Behind the Curtain of Creativity: A London Studio Discusses Camaraderie, Transparency, & Dream Projects
WORKING NOT WORKING
We stopped by the shared London studio space of artists Sara Andreasson, Alice Hartley, Annu Kilpeläinen, Hattie Stewart, & Lynnie Z to get a glimpse into the daily grind of creativity for five incredibly distinctive and talented professionals. They sat down with us to discuss the nature of their typical conversations, why being around each other on a daily basis keeps them productive, stimulated, and sane, how they navigate digital spaces and social media, and what their personal and collective dream projects would be.
All Photography by Flora Maclean
What's your day-to-day like as an artist?
Annu Kilpeläinen: My early mornings are chilled, coffee and breakfast and a walk to the studio. Then there is drawing, emails, snacks, fun tunes, and lots of chatting.
Hattie Stewart: Pretty standard to be honest - coffee first then I'll have a lil trot to the studio, draw for a bit, avoid emails and all responsibility, maybe go for a run? Cry a bit, laugh a lot.. I'll play some darts if I'm feeling twitchy.. catch up with my agent who reminds me of all the things I'm forgetting.
Sara Andreasson: On a very average day, I start by doing some admin work from home, somewhere between scrolling through the feeds, breakfast and yoga (no joke), and usually roll up at the studio around midday, chat to the girls, draw for a bit, read some emails, reply to almost none of them, maybe pack some prints, draw some more. The usual stuff.
What kinds of conversations are usually going on in the studio?
Hattie: They are usually pretty intense in the mornings, like we're blowing off steam to prep for the day. Then giggles, some silence whilst we focus for 20 odd minutes followed by more chatting - usually accompanied with some screaming laughter and cackles... then quiet again. We generally cover all manner of topics: personal struggles, work frustrations, mundane day-to-day stuff, society, and so on.
Annu: Typically any issue starts easy then reaches maximum volume. And then there’s chilled work time until another topic arises. It’s anything from work, politics, and social media to what ice cream flavour would you come up with.
Tell us more about your studio space. What does it mean to you and why do you work in a shared space?
Lynnie Z: It’s a haven away from home that’s always an uplifting place to be. It’s a privilege to share with friends that are in the same industry and going through the same highs and lows as you. It's productive and nurturing. The fact that all our paths have crossed at the same time feels pretty special.
Annu: Its super important to have someone to bounce ideas off of and also to have a support network around when you get stuck with ideas or negotiations. We chat openly about money and other issues and I feel like this would do good for the whole industry to be more open.
Hattie: It's pink but a lil dirty. Years ago, I used to work from home 24/7 and it wasn't doing much for my mental health, so the separation of work/home as well as the more sociable aspects became just as important, if not more so, than the work itself. I get a bit stuck in my own head sometimes so it's nice to share a space with other artists who share similar thoughts and frustrations to my own. It's pretty cool that they have become great friends who I can be 100% myself around. I still work from home sometimes if I need a bit of headspace but I'm generally in the studio most days.
Sara: Having worked from home in the past, I can safely say I would have lost my mind if it wasn’t for the studio. It’s all about mimicking a so-called normal work life, isn’t it? Like actually getting dressed in the morning, bringing packed lunches, having workmates, and pretending like the work day is over when you leave that designated space in the evening and so on. Also getting to spend a lot of time with amazingly talented people is obviously so inspiring, and the support I get from them means the world.
What's your personal dream project or collaboration?
Lynnie Z: A big sexy exhibition with production budget to make it go XXL! I’m in my element when I’m creating my personal work and would love to explore the realms of fabrication more. I have always worked in 2D so this fresh perspective that fabrication provides is pretty exciting!
Annu: I would love to design wrapping for an airplane. I have also been drawing lots of elaborate bras and underwear so naturally it would be amazing to see those come alive or get to work on other type of clothing. Creating big props for video or film would also be fun - like painting lots of rally cars and watching them drift in slow motion.
Hattie: Beyonce and generally any project where I have the freedom to do what I please.
Sara: I did furniture design at uni and I really miss making objects, so at the moment I’m looking for ways to get back into that. I actually just got myself some new woodworking tools so we’ll see where that will take me. Seeing as it’s only a mitre saw and a drill, probably not far. Other than that I would love to design some shoes!
How do you feel about social media as an illustrator? Into it or over it?
