Object Arranger: Adam Hillman finds beautiful patterns in everyday objects
Growing up, most of our parents taught us not to play with our food. For Adam Hillman, he’s made a career out of it. The artist, photographer and “object arranger” has taken his talent for organizing, carving and arranging objects to the next level of mastery.
What started as a hobby has morphed into a career with almost half a million instagram followers who tune in to see what household items or random objects the mad scientist of patterns will manipulate next. Q-Tips, matches, candy, safety pins, you name it, Adam’s used it. We talked with the multimedia artist about all things fruit, veggies and never making the same art twice.
26, He/Him, Trenton NJ
Playing Runescape more than a 26-year-old adult should
Best piece of advice:
Talent is a myth, make something you're proud of
Strangest thing in your fridge right now:
A single plant-based chicken nugget
Favorite type of bear:
If you weren't an artist, what would you be doing?
Probably an art historian or working in an art museum.
Your work is extremely unique. At what moment did you realize you were a pretty solid "object arranger"?
When I first started making art I produced more traditional paintings and drawings, but after I joined a Facebook photography group called Unedited Smartphone Aesthetic, I took up photography. Since I'm untrained in photography, I wanted to integrate the abstract patterns I had used in my drawings to make the photos more interesting while keeping them unedited, so I started arranging everyday things around my house into various patterns to compensate for my lack of photography skills. These photos got popular pretty quickly on and eventually off the group as well, and that's when I knew this could become a more permanent means of artistic production.
Did your parents ever tell you not to play with your food?
Not that I can remember, which is probably why I've made a career out of it. Take note parents.
Your attention to detail goes beyond normal. Walk us through the meticulous process of making a piece.
Once I have the concept, I'll either go to the store, order, or get the materials from my own personal collection of objects that I reuse specifically for projects. From there I have a small studio in my house that I use with just a large table, white paper, and a large window that I do all of my arranging in, and depending on the light needed I also have studio lights I can set up. I use fine point tools such as small knives, tweezers, and toothpicks to adjust things and get them in their proper place, and I use a mixture of smartphone and digital camera depending on the project to capture the final image. When the arrangement is finished and the photo is taken I disassemble it, clean off the table, and get it ready for the next one.
How long does a typical piece take to make?
As my pieces have gotten more complex, the time to make them has also increased. I used to be able to make them within a couple days, but many recent photos have taken a week to a month to create, depending on the size and complexity.
Where does your inspiration come from?
The internet, past projects, visiting art museums and galleries, my art book collection, and sometimes even just jogging around my neighborhood and looking around.
Food, Q-tips, matches, what objects have been the hardest to work with? And which are your most favorite?
Fresh fruits and vegetables are always the hardest to work with, because finishing the piece before they rot or start to change color is always a race against the clock. One of my favorite materials to work with is paperclips, because I find them to be one of the most versatile and colorful means of creating an image. Clippy gives me dirty looks when I cut them up though.
What do you do with the art once you're done photographing it?
Almost always clean it off and get ready for the next one. I consider the photo to be the artwork, so almost every piece is dismantled upon completion.
With this unique style, what's the next step for Adam Hillman on this artistic journey?
I'm always thinking about the next project, so we'll see where my next arrangement takes me! I try to never repeat myself, so maybe it will send me off into a whole new direction entirely.