Muir Hewitt has done so much to popularise art deco since launching his Art Deco Originals in 1982, that his name has become synonymous with Clarice Cliff, Susie Cooper, Charlotte Rhead and the sleek furniture of the Jazz Age.
“When I was very young I was given an annual of my mother’s of children’s stories illustrated by Joyce Mercer and Ann Anderson, and I fell in love with the styles of art deco and art nouveau. I also loved watching all the black and white movies. I was an obsessive movie buff and used to go into Central Library in Bradford to look up the addresses of film stars in Who’s Who. Alfred Hitchcock sent me a huge envelope with an autographed photo and I got a signed photo and handwritten note from Joan Crawford. I also loved Disney cartoons, so art was always my thing. I had gone to school at Woodhouse Grove but I didn’t make the best of myself there.
I came to Bradford School of Art to do the Foundation in Art and Design in 1974 and I was taught by Martin Dutton, Ian Taylor, Angie Richardson, Grant Devine. I remember Ray Buck, who taught Art History with great fondness and when I heard that he died I always regretted not getting back in touch to say what an impact he had on me. It was the best year of my life. It was my first taste of adventure, growing up and meeting lots of wild characters and artists. I made really good friends like Val Denham, Gail Shackleton and Alan Selka. When I went to on to do a degree in Graphic Design at Wolverhampton Poly, while Alan studied Fine Art at Leeds Poly and became friends with Mark Almond.
In August 1977 Alan was at my house in Bradford during our holidays from Poly. I had read an interview with Mae West in the Yorkshire Post which mentioned that she was listed in the phone book, so on her birthday I rang international directory enquiries and asked them to dial the number. When someone answered, I told them I was ringing to speak to Miss West to wish her happy birthday, and remarkably they put me thorough, as an incredulous Alan listened in on the downstairs extension. I said ‘Hello, is that Miss West?’ and the familiar voice drawled ‘Sure.’ At eighty-four she was still playing the siren, incredibly she was convinced she was a femme fatale. I enjoyed a very friendly conversation with her which I concluded by saying, ‘If you are ever in the Bradford hills come up and see me sometime’ and she promised she would. It made my year but sadly in those days I didn’t have the technology to record it. Alan now lives in Hollywood, working as a butler for the film producer Robert Evans, who was married to Ali McGraw.”
As I had always been so interested in Disney I wondered about animation as a career but my first job was selling photographic equipment. Just after I left Wolverhampton I saw an exhibition called The Thirties at the Heywood Galleries. I had bought little pieces of art deco when I was a student as they were unfashionable and so could be picked up cheaply and I started going to lots of antique fairs. I remember someone told me, ‘You’ll never make a living selling that gaudy crap’ but I moved into Halifax Antiques Centre in 1982 and stayed there for twenty-five happy years before spending two years at Redbrick Mill. I have had many loyal customers, including Victoria Wood. When I was a little boy I hated being called ‘Muir’ but it has stood me in good stead as people remember it. One customer named their child after me. I have appeared on Flog It and Art Deco Designs with Maureen Lipman. My friend, the painter Jane Lewis, did a picture of me with my Clarice Cliff. Basically I would say I was a collector who deals rather than the other way round.” Muir has recently left Redbrick Mill and is currently seeking more suitable premises.
"I became friends with broadcaster Brian Sibley after hearing a programme he did about Disney and he invited me to be his guest at celebrations for the sixtieth birthday of Mickey Mouse at Disney Studios in 1988. I saw the original studio archives and met Adriana Caselotti, the voice of Snow White in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I have always loved Snow White and I went to her house for tea, which was surreal. I was thirty-two and she was seventy-two, so I seem to have made a habit of pursuing aging movie legends!
I have been lucky to have had an interesting career and met a lot of fascinating people by pursuing my obsessions.”