Konstantin: Someone wrote that you are a “non-stop dynamo for creativity”. Exactly to the point. When I look at your website - so many amazing pieces of creativity. From silk scarves to phone cases. What’s next?
Cressida: I am currently working on a rug design to celebrate the centenary of Charleston (http://www.charleston.org.uk/), and some patterns for the Royal Academy, which will become scarves, notebooks and mugs. I even just submitted some artwork to the Royal Academy Summer Show – the first time I have presented myself as a ‘fine artist’! I doubt it will be accepted though.....
Konstantin: Most of your things are hand made. How important is this for you? Aren’t you tempted to produce large quantities in a small factory, let’s say?
Cressida: I do love the physical process of making things by hand, but am very happy when they are produced ‘en masse’ elsewhere too.
The look af a hand silk-screen printed scarf is very different to a digital print though, so it’s always nice to keep both sides going. I have just signed up with a licensing agent to license my designs more widely – so watch this space, maybe there will be a range of jigsaws, cake tins, bags, boxes etc in my designs coming soon!
Konstantin: There is a special element of provenance in everything you do. How important is the British style, traditions, heritage for your work?
Cressida: Although I do agree that my work is very British in character, oddly enough my inspiration comes from much further afield. I love to search for inspiration around the world, whether it be Turkish pottery and textiles, African prints, Spanish tiles or Czech Deco glass ! It is what I do with the source material that transofms it and makes it very much mine & very English !
Konstantin: You produce everything from your own studio. What it’s look like? Describe it for us.
Cressida: My studio is in a lovely Mews building, set back from a small road in London E5 (Hackney). It is painted red & white both inside and out and has big old ‘crittal’ windows on two sides. One end is the ‘dirty’ end, with dye pots, sinks, spinners and boilers etc and the other end is for painting and designing and computers, with a big display of lampshades and cards. The walls are covered with artwork and the tops of cakes I did for my cake book (Cressida Bell’s Cake Design) which have been preserved in resin and framed. Down the entire length of the studio is a huge (10m) print table, which is where the fabric gets printed. Outside there is a courtyard on 3 sides where we can sit out and have lunch if the weather is good. The loo is outside too! As you can tell I love it – and have no intention of leaving it ever!
Konstantin: Tell me about your typical day and what you’d like to change?
Cressida: I come in at 10am and check/write emails & check online orders and see if we have the stock. If not then we need to start printing/making. My assistant Minnie organises the printing so she will get on with dyeing fabric and mixing dyes, and later on the washing and ironing of the steamed silk.
I normally have design work to do, which always starts off in my big hardback design/sketch books (where I keep all the designs I have ever done). Generally I have to transfer the artwork to the computer in order to make digital files.
I don’t much enjoy that as it makes my shoulders hurt – but it’s pretty much inevitable these days. I guess that’s what I would avoid if I could.
Days can be very varied though – maybe there will be a cake to do, maybe a lamp to paint or a wedding invitation to design – you never know!
Konstantin: They say a person is not born with a good style, but develops it through the years. What do you think about that and how your education influenced your style?
Cressida: I think my style is a hotch potch of influences. Certainly my early years were informed by my surroundings – lots of decorative art – pottery, painted furniture & walls etc. After that my time St Martin’s School of Art and the Royal College of Art was hugely influential. It was a very vibrant time with lots of interesting contemporaries (Sade, Stephen Jones, Hamish Bowles, John Galliano, Peter Doig, and many more). The teaching was good too and I had developed quite a strong personal style by the time I left and started up my business.
Konstantin: Were you at a crossroad like trying to find a different profession while in the Royal College of Art or you always wanted to do this?
Cressida: No, I pretty much always wanted to do what I do now (how lucky is that?). I did want to continue to design clothes as I had studied fashion as well as textile design at St Martin’s. I did one collection of clothing in the late 80’s, but it was a huge amount of work and when the samples were all stolen in a break-in at my studio I gave up and decided to concentrate on the textiles instead.
Konstantin: How do you manage your day - via digital or analogue calendar?
Cressida: Mostly I have endless lists of things to do - on pieces of card (old invitations). I like to check things off as I do them – it gives me a sense of achievement! I do have a diary on my ipad but I forget to consult it and generally use my memory instead.
Konstantin: Finally, choose a song for us that you love now.
Cressida: Hearts of Stone by The Charms. I expect you meant something contemporary (which this isn’t) but I got this on a single for Xmas (from my partner who is a DJ) and absolutely love it.
*** Cressida Bell is an English artist and designer, specializing in textiles, interior design, cake decoration and illustration. From her London studio she produces a wide range of products including accessories for men and women and artefacts for the home.