In Daily Rituals, Mason Currey uncovers the mundanities and eccentricities involved in the daily routines of over one hundred and fifty of history’s most prolific philosophers, writers, composers and artists. From Matisse’s conservatory crammed with tropical plants, giant pumpkins and Chinese statuettes, to Joan Miro’s intensive exercise regimens that included beach running, jumping rope and Swedish gymnastics, Currey provides us with an insight into the various and often unexpected environments in which creativity has historically thrived. Currey’s book inspired us to investigate the daily rituals of a few second and third year CSM Textile Design students, from what they eat for breakfast to how they combat creative block.
Katie says that the key to the rhythm of her days is being flexible as there are always obstacles that you have to work with when in the print room. One non-negotiable aspect of her daily routine however, is breakfast. Katie’s mornings begin at 8am and after checking her phone for any emails and notifications, she eats breakfast, which usually involves avocado or peanut butter on toast.
Contrary to a lot of students at Saint Martins, Katie wears her least favourite clothes to school. Being in the print room is messy business and she doesn’t want to ruin any of her nice things, shoes included! A staple in Katie’s daily wardrobe is a pair of “print shoes” which she keeps in her locker and changes into every morning when she gets to school, so as not to ruin the ones that she wears for the commute to and from her house each day.
A big fan of listening to the radio for company whilst she works at home, Katie claims that the key to staying inspired is looking for clues everywhere. She is perpetually tuned into her environment, describing her natural affinity for looking up, down and to all sides to find anything that may trigger an idea. Beyond finding inspiration in the fabric of the mundane comings and goings of the day-to-day, Katie looks to artists such as Patrick Caulfield, David Hockney, Martin Parr and Laura Callaghan, as she is particularly drawn to colour controlled, graphic styles. When she loses energy for what she is doing, Katie says that it always helps to take her eyes away from her work by visiting an exhibition or taking a minute outside in the fresh air with a snack.
Constança normally sets her alarm at 7.15am in order to make it into the print room by 8.30am each morning. Lately however, with the Degree Show looming and the production of her final collection in full swing, no alarm is necessary – she finds she wakes up naturally, aware of where she needs to be and exactly what she needs to get done.
She has a black coffee alongside her breakfast, reads the news to check in with the world and contacts her family in Portugal. Constança’s clothing choice for the day is generally dictated by her mood. There is however one permanent fixture – a pair of trainers – as these allow her to get from one place to the next in good time.
Part of Constança’s morning ritual is the 15-minute walk from her flat at Exmouth Market in Farringdon to King’s Cross. The first thing she does when she arrives at CSM each day is to reflect on her moodboards, planning out the course of her day and preparing her samples, which can be a long process in itself. She is a serial list writer and sticks all her lists onto the walls. Right now, she has 20 days worth of lists on the wall above her workspace in the print room. As a means of dealing with stress, Constança says that laughter is the best medicine. She likes to laugh, a lot.
As her work is heavily process and materials driven, she looks to artists that share a similar approach, Issey Miyake being a significant source of inspiration.
Constança draws energy for her work from the people around her, from what they wear to the way they move. She carries a notebook with her everywhere she goes and records all of her ideas as they come to her.
For Constança, the joy of being a printer comes from the freedom for mess and experimentation, as well as the opportunities that come with the possibility of working at such a large scale. Her favourite aspect of being a textile designer is the intimate working relationship that one has with the material, which in her mind is equivocal to a second skin and therefore, the most important aspect of a garment or interior piece.
Marie’s approach to life and work is one of ultimate balance. Leaving her life in Paris behind to live and study here in London, she has made sure to bring with her the aspects of French life she loves the most. Marie takes her time with everything she does to ensure that what she is doing feels just right. This is the final year of her degree at CSM, and contrary to what one may expect, this year is the first that Marie has not used an alarm in the mornings. Instead, she believes that she must sleep as much as her body needs, and when she wakes up naturally, that is when she begins her day.
Not a fan of London’s public transport, Marie walks or rides her bike to school each day via the canal from her house near Hampstead Heath. Marie’s first thought when she arrives at CSM each day is to buy a bottle of water, usually followed by a cigarette. When she eventually sits down at her loom however, she transcends into a state of pure, unadulterated concentration that even her friends know they can’t disrupt. When Marie is in her zone, she doesn’t speak to anybody – it is simply her and the loom.
To find ideas for her work, Marie engages with literature, music, film and exhibitions, and is often influenced by the lifestyle she leads in London and the emotional narrative that accompanies it. For Marie, meeting and interacting with lots of different people leads and invigorates her practice and mitigates any possibility of creative block. She really values different people’s opinions and perspectives on art and culture, and allows them to connect her to new ideas. The aspect of being a textile designer that excites Marie most is the element of craft. She relishes the process of making, and as a weaver, feels hugely satisfied in the knowledge that she can construct a fabric entirely from scratch.
