Creative Living

Ornamental Conifer


Ornamental Conifer is the moniker of British artist, Nicolai Sclater. His work is an exploration into the concept of branding in a post-consumer society. In a world where signage and advertising are no longer required to sell products or drive business there is a risk that our lives could feel empty, at least aesthetically. We went to Los Angeles and caught up with him in his Venice Boulevard studio to talk cars, cameras and his future projects...

GOODHOOD: How long does it take you to paint a car?

ORNAMENTAL CONIFER: Cars take forever. I slowly work through the design and work out how I need to balance the colour and the layout and the composition then you get to the point where I'm like 'oh I've got a whole day to finish it' and then I just fill it with a bunch of designs that were never planned in. So probably a month from start to finish. 

GH: Every day, working on it 5 days a week to get finished in a month?

OC: Yeah everyday, and I have to get into some really awkward positions to paint certain parts too, my body can't take it hahaha. So I really only want to do one of these a year. There's a car I painted in Germany right now, it's being sent back here so it can be sold in America. 

GH: Is it your own car?

OC: No, it's like a special race car. 

GH:  Have you got a car?

OC: I have a 95 Range Rover.  But I can’t paint my own, I don't want to bring too much attention to myself, it’s pristine, I'm trying to keep it this way, as original as possible.

GH: You don't drink, right?

OC: No, you have to do it for the kids, don’t you? My daily routine was always to open the fridge get a beer after work and now I'm like, hang on. How does this work when I put a newborn with me now? What if I'm going to need to drive her to hospital at any moment, I'd need to be able to wake up at 2am and be like ok lets go. Now I realise they are resilient little fuckers. 

GH: Does she go to like kindergarten? 

 OC: Yeah, she’s turning into an American. She’s got three passports - Australian mum, British Dad, and and she's American by birth.

GH: You've got a lot of undeveloped film in your studio. What cameras do you have?

OC: I've got a Contax G1 that I brought to photograph my daughter being born. I knew that camera and some 3200 black and white film with the light in the hospital would make for some really incredible photos of her from the second she was brought out. 

GH: Do you use it much for other than what you brought it for?

OC: It's all for her. I shoot Lola on the Contax all the time, because it's the only camera that she doesn't fuck with. I have a little Ricoh GR1 and she just wants to pick it up and treat it like a toy. It's small and it looks like a phone so she's always like, "let me see it!". The Contax she doesn't fuck with, because she knows it's her Daddies camera, if I pull it out in front of her she'll either be willing to pose for it, or just carry on doing what she's doing and I can capture that. Maybe it's because the Contax was there when she was born, she's just used to it, she's grown up with it. And one day it'll be hers. My favourite camera is one my mum gave me, that she shot loads of photos of me on when I was a kid, so I'm doing the same.

GH: We've seen you're making your own product now, as well as your painting commissions. Can you tell us about that?

OC: I've made a long sleeve graphic tee, and a short sleeve one too. Caps as well, I've also made a big graphic print that will become a giclée print. The thing I'm most excited about honestly, are the pencils and notepads I've made that say "use appropriate technology" on them. I want to give those away as gifts. They're for the people who were once collectors, who are now 40 and have work at home desks, the same kind of people who see through my lens. The people that lean more towards the object and the artefact. I want to make shelves too.