Cambridge designers Mineheart attracts buyers with offbeat art

PUBLISHED: 07:00 07 April 2017

The Green Pencil canvas

The Green Pencil canvas


Fancy something a little bit different to liven up your interiors? Then Mineheart might be just the place for you.

Brendan Young and Vanessa Battaglia, founders of MineheartBrendan Young and Vanessa Battaglia, founders of Mineheart

Set up in 2010 by husband and wife Brendan Young and Vanessa Battaglia, the company offers unique twists on classic designs and comes up with its own eye-catching pieces from scratch.

But a word of warning – don’t call their work ‘quirky’.

“I really dislike that word – everyone always says that!” laughed Brendan. “We just have fun and make things we like.”

He explained: “Vanessa and I are both from a product design background so we share the creative side of what we do.

Brendan Young and Vanessa Battaglia, founders of MineheartBrendan Young and Vanessa Battaglia, founders of Mineheart

“I tend to do more of the three-dimensional product development, like lighting and furniture, and Vanessa takes over more of the styling and photoshoots, imagery and packaging side of things.”

The couple live in Cambridge and sell their products from their base in Sawtry and online. They have a three-year-old son, Antoni, and a dog called Lili.

Mineheart’s latest product is a series of old-style portraits with pencils superimposed on the upper lips of the people depicted. This was achieved by taking photos of Renaissance portraits and then altering them using a computer.

“A lot of our pieces are inspired by the past, such as Baroque and Renaissance art and architecture,” said Brendan, who is Cambridge born-and-bred.

The Blue Pencil canvasThe Blue Pencil canvas

“I was reading a psychology book and some of the tests they did were asking people the same questions with a pencil under their nose and without it, and then asking them how they felt. It made quite a significant difference to the answers they gave.

“They were happier using their facial muscles as, by smiling and doing certain facial expressions, you can actually feel happier – so I thought I’d apply that to an old masterpiece.”

Before Mineheart, Brendan and Vanessa – who met in 2000 at Exeter University, where he was studying and where she was enrolled on a three-month exchange programme – were design consultants for companies including John Lewis and Next Homes.

“That was always to their brief, their style and their type of customer, and we wanted to do something closer to us,” said Brendan. “So the idea of Mineheart was purely whatever we fancied doing or what we thought was a good idea.”

The name was inspired by Shakespeare’s Sonnet 46, “Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war” to symbolise their dual passions: love for tradition and eye for contemporary design.

So what are they up to at the moment? “We are working on several new collections right now, including a new collaboration with London-based artist Jacky Tsai which will be released later in the year,” said Brendan. “He uses intricate traditional decorative techniques with a modern twist.

“We are also aiming our new product designs more for use in hotels and restaurants, rather than just for homes, in order to better serve our interior designer clients.”

Some of Mineheart’s designs are being exhibited at present at Art of Float, the studio on Hawthorne Way in Cambridge where people pay up to £55 to spend an hour floating in a highly dense saltwater solution in state-of-the-art floatation pods.

“They’ve got some of our stuff in there,” confirmed Brendan. “It’s quite a nice local business which is doing something interesting. We’ve got lots of similar options coming up this year but I don’t know exactly what we’re doing yet.”

Most of Mineheart’s products are designed, made and assembled in the UK, which enables more control over production and quality, giving greater flexibility and the ability to offer custom-made and bespoke pieces.

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