Beyond the bare bones

  • Artist Stefan Philipps’ home is a gallery of delights and will soon open its doors to visitors. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Gary Longbottom.
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A stunning chandelier with ceramic droplets is the centrepiece of Stefan Philipps’ beautifully styled sitting room.

It demands attention and close study reveals that the droplets are replicas of chicken bones.

Artist Stefan Phillips' home in York

Artist Stefan Phillips' home in York

“I did think of using real ones,” says Stefan, who quickly abandoned the idea when he realised that infestation was an issue. “I bleached them and cleaned them but then something started eating the marrow and I got an infestation of moths in the studio. Anyway, real bones would’ve been a bit too macabre so I cast them in ceramic.”

The inspiration for the piece, which has matching wall lights with lampshades made from chicken skin, came from the remnants of a meal.

The lighting and a collection of related sculptures were a natural off-shoot of his best-known works, which are pictures featuring rust. He pioneered the technique as a student in his native Germany after noticing the rust stain on his jeans from an old nail that had been left in the pocket. Experiments with metal plates and Japanese paper now produce fascinating patterns and a surprising array of colours from black and blue to ochre, red and orange.

“It’s about using discarded and disintegrating material and it was the same with the chicken bone. The idea for that came after I ate a chicken leg and then I started thinking about food production, which informed the work,” says Stefan.

Artist Stefan Phillips' home in York

Artist Stefan Phillips' home in York

His collages are on the walls and his chicken and egg-related sculptures, housed in taxidermy domes, are on display ready for next weekend’s York Open Studios when he turns his home into an informal gallery.

Along with his own work, there are pictures by friends and artists he admires. Many of are from Germany, where Stefan lectures and has his own studio. He splits his time between Trier, a small city near the Luxembourg border, and Yorkshire. His partner works at York University and the couple have a home in the city.

They bought their Victorian terraced home in Holgate six years ago. Renting is the norm in Germany but owning here 
was cheaper than renting and allowed them to completely redecorate and remodel their home.

The previous owners had a penchant for bright blue and yellow, or what Stefan calls “Ikea colours”, so the first job was to paint the walls and woodwork in white. He also laid reclaimed wood floors, moved the downstairs bathroom up into the third bedroom and created a loft conversion to compensate. The window in the dining room was replaced with a French door.

Artist Stefan Phillips' home in York

Artist Stefan Phillips' home in York

In keeping with his love of recycling, he preserved the patches of old wallpaper on the walls of the attic stairway. They are now a feature after he carefully masked off circles of the paper so they look like decorative plates, and painted the rest of the wall in white.

“I seem to spend most of my time here doing renovation. I’ve painted the whole house a few times and the sitting room has been re-painted five times because when I do Open Studios I stick a lot of nails in the walls to hang the pictures,” says Stefan, who is an inventive DIY’er.

The side tables against the walls in the dining room and hall were once full-size until he sawed them in half to create space-saving, two-legged versions. The furniture is mostly vintage, including the industrial-style armchairs in the sitting room which he bought for a dollar each from an American military base in Germany.

“I was a student at the time and I have had them ever since,” says Stefan, who has a passion for chairs. At one stage he had 27, although he has since reined in his compulsive buying.

Artist Stefan Phillips' home in York

Artist Stefan Phillips' home in York

A group of old mismatched chairs surround the antique dining table, which was bought from The French House. The art deco tray is a find from the York racecourse car boot sale.

“The car boot starts again this month and I can’t wait,” he says. “I love old things and they are more affordable.”

There are a few new pieces, including the Ercol bed frame from John Lewis with matching table lamps made by Stefan. The kitchen too is new and replaced the old, dark wood one.

The task lights are Tolomeo by Artemide and the units are sleek and contemporary. Above them is a shelf by furniture maker Wilf Williams.

It is a work of art and complements the Anglo/German mix of pictures and objects he most treasures. They reveal his split existence, which he hopes will soon come to an end when he settles in York.

“The plan is be here permanently within five years. I like it here and there are a lot of similarities with Trier, which also has medieval streets and connections with Constantine the Great.

Artist Stefan Phillips' home in York

Artist Stefan Phillips' home in York

“I am looking forward to living in one place and concentrating 100 per cent of my time on my art.”

Artist Stefan Phillips' home in York

Artist Stefan Phillips' home in York

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