björk collaborator james merry on the importance of imagination
He's the man behind those embroidery sportswear jumpers you've always dreamed of owning. As he's shot by Tim Walker in an elaborate headpiece of his own creation, get to know Björk's co-creative director and friend James Merry.
James Merry has the best job in the world. His time is split between Reykjavik, New York and London. And if that lifestyle sounds familiar then you're probably a fan of Björk, who the English artist has worked alongside for the past seven years, first as an assistant, then as a friend and creative collaborator. James lives in a tiny cabin on the side of a mountain not far from Iceland's capital and is constantly moving between remote rural bliss and big city energy. It's not so much the cities themselves that have shaped his work, he tells us, but the friction between them. "That contrast is a really satisfying catalyst and definitely trickles into my work, especially the floral embroidered sportswear stuff I do." Those pieces, their familiar logos overgrown with wildflowers and Icelandic moss, are beautiful. It's a shared love of nature that binds the two creatives above all, and from that sprung the moth-inspired masks that Björk is now rarely seen without.
For his shoot with Tim Walker, James was invited to make a headpiece for himself and right away decided to craft a sort of fertility god. "I wanted it to look like life was pouring almost painfully out of my nose, mouth, ears, eyes... an explosion of fertility somewhere between an oak tree sprouting and a coral spawning." He and Björk recently teamed up as co-creative directors on the immersive virtual reality Björk Digital exhibition that accompanied the musician's Vulnicura heartbreak album at Somerset House and beyond. Featuring stunning visuals shot on lava fields and inside caves, the project was a celebration of their homeland's natural beauty; something that James is well aware is in need of love. "We're gonna need to start thinking creatively about the environment and about politics just in order to survive," he says. "So much damage is being done by people suffering from a massive lack of imagination."
Text Frankie Dunn
Photography Tim Walker