Liam Hopkins has the best (and simplest) job description in the world. ‘Maker.’
It all started when he was a kid in a home where televisions, radios or kettles were never chucked out, they were disassembled and examined. “I was just curious about how things were made, what materials were used, how those materials were joined together.”
At 13 this led to him paying £200 for a Lambretta. ‘A rusty old piece of…,’ well, you know what I mean, because that’s what his mates called it. Over two years Liam disassembled the Lambretta and restored it to pristine condition, before at 15 buying a Mini for £50 (another rusty old piece of…), which was restored to pristine condition by the time he passed his driving test at 17. The die was cast very early on.
Although with initial ideas of becoming an architect, seven years’ training didn’t appeal to an impatient mind and so, in 2000, Liam enrolled on a 3D design course at Tameside Technical College, followed by a 3D course at MMU, which allowed him to experiment in a free way with materials – glass, metal, wood and ceramics.
In his final months at MMU he leased a unit on the fourth floor of a mill in Mossley and set up his own workshop, spending what money he had on workbenches and hand tools. “It was only,” he says, “two hundred quid a month, but that’s a lot when you haven’t got anything coming in. So I made very nicely crafted door-stops from pieces of timber I had left, went to see people that I wanted to work with and left them my promo piece. I feel now that I hit a sweet spot at Uni. Digital, CAD and CNC (Computer Numerical Control) was only just starting, so I learnt with materials and hand-work and then adapted that to digital methods.”
One door-stop promo led to a commission to design a timber display stand for a new Callaway golf club – and a subsequent order for 2,500 units. More jobs followed, although Callaway mass production had taught him very early on that what he loved was designing and making, not mass production. But the cash flow was used for equipment – and a van.
More commissions followed, although Liam cites his first breakthrough as a table designed and made for the Liverpool Design Show, which won best in show for furniture design. Then, he says, a more ‘refined’ design piece, which was runner up in the 2008 Grand Design Awards. A piece which is now in the permanent collection of the Moscow Design Museum.
The story goes on breathlessly from there. Products and projects for such as Liberty, Heal’s and Habitat, many awards and exhibitions… Milan, New York, London.
“But,” Liam continues, “my original dream of creating a Lazerian brand became a burden, because my love for making is just that. When I’ve designed and made something, I just want to move on, not make the same thing again. I got commissions from Bloomberg and Habitat to make installations in their London venues and from then on in I knew that I just wanted to do one off projects.
“Like the polar bear I made as a Winter sculpture at the New Bailey. And the dinosaur for B.Eat Street. At the moment I’m making an installation for the Manchester Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show. Most of my projects until the last three years have been in London, I’m happy that now a lot of my work is in my home town.”
He has just completed a 12 metre high tree sculpture at Hardman Street in Spinningfields. “Things are getting bigger,” he muses, “on an almost architectural scale.” Full circle.
There’s another story about Gerald the dog, Lazerian mascot and company symbol. (3D of course.) In itself, a project that involved 100 artists from around the world and an exhibition in New York. Maybe for another time.
Liam uses the word of his job title a lot: make. Two other words he uses a lot are ‘love’ and ‘soul.’