Join us for a #CraftRoomTour of Jemima Schlee's attic studio/workroom in Brighton, England.
Shut away up in my attic, I really do forget that the rest of the world exists. It took me l years following my son moving to London for me to purloin his lovely bright room up in the eaves. I knew that I would have to be more disciplined when I started working for crafts magazines and writing books. - up until that point I worked in my bedroom, falling asleep and waking to the sight of a rather messy table... So now I have - still with a tinge of guilt - a beautifully light and airy workroom.
Tell us about your space
It took me l years following my son moving to London for me to purloin his lovely bright attic room. I knew that I would have to be more disciplined when I started working for crafts magazines and writing books. So now I have - still with a tinge of guilt - a beautifully light and airy workroom. My desk is now in front of a large window that looks across the roofs of Kemp Town and down to the sea. Seagulls scamper and slip and chatter and launch on and off the roof above and around me, and the sea and skies change incessantly. The nature of my work means there is always a certain amount of chaos if you don't keep on top of it all - it's incredibly hard to throw even the smallest scrap away. I also make sure I tidy my desk - a large dining table in fact - every evening. Apart from keeping an eye on texts and emails, I listen to radio 4 and dramas on 4 extra and I work away in a peaceful world, regularly loosing track of time. It still doubles up as my son's bedroom when he visits and a spare bedroom for visitors when we get overrun.
What have you done to make your space cosy, beautiful or inspiring?
I've made sure that things I use most often are near to hand. That my table is well lit naturally during daylight, and by two angle poises in the gloom. My ironing board is always up and two sewing machines threaded - one with black and one with white thread, or colours depending on my projects.
had an intercom to the front door installed a few years ago - curing the frustration of finding a "we're sorry we missed you" note from the postman by the time i'd scuttled down three flights from my flat - most frustrating! I recently added the shelves which tuck into the eaves and covered the floor with birch plywood - simply screwed down and varnished - lovely and nautical.
How do you keep organized?
I'm an obsessive list maker. I learned a long time ago to do a fresh list every morning. I cross off everything as I achieve it, and transfer those unachieved tasked daily to a new list so that you're not looking back and feeling a failure! Sometimes I make short-term vs long-term lists, only in very quiet moments.
Any tips & tricks for organising supplies?
My studio is my storage haven - I say that, but it does tend to get into a terribly silted mess when I'm up against a deadline with a book. Basically, there is a place for everything: jam jars of cottons and threads coded by colour. Small pill boxes full of ready charged bobbins to save time when sewing - also colour coded! hooks and bulldog clips on the walls hold scissors , rulers, supplies, precious finds, embroidery hoops and measuring tapes.
Which are your favourite possessions and are there any of your own creations on display?
Some of my very favourite things stand on the mantelpiece in my bedroom - small dolls fashioned on myself and my siblings, carved and dressed by my parents from a broomstick handle and scraps of fabric - goose eggs, a goat's vertebra, a stuffed duckling, an enamelled Russian jam jar, photos of my family...
How do you organise your inspiration and ideas?
I think that if you are a maker and craftsperson, you never really stop looking around and things get tucked away and stored for – hopefully – future creative retrieval. Many ideas are fresh takes on classics, or converting traditional designs for personal or modern usage. As for inspiration; organic patterns in nature, colours, formal architectural structures, shadows, and the list goes on. As children we spent weekends drawing fabric and lace in the V&A, or making plaster casts of animal spore in Richmond Park. I recently spent a couple of days in Marrakech & Fez to take photographs - so many amazing and inspiring colours, patterns and textures. Alternatively, the pattern left within the pith of a jested orange will do the trick too. I suppose I'm foremost a designer and maker, but I teach and contribute to interior and lifestyle magazines, and in doing so, have become a writer and author. A lifetime ago, I trained as a graphic designer, and had a determined, but also lucky career in London for ten years, spanning the 80's and 90's. I then retrained to teach art, specialising in graphics and textiles - the skills learned I in the design industry are completely transferable to what I am doing now.
Where do you look for inspiration?
Unlike most folk these days, I tend not to trawl the internet for ideas and inspiration - I barely peruse... In my experience, very VERY few ideas are original - what is original is your own personal twist on things. I get inspiration from everyday - from looking in junk & charity shops, from museums and others; homes. Looking at everyday things and thinking about simplifying or developing them.
If you had three wishes, what would you do to make it the dream space?
Ah! difficult..... It'd be nice to be able to open the huge window without my work being blown all over the place by the sea breezes. And I do get fed up with endless wires from angle poise lamps, computers, phones, irons, photographic lamps - I have had some floor sockets wired in under my desk which has made a huge difference. I honestly can't think of anything else apart from needing more time to work!
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