Ryan Barrett is a man of many talents. Highlighting that he’s beauty and brains, he’s smashed major fashion campaigns for the likes of Versace and Dolce & Gabbana with Models 1, has launched VooPrint – his own fashion textiles business – and creates gorgeous ceramics, some of which are on-sale now at the Wonderland shop.
We grabbed a moment with Ryan amidst his busy lifestyle to find out more about his creative processes and diverse skill-set.
You’re a professional model but you’re also a photographer. Which side of the lens do you prefer?
Ryan: I think being a creative, I actually prefer now to be a photographer. When I first started modelling it was exciting, travelling and flying around the world, but obviously once you start being creative and you come up with your own concepts and control photoshoots a bit more, I think photography definitely tops that one.
Was modelling the main reason that you wanted to get into photography, or was it the other way around?
Ryan: No no, I mean I’ve always been interested in photography – I did a Fine Arts degree at Goldsmiths and I used to do a lot of painting – I was interested in photography but never got the chance to pursue it really, and then (when I) started modelling I think it gave me a sort of training. I started meeting all these different photographers and seeing how they worked and adapting ideas and skills into my techniques.
What sort of photography are you into?
Ryan: I think I sort of fell into more fashion photography, obviously being a model and being around fashion and also working with textiles, I feel that’s probably where I mainly shoot and work with.
Awesome! Can you tell us a bit about a memorable shoot that you’ve done, both as a photographer and as a model?
Ryan: I’d say one of the main ones in modelling was obviously with Gisele Bündchen, doing the Versace campaign. That was pretty full-on with her, in a nice way. As a photographer I’d say some of my early test shoots actually: I think for me it’s really interesting to work with young models, male models, having been in that situation myself and understanding how they feel, how nervous they are. You can tell when someone’s nervous, you know you meet a complete stranger for the first time and they go “Take your shirt off”and that’s quite intense.
“For me it’s all about surface, textures and playing around with the glazes on top and how they react to each other”
You’re also into sculpture and ceramics, some of which will be sold at the Wonderland shop. Can you tell us a bit about the process behind your pieces?
Ryan: So a lot of the pieces I do at the moment are sort of related to textures and organic forms so I reference Barbara Hepworth quite a lot. For me it’s all about surface, textures and playing around with the glazes on top and how they react to each other. So for me it’s all about texture and dark colour schemes and what I can achieve from that.
How much influence did your degree have on what you do now?
Ryan: My degree was a huge step up for me in terms of being creative, especially because the course was pretty intense. They pick apart your work and you’re very easily critiqued so you’re very good at defending yourself and sort of coming up with ideas and concept. It gives me a sort of confidence.
I guess a lot of the skills you gained from your degree sort of crossed over to modelling too, with being critiqued etc?
Ryan: Yeah, you definitely can say that in modelling there’s some good stuff and some bad stuff. But I think you need to have to have a strong head to manage.
Is there a particular place you go to for inspiration when you’re making your work?
Ryan: I mean social media is a huge influence for me. I follow a lot of different bloggers and trends and that’s a huge thing, but I do go to a lot of art galleries and exhibitions generally. One of my main galleries is the Dia:Beacon in the States. It’s an amazing space with huge sculptures and there’s no one there, it’s such a magical place.
Presumably your travels as a model have influenced your ceramic work as well?
Ryan: Definitely. I did quite a lot of work at uni actually based off a lot of my travelling projects. If you’re travelling around the world you get a lot of inspiration, from Morocco to Japan to New York, very different places and you sort of pick up colours or inspiration from doing that.
What’s your favourite piece, of your own work? And from someone else you admire?
Ryan: Oh, good question actually! I’ll start with the artist. One of the main things that I saw and that really inspired me was at the Dia:Beacon as well and it was one of Louise Bourgeois’s spider sculptures; just seeing them in a room, it kind of gave a little bit of a shiver down my spine, because they’re creepy but they’re also kind of beautiful at the same time so that was really inspiring.
And what’s your favourite personal piece? I’m guessing it’s a hard decision!
Ryan: Yeah. When you’re creating you’re really connected to them but when you’re finished you kind of leave that connection and you get inspired by something else and you get a little bit bored by the last piece, you sort of evolve into something else.
Are you your own harshest critic?
Ryan: Definitely definitely, even more so with ceramics because you’re very very hands on with that material and you feel every bump, ridge, texture from your fingertips, so you’re really involved in the piece from day one. And I’m quite with you know, with the attention to detail and a bit OCD.
You’re kind of a jack of all trades. You also have a fashion textile business, Vooprint. How did you come up with that idea?
Ryan: I’m a bit of a tech person as well, I’ve always been involved in technology, and I sort of did a bit of freelance textile design when I graduated, alongside modelling because it was one of the jobs that I could do while I was travelling. And then it sort of evolved from that into an e-commerce platform and you can actually see all the garments and the designs in the garments, like a Nike trainer, and then I pick a print and put that print onto the Nike trainer and you can be inspired that way which is pretty cool. So yeah it’s evolved into a business really, and I think, with modelling, you get a lot of downtime and it’s kind of silly if you don’t use that time to do something else or you know, prolong your future.
With the modelling, and the photography and the ceramics and then on top of that this business, how do you fit it all in? It sounds like you never stop!
Ryan: Yeah, I mean I’m one of those people that just likes to keep busy, I get bored very easily so I like to keep myself active. I don’t really watch much TV, I’m usually always working or creating and that’s how I like to keep it really. Life’s too short to be sitting still!
What do you think sets Vooprint apart from other fashion textiles businesses?
Ryan: We were actually the first in the industry to launch the platform, so we actually host a lot of other studios on the website, it’s a bit like ASOS if you like, but in the textile design world. So that’s really huge, especially because textiles is quite an old industry, a lot of older people tend to see everything in fabric, they’re very old school, but we’re pushing this whole online commerce platform; it’s new to the world.
Finally, in terms of the future, what’s next?
Ryan: I mean Vooprint is gonna keep on going for a while and I’ve been modelling for quite a while now – I’ve been doing it for nearly 12 years. And I want to keep doing ceramics because I’m really interested in that. So yeah, there’s no major plans. I think I’m gonna carry on with my ceramics and sculptures pieces, really.