My personal style is somewhere between a Buckaroo Russian doll and a car-boot- sale pile. I like oversized shapes and I tend to wear a lot of layers until I can’t add any more. If I sit down for a dinner, I slowly dispose of items as the evening goes on – they often end up on someone else. I’ve got lots of incriminating photos of various people wearing clip-on earrings.
The last thing I bought and loved was a mask from designer Bertjan Pot. I absolutely adore his work and him as a person. For many years he’s been making experimental masks from rope, sewn together in spirals. I’ve christened my latest one George. He’s got a very sad face – he sits in a corner of my room and makes me happy because he looks so miserable. He’s the boyfriend of Geoffrey, another of Bertjan’s masks I have.
And on my wishlist is an Ettore Sottsass totem. Every time I save up for one they go up in price. I especially love the Clair de Lune design; there was one recently in a Phillips sale but it went for crazy money. I remember, years ago, seeing a pair in Shoreditch gallery Two Columbia Road. I was too shy to ask about them, but I was pretty much licking the window in love. If I could go back in time to that moment, I probably could have afforded them.
A place I long to go back to is South Korea. I went to Seoul in 2019 for a design fair and really wasn’t sure what it would be like. But I was kicking myself that I hadn’t booked a few more days there. There was something about the markets that reminded me of Mexico. I loved walking around the streets, collecting images and colour and drinking lotus-root tea with the women at the antiques warehouses while they showed me beautiful textiles and Korean wedding hats. The design scene there is really interesting – a combination of their specific cultural heritage and the industrial materials of our consumer environments.
The design that changed everything for me was something from the Memphis universe that I saw at the Design Museum when I was still at school. I don’t remember which exact design it was, but I have this memory of seeing a piece of Memphis furniture and really not liking it. I found it fascinating because I couldn’t understand what was going on. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before. That’s why I still enjoy Memphis pieces, because I find them challenging. They’re also often a lot bigger than you imagine. I have the Royal sofa by Nathalie du Pasquier and George Sowden, which I love, but I just hadn’t twigged how big it was until I got it home.
I’m currently reading Japonisme in Britain by Ayoko Ono and The Best of Beardsley – a vintage copy that a friend gave me after we saw the Aubrey Beardsley exhibition at Tate Britain last year. I’m a very slow reader, though. I err towards the visual. I have a beautiful 1930s book of ikebana flower arrangements; each plate is hand-printed and I’m poring over a different page every couple of days. It’s from Donlon Books, which has a great vintage section.
The gadget I couldn’t do without is micro-screwdrivers. My studio has made a few pieces of work that go together like giant Meccano sets, so we love it when we find a nice micro-screwdriver…
A recent find is Dot Dot, a bubble-tea and waffle place in Stoke Newington. The long walk there was good for my body; the amazing waffles and crispy chicken at the end of it probably not so good for it. But they were really, really tasty. I’d never had bubble tea before I visited here – I had a lychee one with popping bubbles in it.
One of the best souvenirs I’ve brought home is a vintage mino raincoat from my first trip to Japan. It’s made of straw and is quite bonkers, with coloured strips of cloth woven into the natural fibres. I have a great picture of me wearing it at the Tokyo temple where I bought it, with a face of such joy at discovering the amazing flea-market culture there. I later wore it to a Grace Jones concert, where she was wearing a grass skirt, and we shared a nod over our outfits. But I was slightly worried that I was going to go up in flames, as this was when people were still smoking at gigs.
The best gift I’ve given recently is one of my Bloom lights, which casts an orange glow, like a setting sun. It was for the designer Max Lamb and his son, who used to be a little scared of me in my make-up, but now sees me as the nice clown who made the night light for his bedroom. I love to do artist swaps. In return for the light, Max gave me one of his beautiful Poly pieces – a pastel-coloured T-shaped stool that looks like it comes from a sugar-coated industrial Stonehenge.
And the best gift I’ve received recently is some beautiful glass goblets from Jochen Holz, which he gave me for Christmas. I love his work and these wobbly beauties have been giving me much visual enjoyment. I’ve yet to put them away in the cupboard.
An indulgence I would never forgo is bread. That’s my vice. You can keep your chocolate. I’ll have bread, preferably a loaf from E5 Bakehouse in east London.
The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe is an amazing Issey Miyake jacket that makes me feel like a giant psychedelic moth. I love it because it mixes a colour aesthetic you’d normally associate with a Nike shoe – a petrol-y blue and a strong yellow – with a cut and a pleating technique that is from a very different language. I enjoy the complex visual flavour it has. I also bought a pair of Loewe earrings that are feathery and ostrich-like. Since we can’t go out yet, George – the mask – has commandeered them. Both naughty indulgences, but I like them very much.
