In Her Studio Magazine Feature
In Her Studio Magazine invited me to write a piece about my studio. My space has become a sanctuary for me over the years.
A Different Kind Of Sanctuary
Oftentimes, images of what is deemed as, or sold as, a “sanctuary” are often all white and glass, containing curated bookshelves, a selection of perfectly mismatched soft furnishings, and plants that are in achingly stylish vessels.
These images convince many that this is what a sanctuary should look like.
To say my studio has been a sanctuary, especially during these recent months, would be an understatement. And yet my studio looks nothing like these preconceived images.
My studio is just off a busy corner of Shoreditch, spread over three floors, one of which is a roof terrace complete with wonky wooden benches. Throughout the space there are piles of creative clutter, overflowing shelves, endless collections of ink pots, spray paint cans, and paintbrushes on most surfaces.
Larger-scale artwork is often left tacked up on walls to dry, whilst small sketches, new ideas, and painterly scribbles for upcoming projects lay on papers of various sizes. A vast collection of silkscreens collected over the years, and having endured various amounts of use, are stacked up in racks or dotted throughout the space. Invariably, Radio4 is on in the background, and the other creatives I share the space with pass through bringing chatter and cups of tea.
This studio wouldn’t be everyone’s vision of a sanctuary, but there is a creative energy that I love — as well as mess, dust, and a little chaos.
And yet, it is very rare for a visitor not to fall a little in love with the studio’s charm; the space has an atmosphere that most find inspiring. A three-story creative space purely inhabited by a small group of women is a very rare and wonderful thing in such an overpriced and highly gentrified area of London, which is why it is all the more special to me.
This space has provided me with so much.
Without my dusty, ink-splattered corner of Shoreditch, I think that not only would my work have suffered but also my home. As a friend once pointed out to me, the two most important spaces in my life, my home and my studio, are exact opposites: one white, pristine, all glass and white surfaces, and the other, well, not. And yet, perhaps these exact opposites have informed my work gradually through osmosis. I create, paint, experiment, and have all the inky, energy-filled moments in my studio. Then, at the end of each day, I walk home through the park thinking over my next steps. At home, I go through the now-dried pieces and can see them more clearly without all the visual noise of the studio. I need that clarity, that simplistic environment, to actually see what I have made, edit what I like and what I don’t, and then decide what comes next.
But that’s not all the studio has given me. It has also been an anchor for me, as it was my first art studio in London after being a nomadic full-time illustrator for years. It was the first space where I felt I could be brave and follow what I felt I needed to do.
Perhaps it is a cliché, but I knew I wanted to be a creative from a very young age. As young girl I wanted to be bought pastels and paints over dolls and Legos.
Then came the art books — the big grown-up kind that at the time were a little heavy for me; I now have quite the collection that spans decades, and it continues to grow.
But despite this early certainty, my journey wasn’t a straight line. I followed the standard path: I went to art college, then on to do my master’s at CSM, and then I worked at agencies for well over a decade as a designer and art director. In hindsight, I went off track — I was doing the commissioning but not the commissions. I wouldn’t say I loved it or hated it, but I just knew it wasn’t what I had dreamt of, which made me restless and frustrated. I would frequently torture myself by looking at websites of illustrators I admired and feel envious of what they were doing.
As I climbed the ladder within agencies, I started to realize that things had to change. I made some big and vital decisions that were not only incredibly brave but also led me to where I am today. I quit my job, started freelancing, saved some money, and left London and everything I knew. I packed up and rented out my house, and what was left of my belongings were donated, sold, or went into storage. I headed off to begin again. I embarked upon a “trip” that lasted six years, living for the majority of this time in Cape Town, which as a city gave me so much. It gave me some tough lessons for personal growth, but mostly it gave me space to create and remind myself of what I had always hoped and dreamt of.
I had my own studio in the heart of the city and for some time it suited me. It was a wonderful reminder that I was no longer swimming against the stream — I was finally spending my days doing what I had dreamt of.
Gradually, both due to work and life, I realized I needed to go home to London — I was ready. That was four years ago. It’s not easy returning home, as it feels like the end of a travel book minus the adventure, but in reality it is anything but, as there is an urgent need to find new spaces that you feel suit the person you are now.
This is why finding my studio was a vital anchor in helping me to finally settle back home.
My London studio offered me a chance to stay on the path I had travelled around the world to find and re-join. It was a space to express myself, continue expanding on my work, and practice as a full-time artist.
A space for total creative freedom in a city I had missed and fallen back in love with.
A studio need not be a room — it can be a desk or a nook hidden under the stairs; my years of being a nomad taught me this. The space I have now is a luxury I don’t take for granted, but any space can be a studio. Before you know it, like most things in life, it will change and grow again. What really matters is time, talent, discipline, and unstoppable dedication — if you have those, a desk is then a springboard for a beginning.
Enjoy it — it will take you places.