Ray Haydon: Poetry in Motion

One glimpse of Ray Haydon’s workshop in Sandspit gives you an insight into the man and his art.

It’s a meticulously constructed functional space and a work of art in itself.

Handmade tools are precisely arranged along one wall. Inventions for positively charging breathing apparatus, or conversely, vacuum packing carbon composite materials are perfect in their symmetry. This is the throne room for a master of craftsmanship, innovation and invention. It’s a place where ancient crafts, creativity, modern technology and artistic beauty are moulded together by a man with seemingly endless talent.

Ray is also not afraid to try new things. In fact his materials, like his sculptures are ever changing. On one side of the workshop Ray is working with bronze using techniques perfected over thousands of years. On the other he is working with cutting edge composite materials used on America's Cup boats. Ray, with typical humility, calls himself ‘a mad inventor.’ But his pursuit of the next technological challenge produces artworks that appeal with a magical simplicity, whilst having been created with mind boggling complexity.

Imagine a child trailing a ribbon behind her as she dances through the park on a windy autumn day. Freeze time. Ray will make that ribbon with all its swirling, overlapping contours and twists. He will literally stop time and the materials he uses are not renowned for their ribbon-esque qualities. Stainless steel, wood, bronze, carbon fibre, aluminium and many more, but you will not find a weld or a join in any of them. They are seamless in their perfection.

“I started out as a jeweller, so I have always made beautiful things,” Ray says.

“I use different materials now and on a larger scale, but if you can find a weld in that piece you’re staring at Rod, and there are at least eight of them, then I haven’t done my job properly.”

Some of Ray’s sculptures are at Brick Bay, others you can view at Sanderson Contemporary Art in Auckland. He is currently working on a three-metre high stainless steel piece for Teed Street in Newmarket. It is in various stages of completion in the workshop, but you can already tell it’s a Ray Haydon.

The secret to Ray’s success is that he keeps inventing, and then reinventing himself. Most artists have a signature style, but Ray’s thirst for knowledge maintains a sort of technical superiority. He is a jeweller, silversmith, furniture maker, sculptor, and has hand crafted sculptured fittings for super yachts. Impressive, particularly considering he is self-taught.

Ray’s wife Sarah, shows me through the house, which has stunning views out towards Kawau Island. The couple moved up from Auckland earlier this year and are enjoying the tranquillity. They haven’t had time to stage Ray’s sculptures, but the cliff top garden will be stunning when they do. Many pieces are scattered around, including Ray’s kinetic works. They create real movement, an evolution from his other pieces that are frozen in time. Sarah points to some chairs that I would swear were original Georgian Harlequins. Each has a unique and intricately carved back, they are beautiful and old, but I’m here to see Ray’s pieces.

“They are Ray’s! He made them,” Sarah says.

“You didn’t believe me when I told you he was a master furniture maker. Did you?”

By the end of the tour having seen Ray’s paintings, furniture, fully operational replica Napoleonic cannons and much more - I am a believer, convinced Ray has found his perfect niche in life, and thankfully there seems to be no end to his talent.

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