Kacper Hamilton is a visionary designer and long-time collaborator and friend of EGM. This year, Hamilton and EGM Cigars collaborated on their first official release, HALO. To commemorate the moment, we sat down with the talented artist at his Haggerston studio to talk about the collaboration, his career to date, inspirations and AI, cigars and much more.
Kacper Hamilton in his Haggerston studio
EGM: Tell us a bit about yourself…
Kacper Hamilton: I’m a British artist, designer and creative director with my studio based in Haggerston, London. I was born and raised in London, with Polish roots and ancestry.
EGM: How did you first get into design?
KH: I was brought up in the arts—I recall always being at private views and surrounded by artists. At the age of 11, I went to a boarding school called Christ's Hospital located in West Sussex, which was founded in 1552. It had excellent art and design departments and I have fond memories of spending most of my time drawing, painting, sculpting and making objects out of metal and wood, as well as other materials. I also studied History of Art and this is where I became fascinated and inspired by the Old Masters, as well as the architecture of ancient civilisations. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be an artist; it then became a quest of working out what kind.
At Central Saint Martins, I studied Product Design where I was able to experiment with what the boundaries were between art and design and if any existed for me. My second year was based out in Florence which proved to have significant influence as it’s a city full of culture, history, beauty and of course, art. My final CSM graduation project was called 7 Deadly Glasses, which was a set of conceptual-yet-functional hand-blown wine glasses based on the seven deadly sins. The project was widely published and exhibited and subsequently launched me into the professional art and design world.
7 Deadly Glasses by Kacper Hamilton
Soon, after graduating, I took up a position as a Vitrine Designer for Louis Vuitton in Paris, working with a small team at their Pont Neuf HQ. Each designer was responsible for their project, which consisted of designing an installation to work in over four hundred LV shops across the globe. All the stores needed the same installation; however, each was to be designed for each individual space. LV is renowned for its vitrine installations, as they approach it as an art form and look to always create something extraordinary. I worked on a range of different campaigns, but my most notable one was called Quartz, which was designed for the opening of a new LV shop in the Ion Orchard in Singapore. Although it was a great experience to work for such a large luxury brand, I decided after some time that I wanted to establish and run my own studio, so I could work with clients directly and on a broader range of projects.
Louis Vuitton Quartz by Kacper Hamilton
I returned to London and soon after got my first big commission from Ballantine’s 12-Year-Old whisky. I created L’Art de la Degustation, which was inspired by the concepts of balance, sharing and equilibrium.
L’Art de la Degustation
The set was launched as a limited edition of 60. Having found myself designing limited edition collections for a number of luxury brands, I decided to further pursue a Masters in Design for Luxury & Craftsmanship at ECAL in Switzerland. This was a great experience, as I designed for some incredible luxury brands and visited the manufacturers.
Inside Hamilton's studio in Haggerston, London
EGM: You’re quite multi-disciplinary in terms of being a designer. What would you say are your core areas of expertise, and do you have one particular preference?
KH: I would say one of the overarching themes of my work is the concept of alchemy. I’m interested in taking a simple idea and turning it into something extraordinary. My expertise lies in using design to create new rituals and ceremonies and develop art as a form of storytelling. Although I have a particular style to my work, no project is the same. I get approached by clients who have an idea or brief and commission me to research the subject and then execute my vision. When I take on a project, I am fully committed and put my heart, as well as soul, into it.
HALO, designed by Kacper Hamilton for EGM
EGM: When it comes to creating, where do you draw inspiration from?
KH: I would say that, in general, I am inspired by other artists' work, architecture, literature and films. I love Brutalist architecture, sculptures from the Futurism Art Movement, as well as minimalist design.
In terms of artists, front of mind are the likes of Michael Heizer, Constantin Brâncuși, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, James Turrell, Olafur Eliasson and Anish Kapoor. I love arthouse films, too, which have proved to be very influential in my way of thinking, seeing and storytelling from directors including Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, Gaspar Noé, Alejandro Jodorowsky, David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino and Stanley Kubrick.
