London – Flea markets and film music (or cycle rides and cello music) give colour to the daily life of St-W Awards 2019 jury member Bethan Laura Wood.
There are two things I’ll get up early for: a flight and a flea market. Otherwise I reluctantly wake around eight. Physically rising from bed happens later, after I’ve had some quiet thinking time.
I live in an Art Deco-style building, a former showroom for electrical appliances. It looks a bit like a slice of Miami plonked itself in East London. If I’m working at the studio – it’s kind of halfway between Clapton and Leyton – I throw on whatever I have lying around and cycle there. It’s a nice route, mainly via cycle lanes and through parks – an enjoyable, decompressing ride. If I can take a half-day off, I head to one of my favourite markets, like Spitalfields, in which case I dress up. Part of the pleasure of getting ready is having no time limit. I don’t look like this when I go to the studio; being there is about the work, not about me.
At the market, am I looking for things for myself or to inspire my work? It’s so intertwined now, and a lot of my projects can be traced back to things I found at one of the market stands. I used to have an issue with what I make versus what I like, but I’ve become more confident with the crossover. Jurgen Bey and Martino Gamper [Ed’s note: Wood studied under the two designers at the Royal College of Art] taught me to celebrate my perception of colour – to use it in what I do.
The studio opens. Sometimes it’s just me and my studio manager, Dan, who started earlier this year. Before that there was Danae; we grew the business together. She moved to Mexico after three years with me but recently returned to work on a project with us. Two others started only a week ago, and I also work with an external designer. Sometimes it’s just me; sometimes I have an entourage. Both ways are nice.
I’ve had to learn how to hand over certain elements – and a degree of responsibility – in order to broaden my horizons. Although my practice has become quite diverse, set-design projects lead to requests for more; handbag designs do the same. There’s a lot of cause and effect.
Most of my projects are collaborations with specialists. I had to find the best way to communicate with various people from various fields – experts in the likes of glass, metal, waterjet cutting. Take Pietro [Viero], for example, who works with me on hand-blown Pyrex-glass pieces. My Italian may have plateaued at ciao, but after working together for years we have an understanding that transcends language. We can build a cooperative narrative, which is visible in our results.
Lunchtime. There’s nowhere to eat nearby, so we cook something together. I’m not the most energetic of chefs; I rely on the others to bring in the flavours. If I’m at Spitalfields, as I am most Thursday mornings, I grab a bite there after a wander and a natter. Following a morning at the markets, I usually pack in meetings during the afternoon.
I stay at the studio until seven or eight, or even past midnight, depending on the project. When I’m in the middle of something big, nothing really exists outside of it. But after I finish a project or hand it over to a producer, I search for input elsewhere. I might pop along to a gallery opening or grab a bite to eat. I cycle home unless it’s very late or very wet, when I might press the dangerous Uber button. My studio is lovely by day, but the area is pitch-black at night. Unless I’m working, my evenings are pretty quiet. When you have intensely social windows during the year – like Salone, for instance – you appreciate the opposite.
Bedtime is around one in the morning, perhaps a little later. I’m quite the night owl. If I’m left to my own devices, I prefer to work late at night – fewer e-mails and phone calls that way. While working, I like listening to films and documentaries. I enjoy the sound of them much more than any music. Some I play over and over again – Picasso: Magic, Sex, & Death is a favourite. I can immediately call to mind its aggressive cello music if I think of the film. Sometimes, since I’m alone in a big warehouse, I play the building at its own game and put on The Exorcist. It tends to freak people out if they happen to drop in.
Bethan Laura is part of the for the . This profile was originally featured in St-W 125. You can purchase a copy of the issue .