals. Then I started working with the photocopies and the scans to start layering. Each art piece turns out completely different because each story is so different and each family documents their memories in such diverse ways.

NS: How do you find your art affects people once they see the final products?
DH: It’s hard to be there. I mean, it’s amazing. Most people are shocked or stunned. They don’t really know what to expect. I’ve definitely had a lot of emotional reactions once I presented the piece. Sometimes the family is there and everyone is crying. Sometimes it’s a lot more emotional then you expect it to be. Especially for the older generations when it’s given as a surprise gift. I’ve had some really magical emails talking about how the piece was received.

NS: Since you’ve graduated, what have you been up to?
DH: I’ve been doing art full-time. Within the last two years, I’ve been working with my boyfriend and his design company, Craft Studio.

We have collaborated on interior design projects, custom wall features and custom lighting. I love it, it’s art but on much bigger scale. I have learned so much about different materials and tools and become a pretty decent handy man in the process. It’s a totally different way of thinking but I like how it balances my art practice. I have recently added a new job to the mix working with an amazing non-profit group, Partners in Art. Their purpose is promoting and supporting visual arts in Canada.

NS: What are your future plans?
DH: I think to keep doing what I’m doing. I love doing so many different things. It’s always what I wanted to do — anything to avoid the nine-to-five and being able to experiment all the time is a dream.