With time on my hands, I’ve done a lot of ink drawings of my cactus – a very weird variety that looks a bit like Japanese calligraphy. I’ve also been experimenting with lino cutting, which I haven’t done for years. I am quite happy pottering around, taking advantage of the things I’ve managed to hoard around me.
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Jean Dubuffet. I really like the visual movement in his sculptural work – particularly his Jardin d’Hiver installation, which is in the Pompidou Centre. It’s like a cave that you walk inside. When I was 18, I pretty much spent the two whole days of a family trip to Paris inside this space.
In my fridge you’ll always find a bottle of Perrier-Jouët – I did several projects with them and still have a few sneaky bottles. Mainly they are there because my mum loves champagne, but as she’s not been able to visit they’ve stayed there. I normally have cured meats, cheese and vegetables from a farmers’ market in Stoke Newington called Growing Communities.
My wellbeing guru is Sau, my personal trainer. Having the rhythm of her Zoom classes has really helped in the past year. The community of sweating she has created is good fun. I do cardio, strength and full-body workouts. Air-punching, ducking and diving with terrible coordination is a personal favourite.
My favourite app is Instagram. I’m a sucker for imagery, but it’s also a gateway to discovering other aesthetics or designers. For example, it was through following American artist Katherine Bernhardt that I discovered a Guatemalan seamstress called Maria she was working with – and from whom I commissioned a big flower-power dress. And there is the Artist Support Pledge, which has been encouraging people to buy work online while galleries are closed. I now follow lots of the vintage dealers whose stalls I would normally go to at Spitalfields market. I look a lot at Schmid McDonagh for brutalist wonders and artistic treasures – I have an amazing hanging concrete sculpture from them.
This year I’ve been thinking differently about how we work in design and how, maybe, we will work. For your own sanity, it’s good not to spend time on the things that are unsettled all at once, but this time is an opportunity to reset systems. I found the Serpentine exhibition Formafantasma really interesting on this point. It looked at the use of wood within design, but also the whole circle of the industry and what happens if we change part of it. I think that reassessing these larger-scale systems we have in play is an area that designers will consider over the next few years.
My style icons are fashion writer Anna Piaggi – there’s not a bad picture of her, and she was always changing her look – and Yayoi Kusama, for committing to one look. Her identity and her aesthetic have become connected, but rather than overwhelming what she does, the way she looks is a complement to her work. For a long, long time I didn’t like the associations people had between my work and my appearance, but I’ve now come to terms with it. I can use the freedom I have when I play dress-up on myself as another way to experiment with colours or forms or textures. I’m not really interested in doing things that are solely about the way I look, but when I’ve done a project that I want to celebrate and promote, then I’m happy my identity can be used as a tool to help.
I have a collection of everything… Everything! If I can collect it, I’ll start. Recently, it’s been paintings. I have a few contemporary pieces – one from a young Peruvian artist called Isabella Cuglievan, who I found on Instagram – but I collect mostly vintage works that are strong in colour and abstract shapes. I have a few 1960s pieces by British artist Justin Knowles – nearly everything I have of his is not coloured at all, it’s black and white or silver, like slate, but I really enjoy his proportions. It was the dealer Lawrence Prentice, a specialist in British modernism, who got me into his work. Another vintage painting I love is of a sort of Don Quixote psychedelic knight on a horse. It’s not by a known artist – I bought it at a flea market – but I’d hate to be without it.
If I didn’t live in London, the city I would live in is Mexico City. I just love all the colour. And the markets – there’s a really good flea on a Sunday, Tianguis La Lagunilla. I have two cast resin heads that I bought from a seller there. They’re great green colours and look as if they’re filled with giant bubble-tea beads. Then there’s an interesting gallery called Ago Projects, where my friend Fabien Cappello had an amazing solo show at the beginning of 2020, and the Anthropology Museum is incredible – it’s by the same architect who designed the city’s Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The podcasts I listen to include This American Life – a strong staple in my playlist, where each week is a different story. And a very nice art podcast called Talk Art, presented by Russell Tovey and gallerist Robert Diament. The episode with Mark Gatiss is lovely – he talks about Aubrey Beardsley and John Minton.
The music I’m listening to includes Björk – I’m a big fan – and the album that my friend Orlando Weeks came out with last year, A Quickening. It’s about the birth of his son and the songs are just beautiful. I like listening to it while I’m walking.
If I weren’t doing what I do, I’d have to find another creative industry to work in. What I do is so connected to who I am that I don’t think I could function without it. I’m not good at many other things anyway. Creativity is where I’m at.