Studio Diaries 02

I’m not sure why I like being in the studio on weekends so much. Hackney Wick always feels like a Sunday as there are no offices around (for the moment), so it’s not a question of atmosphere. I suspect it has something to do with the absence of peak times. On work days I always feel a subliminal pressure to beat the rush or head home when everyone else does. On days off, my time is truly freeform and the only rhythm I need to worry about is my own energy level.

I received an order for historical inks (that I had forgotten were active in the shop) so I brewed up some gold and emerald. I have a lot of leftover now for the gold, and a little for the emerald. They’re both mineral so they’re fine sitting there indefinitely. I’m pretty terrible at marketing inks but it’s just not where my attention is or what I want to be focusing on.

I had a day out in Hastings this week, where it was much cooler than London, and came back with a loot of box elements scrounged up from the small shops or picked up on the beach. I could have spent ALL DAY combing the beach for strange and interesting pebbles, thoroughly resculpted white seashells and hidden sparkles, but my friend already thought I was pretty weird. Just as well.

Box for beads and small treasures, that’s followed me around since my teens…

I went overboard with boxes when a flurry of orders came in, and now half the studio is covered in boxes pretending to be clams as I air them out – I want the smell of wood and varnish to fade so I can infuse them with the “scent bombs” I prepare for each sign.

The process of creating a Treasure Box is very organic. I sit with the theme and any research I may have done on it, jotting down concepts and components that come to mind. Often I have the box I’m going to use at hand so I can visualise how things may fit in at the same time. There’s always a point where one idea goes “click” and becomes the spine around which everything else can articulate. Then I can start making the tray and put things together for real, and the details work themselves out as the thing takes shape.

I shipped out two boxes this morning and need to wait for the recipients to have finished exploring them before I can show them. By then I might have finished preparing the photos… I swear it takes less time to finish an art piece than to clean up the photos and get through the whole writing up and admin process that goes with every single one. I used to have a checklist of things to do when a piece is complete, it’s way outdated but I really need to make a new one, except I have so much bloody admin to get through first!! In an ideal world I would have a PA and a butler, preferably one who can also cook, and they would both be occupied full-time.

The entrance to our block of studios is a depository for whatever artists want to get rid of. We’re not supposed to leave anything there, fire exit and all that, but we do. Everything vanishes really quickly anyway. Half my studio furniture comes from that space and will one day return to it. But today! As I was leaving (beating the rush…) I saw a brand new muller sitting there for the taking. I’ve never snatched anything so quickly. Feels like I won the lottery!



Studio Diaries 01

This blog has been so neglected, starting a studio diary came to mind as a way to give it some attention and “invite people into the studio”. The diaries are candid, but not complete: in-depth processes, spoilers and thoughts I don’t want floating around the open internet are still reserved for the privacy of my Patreon circle.

I have the best commute, though it is incredibly distracting.

Purple mallow flowers are blooming all along the canal, yarrow is everywhere and the nettle seeds are nearly ready to harvest. It’s peak season to be in the studio, with such long hours of light and warm temperatures, so I spend extra-long days there.

Except we’re going through a heatwave; anything above 20ºC is called a heatwave in this funny little island, but the tin roof does turn the space into a casserole when that happens.

Zodiac Boxes are in full flow with 8 orders at various stages of making. What’s the collective word for boxes? I suggest “a panic of”. Boxes may not be the best project to start this diary with because I can’t show or say anything specific about them, but it’s what I’m busy with right now – that and the prolonged (in a good way) aftermath of the Cambridge event. Though I will say that one of the most fun aspects of the boxes is preparing the (astrological) scent packages with which each is infused.

Hey that pink sappanwood ink swatch on the left is enduring better than I expected! It’s been exposed to light for weeks now and still no signs of fading.

Also, today I finished my first Extravagant box, Taurus, and only need bits to dry before I can ship it. I can’t wait for the owner to see it! So many surprises and clues to decipher, or to just interact with.

Love a bit of “solid” work.

The box-making is here to stay, so it’s time for me to revisit my artist identity and rewrite a statement again. I’ve been very uneasy about the way I presenting myself for a long time now, but couldn’t work out a better way (Kufi etc is my area of expertise but it’s one means of artistic expression, not actually the heart of what I do as an artist). Now at last I’m seeing the thread running through it all.

I was deep in thoughtfulness when I went yesterday to catch this, just before its run at the Tate ended. I couldn’t tear myself away and sat watching for an hour and a half, until the dancers closed.

Our Labyrinth, by Lee Wingmei, “captures the simple act of sweeping into a performance that brings ritual and sacredness into the museum…. This performance is a gift from the dancers to the visitors. It provides a clear space, both physically and spiritually, as they explore the sacred space created by the project.” I’ll probably need a whole, private post to unpack everything that is wonderful about the performance. But even the wording of the commentary and open mention of sacredness was like a hint and a nudge.

(They’re sweeping rice, by the way. Can you hear the tinkling of their anklets?)