It seems there aren’t many things that can’t have an artist in residence programme attached to it nowadays. The latest to catch London’s eye however, proves that some can be a real success, even in the most extraordinary of places – perhaps a piece of blank fabric, carried by almost everyone in their pocket or bag, has become the new target…

Hayden Kays is a printmaker, sculptor and painter based in London, who has teamed up with the glasses brand Cubitts, purveyors of the most stylish eyewear, to help bring art to the pockets of the people. Cubitts, known for offering an eyewear-by-numbers approach to picking out your specs, have hired the discerning artist, known for his whimsical images that resonate with London’s sense of irony, such as ‘I dropped acid once and never found it again’ to design their latest cleaning cloths. Spotted with ironically-rainbow-coloured skulls, or scribbled with the infamous catchphrase ‘testacles, spectacles, wallet and watch’ the cloths are the newest in a series of projects where Cubitts work with London based designers and artists to inject a little humour and prettiness in to the pockets of the public. In limited runs, the cloths come with spectacles, or can be purchased for £5, with all proceeds going to Macmillan Cancer Research and Cure Blindness. Never before have cleaning cloths been something to covet and worthy of a wall. Candid sat down with Kays, and Cubitts founder Tom Broughton, to discuss all things art and glasses.

Candid Magazine: Tom, why did you launch the artist in residency programme?

Tom Broughton: It’s inspiring to work with talented people. So we thought we could combine that with celebrating our humble cleaning cloth – an oft-forgotten object that’s not only practical, but also a creative canvas. And perhaps if people have a beautiful cleaning cloth, they’re more likely to carry it with them – and avoid the tyranny of cleaning spectacles with their sleeve.

Candid Magazine: Hayden, how did the Cubitts collaboration come about for you?

Hayden Kays: Cubitts asked me to design a couple of cleaning cloths with the proceeds going to charities of my choice. I imagine I was asked because I’m a wearer of spectacles. I like to imagine I’m on some sort of list somewhere: ‘The Four Eyes Only Club’.

Hayden Kays for Cubitts

Hayden Kays for Cubitts

Candid Magazine: Tom, why Hayden?

Tom Broughton: He’s clearly a consummate artist. But more importantly, he’s self-deprecating, sardonic, and a thoroughly nice fellow.

Candid Magazine: Hayden, why did you pick Macmillan Cancer research and Cure Blindness?

Hayden Kays: We hear about the devastating consequences of cancer daily. 50% of us will get cancer, spine chilling. Cure Blindness provide life-changing surgery for £20. I’ve spent £20 on far more frivolous a thing than ‘life-changing surgery’.

Candid Magazine: Hayden, do you see the product of a cleaning cloth as different to an artwork?

Hayden Kays: I’m really keen to see my work applied to wide-ranging materials and objects. We live in a world of things and stuff, I just want to make my things interesting and my stuff memorable.

Hayden Kays for Cubitts.

Hayden Kays for Cubitts.

Candid Magazine: Hayden, how did you come up with the design – were they existing designs.

Hayden Kays: I’ve been working with the skull design for some years now. I love the idea of making something inherently morbid attractive by making it colourful. Death is pretty in pink. The ’Spectacles, Testicles, Wallet and Watch’ design is a visual representation of a saying I remember hearing as a kid and thinking it was hilarious and so rude. I’ve always liked off-colour humour.

Candid Magazine: Tom, why did you commission the oversized cloth?

Tom Broughton: A cleaning cloth can never be large enough. Also we wanted some to-scale testicles.

Candid Magazine: Hayden, do you like the idea people will be walking around with your art in their pocket?

Hayden Kays: I like the idea of being close to people.

Candid Magazine: Tom, Do you think of the process of designing and making glasses as an artwork/the work of an artisan?

Tom Broughton: My framemaking teacher (Lawrence Jenkin, who’s been making frames for over fifty years), believes it takes at least two to three years to develop the skills to make a wearable handmade frame. It took me four – and even then, Lawrence had to help. So either it’s an artisan skill. Or I’m extremely slow.

Cubitts Kings Cross.

Cubitts Kings Cross.

Candid Magazine: Hayden, what do you want people to take away from your work?

Hayden Kays: Joy. I’ve always just wanted to make things happier. It’s not altruistic, it’s egocentric. Making people smile makes me happy. A win, win if you will.

Hayden Kays and Tom Broughton outside Cubitts store.

Hayden Kays and Tom Broughton outside Cubitts store.

Candid Magazine: Tom, what other designers/artists would you like to work with?

Tom Broughton: Our next collaborator is Brian Grimwood, widely accredited with changing British illustration in the 1960s. After that, who knows. It’d be wonderful to work with our new Spitalfields neighbours Gilbert & George.

Hayden Kays for Cubitts.

Hayden Kays for Cubitts.

Candid Magazine: Tom, do you have future plans for the brand?

Tom Broughton: Enumerate. We’re currently working on plenty of new frames – such as some rather splendid gold frames, lots of new shapes and silhouettes, and some experimental prototypes made in turtleshell, leather and even milk. We’re also busy on our side project Cephalometrics which recently won Innovate UK’s Future Fashion award – the idea to use robotics, facial scanning, parametric fit and CNC / 3d printing to produce technology driven made-to-measure frames.

By Toby Morris

Cubbits has four London branches.