Lynnie Z: My relationship with it has evolved throughout the years. It’s provided me with most of my opportunities; however, I realise the format of platforms such as Instagram can have detrimental effects on creativity. It sets the bar to such high standards and at such a disposable pace which isn’t a healthy endeavour to put upon anyone’s creativity. I guess it’s important to be aware and explore how it can enhance and inspire your vision so your work doesn’t become shaped by it.
Annu: It’s a handy tool when it comes to promoting your work; most of my work comes through social media. It can get to be a bit much at times scrolling through an endless feed of new projects and new talented people when you're stuck or out of ideas; at times it can feel quite isolating. But it is also a great way of meeting people and forming new collaborations and learning about a variety of topics so I’m definitely still into it. But surely in 10 years, it will be all gone and replaced by something much crazier.
Sara: On the one hand social media does at times feel a bit like a necessary evil; but on the other hand it’s also such an amazing platform for discovering and interacting with other artists and designers who you might not have come across otherwise. Had it not been for Instagram, I probably wouldn’t ever have met all these extraordinary people that I share a studio with today.
Hattie: The platform is a great place to showcase my ideas and work and connects me to so many people but it is a hell hole of pressure - I don't know anyone who doesn't have a love/hate relationship with it. It feeds my ego but it also feeds my insecurities and tendency to self-critique a little too harshly. I'm just trying to have fun with it now and use it more as a tool for my work rather than something that defines it, so that once it disappears, as it inevitably will, I can move on without needing to re-evaluate who I am as an artist or individual.
What frustrates you most about the creative industry as an illustrator?
Sara: Oh, how much time have you got? There’s just so much that needs to change, but perhaps most importantly the fees.
Lynnie Z: Big brands thinking they can get away with not paying artists properly because “exposure.”
Annu: People expecting you to work for free or with very low budget. It really keeps getting worse and worse. The attitude of providing wages far below industry standards as “there is always someone who will do the job for exposure” seems to be so widespread and really harms the industry as a whole.
If you had the opportunity to work together as a foursome, what would the dream project be?
Lynnie Z: I would love to see what we would create if we could takeover some empty LA manor - living the art residency dream, wrapping it up with one wild exhibition finale!
Annu: Maybe we could start an ice cream company. Make it really jazzy and we would all have our own flavours and I could design a wrapping for a little plane and we could just drop ice creams to people. Or a clothing line. But to be serious, it would be great to work on a communal project especially with young girls and hopefully provide them with the tools and perspective to tackle life and take over the world.
Hattie: I think it would be awesome to do a group artist residency abroad that culminated in a group exhibition. I also wanna do more fun stuff like we did for the INT takeover.
Sara: A TV channel!!!! We’d use our combined skills and do it all ourselves: write the script, build the set, make the graphics, and (obviously) host it ourselves. Seriously, it’d be so good. Please invest. I imagine us doing our own semi-satirical takes on different genres too – cooking shows, unboxing videos, makeup tutorials, nature docs, you name it.
Tell us one thing no one else knows about your studio pals.
Lynnie Z: Hattie, Alice, and myself all met at uni. We weren’t your typical illustrators and found ourselves creating some pretty freaky dark work, mostly on the subject of death. Things have brightened up since!
Annu: Hattie is great at darts - or maybe its just that I am really bad.
Hattie: One of us had a fling with Noel Fielding.
What do you do when you're not working?
Lynnie Z: Hula hooping, ramen slurping, and generally chasing the good times!
Annu: Think about all the work I should be doing. I guess its tricky sometimes to draw a line between what time is working and what is not. But I do super regular human things: see friends, go to see exhibitions, travel, go to Finland, try to pick up new hobbies, and drop them after a week.
Hattie: I'm pretty much still working, but on my own stuff.. catching up with friends, boozin', watching telly, generally living a life full of thrills.
Sara: Sometimes it feels like everything I get up to somehow feeds back into my work, one way or another. It’s just difficult to switch off. Right now I’m training for a half marathon so that’s taking up a lot of my time, but other than that I mostly think about food, make food, and eat food.
What do you want to see more of in 2019?
Lynnie Z: More equal opportunities across the board; white guys have had their go, it’s time to tip the balance so we can all experience the full picture.
Annu: Money! More collaborations, new countries, new friends, and also more time with old friends. More women in power and more action on climate.
Hattie: Money (& peace and happiness)
All Photography by Flora Maclean