I have also taken a lot of inspiration from reading Classical Literature and Gothic Fiction. Authors spanning Franz Kafka, George Orwell, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Matthew Gregory Lewis, Choderlos de Laclos, Mary Shelley, Alexander Dumas and Paulo Coelho. I’m inspired by the artworks of old masters such as Caravaggio, Hieronymus Bosch and Gustave Doré. When it comes to architecture, I love the works of Antoni Gaudí, Oscar Niemeyer, Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.
I’ve also been very inspired by the art, design, architecture and culture of ancient civilisations—especially the Ancient Egyptians. In fact, there was a rebellious and infamous Pharaoh called Akhenaten who I have a lot of respect and admiration for and I’m deeply inspired by him. He made Ancient Egypt into a monotheistic society by making Aten (the Sun) the only single deity and building a new capital city called Amarna, using entirely new architectural techniques. I have several sculptures of his bust in my studio.
As a young child, I served as an altar boy in a Polish Catholic Church in South Kensington. I realised that this had a profound influence on my mind. I was fascinated by the ceremony conducted by the priest and all the beautiful precious objects used to conduct the service and Holy Communion, as well as all the incredible churches, cathedrals and religious paintings I saw later in life. Whenever I travel to a new place, I love to visit the local churches and while I am now more of a spiritual man than a religious one, I have never forgotten my past.
EGM: How crucial is London to your identity as an artist?
KH: I have always loved that London is such a cosmopolitan city as it makes it feel like the world is at your fingertips. It’s an open-minded place where everyone is free to be who they want to be and there is a world of opportunity. It’s also the epicentre of art and I feel incredibly lucky to have visited so many exhibitions at museums and galleries over the years. London is, therefore, important to me, as it has given me the freedom to explore and develop my identity as an artist. I work with clients from all around the world, but I love to have my base and home in London. Clubland is also an important part of my life in London and I am often found at either the Savile Club or the Chelsea Arts Club, the latter of which I am on the Council.
EGM: You’ve been working with EGM on creating HALO. How did this collaboration first come about?
KH: I approached EGM a few years ago to offer to work on a collaboration for the ritual of smoking cigars. This had been a dream of mine for some years and EGM felt like the perfect fit as they are a visionary company; unique as they are bringing the traditional world of cigars into the modern day and age. They make cigar smoking accessible to all and present the elegant lifestyle that comes with it. It’s not about quantity; it’s about quality. EGM and myself have a shared passion and synergy and I think this is seen in all the projects we collaborate on. We worked on a range of ideas and HALO is our first official release of hopefully many.
EGM: So what exactly is HALO in your own words?
KH: I’ve smoked cigars for a long time and have always had issues when wanting to rest my lit cigar. The only options were to either sit the cigar on the edge of a table with the danger of it rolling off or burning the tablecloth or to place it in a crowded and oftentimes dirty ashtray.
It is also important to note that it is not necessary to ash a cigar often, in-fact less is better as this helps keep the cigar and flavour in optimum condition. I, therefore, wanted to create a cigar rest that would act as an invitation to a new ritual to elevate one’s experience when smoking a cigar.
I believe it’s unique in the way that it presents and frames a cigar, almost like a throne or an altar. It makes the entire experience of smoking feel more elevated and precious, creating greater reverence. It is designed so a lit cigar will sit in HALO at an optimum level without damaging the surface or tabletop beneath and it will accommodate every sized cigar. Furthermore, I always have a few accessories I carry with me when I plan to smoke, including a large 1920s crocodile skin cigar case, a 1990s Dunhill silver stripe design lighter, a cigar cutter and now I feel that HALO is the final missing piece of the puzzle. HALO is like a portable piece of functional jewellery for one’s cigar.
EGM: You’re quite the seasoned smoker. How did you first get into cigars?
KH: This was something I was also drawn into from a young age. I recall smoking my first cigar at around 16 years old. I started buying my own boxes a few years later and the rest is history.
A selection of cigar bands collected by Hamilton over the years
In 2014, I co-founded and ran Black Wolf Cigar Club for around five years. This was a Members Club which met on a monthly basis to pair Cuban Cigars and New World Cigars with different spirits, at various locations across London. The Club attracted new smokers as well as seasoned ones, so it was a wonderful mix. It was through this experience that I made some great contacts in the cigar world, as well as becoming more knowledgeable myself. It was only a matter of time before I created something for the cigar world.
EGM: You designed all the branding for the EGM Cigar Line. What was your inspiration behind it? And what did you enjoy most about the creative process?
KH: I’ve always been in great awe of the design of Cuban cigar labels and boxes. There is a real beauty and charm to them. So, when it came to designing the artwork for EGM, I wanted to take inspiration from the tradition of classical Cuban cigar brands. However, at the same time, I wanted to present EGM as a new and forward-thinking brand, so it pays homage to the past but is firmly placed in the modern age.
I first redesigned the EGM logo to make it more minimal, yet bold: the EGM monogram is surrounded by a wreath composed of cigar leaves. All in all, this made the EGM logo more unique, impactful and memorable. After this, I worked on designing a new brand identity for EGM, which can now be seen across all its products. I incorporated small elements of embossed holofoil, which gave the label a beautiful and magical sheen.
For the cigar boxes, I wanted to pay homage to traditional Cuban cedar boxes. I therefore designed a simple unvarnished cedar box with EGM branded details, but with a striking and contrasting detail—a holographic security seal. We worked with a high-tech specialist printing company to produce the security seals. They have some incredible security details, which would be almost impossible to forge. It’s important to note that there is a strong collaborative effort between myself and EGM. We started working together almost two years ago and it’s wonderful to see what we have achieved in that time.
EGM: It’s important to touch on AI, particularly in the creative industries. We’ve seen it being incorporated into processes for efficiency and inspiration. Where does AI sit with you?
KH: I see AI as a tool, just like a computer is with software such as Illustrator, Photoshop and Solidworks (3D CAD). They make my job more efficient and streamlined which allows me to deliver better results and faster. I think AI is a fantastic research and support tool. I don’t see it as a replacement for creativity, but rather an assistant of sorts. I personally use Midjourney for research when I want to explore a visual concept quickly. I can then use this in a presentation or in a brief for another artist. There are also occasions where I will use AI to create an image and then build on top of it to get the image I want. It acts as a sort of base layer, but by no means the final product. It's also important to note that curation is vital when working with AI and especially with programs like Midjourney. However, everyone will use AI in their own way. I’m a perfectionist at heart, so I need to precisely formalise what’s in my mind in the real world, rather than something which is just a computer-generated image.
Concept by Hamilton using Midjourney
If we use AI in the right way then I believe it can be an incredible tool which will take us to a whole new level of intelligence and capabilities as a human race. On the other hand, the main issue I see is that more and more people and companies will start to use AI as an easy and quick creative solution for branding, advertising, design, writing copy et cetera. Another and far more worrying part is AI-generated images looking so real, leaving us not knowing whether they are fake or not. I believe that AI will become more and more integrated into our everyday lives and this will have an impact on society as a whole, for better or for worse.
EGM: What book are you currently reading?
KH: I’m currently reading Hell's Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs by Hunter S. Thompson, who also wrote Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas.
EGM: Favourite film of all time?
KH: 2001: A Space Odyssey. This is a true masterpiece in every sense: storytelling, design, props, cinematography and music. It is a film that was way ahead of its time and it still feels contemporary. I rewatch it about once a year. I actually remember watching it as a young kid for the first time at the Curzon Cinema in Mayfair and being absolutely blown away by it. I felt almost hypnotised.
EGM: What are your core rules to live by?
KH: Firstly: “We are the Music Makers and we are the Dreamers of Dreams”. This is the first line from a poem called “Ode”, which was written by the English poet Arthur O'Shaughnessy in 1873. It basically means that artists have a responsibility and obligation to sculpt the future. We need to be visionaries and fully commit to making our dreams a reality. Secondly: “Wabi-Sabi”. I’m a perfectionist at heart, but I’ve had to come to terms that life and art doesn’t always turn out the way you imagine. I, therefore, often turn to the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, where beauty lies in the imperfect and this story sums it up perfectly: Rikyu was asked to clean Joo’s leaf-strewn garden. First, he raked until the grounds were spotless. Then, in a gesture pregnant with wabi-sabi overtones, he shook a tree trunk, causing a few leaves to fall.
To see more of Kacper Hamilton's work, click here.