To take a break during the day, Marie removes herself from the noisy workshop environment to a quiet place outside where she enjoys a coffee or a cigarette. For her, smoking is not representative of stress, but rather a gesture that encapsulates a moment taken alone to enjoy some time out. Recently, her evenings are characterised by a bowl of pasta and a glass of wine, and bedtime arrives around 10pm, which comes as a welcome change after months of intense work and late nights preparing her final collection.
Mei wastes no time in the mornings. She rises at 9am each day and is out the front door by 9.20am. Not one to eat breakfast, Mei is all about maximising her time. Once her morning commute to Kings Cross is underway, she uses her moments spent on the bus and tube to check her emails and talk to her family. When Mei arrives at Granary Square each morning, she goes directly to the knit studios, sits down at a machine and begins her long day’s work.
For Mei, the early stages of a project are the most crucial. The first two weeks of a new brief are the period during which she works the hardest. She wants to take her research seriously to ensure that she has plenty of material to sustain her creative direction moving forward. No stranger to creative block, when she is struggling for inspiration, Mei will take herself out to a market or an exhibition to reinvigorate her creative focus. She also seeks ideas in TED talks and manages to draw a lot of energy from her Mum, whose work ethic Mei has always admired.
Mei exists in a perpetual state of stress. Whilst her motivation is rarely lacking, she claims that one of the downsides to this is the struggle to achieve a healthy balance between life and study, instead tending to work in extremities. From morning to midnight Mei is tirelessly pondering the direction of her work, even on the weekends. Fascinatingly however, whilst most of us rely on all hours of the night before the deadline to get everything done, for Mei a unique set of rules apply. The night before a hand-in is the one night of the project that Mei makes an exception to her usually late bedtime; instead she goes to bed between 8 and 9pm, irrespective of whether or not there is more work to be done! Her rationale is that it is too late to do anything further, so she may as well accept that the time is up and enjoy a good night sleep.
Early to bed and early to rise, Molly has had to readjust her bedtime from 9.30pm to somewhere closer to 11pm after her six housemates told her that her prior bedtime was unacceptably early! Still quick to rise in the mornings however, Molly wakes up naturally, normally because she is hungry. She gets up to eat her Weetabix in her pyjamas, and then hops back into bed for a while to read her book before getting ready to make the trip into King’s Cross on her bike.
Each morning when she arrives at CSM (generally dressed in the same colour palette as the samples she’s weaving at the time), Molly goes to Waitrose to get her free coffee or tea and wanders up to the weave workshop where she chats to friends before sitting down at her loom for the day. She listens to music whilst weaving, mostly to her muse – both musically and in life – Kate Tempest. Alternatively, she puts on some techno (which provides a good beat, ideal for the arduous task of threading up the loom). Bat for Lashes is a reliable musical reference when stressed.
In past projects, Molly’s work has been inspired by populations of people, colour in crowds and the rhythms with which people move and congregate. Her weaving heroes include Wallace Sewell, a woven textile design studio, and the vibrant colour palettes of weaver Libby Ashdown. The opportunity to craft a fabric from scratch is Molly’s favourite aspect of being a weaver; she is excited in the knowledge that she is at the start of the process of a garment or interior piece and is always surprised by people’s expressions of shock when they discover that looms are still in use.
Cycling home at the end of each day is one of Molly’s favourite daily rituals. She misses home in Cornwall for the sea breeze, so riding her bike is the best way of simulating the feeling of the fresh salt air blowing against her face.
Eva’s morning wake up time changes depending on what’s happening in her weave timetable. Generally, she uses several alarms set at five-minute intervals to ensure that she makes it out of bed in time each morning. She admits that she’s a bit slow getting ready; sometimes she anticipates that she won’t take long to get dressed until she checks the time and realises that half an hour has already passed! Like a lot of us, Eva claims to go through phases of wearing the same three outfits on rotation, but an enduring prerequisite for the weave workshop is comfort given that she is usually sitting at a loom all day.
On occasion, following her arrival at CSM in the mornings, Eva goes to her locker and stands in the corner staring into space for a while, summoning the physical energy and doing the mental preparation that the day so often requires.
When experiencing creative block, Eva will usually do windings experimenting with colour and proportion, as well as testing a variety of yarns in order to stimulate design ideas. She also finds that swinging by for a chat with friends around the workshop is an effective form of distraction when struggling to find the energy to keep going. Whilst she weaves, Eva listens to a lot of disco music as well as classic pop bangers… Eminem is a highlight in her workshop repertoire after recently discovering that his beats are great for weaving to and as such, very conducive to productivity!
Eva makes sure to get her free Waitrose coffee everyday and says her preferred thing to do when taking a break is to go outside and have a good chat with friends. She went through a phase of eating Soreen malt loaf everyday and still has the wrapper of one she ate a month ago in the bottom of her bag as a souvenir of her malt loaf addiction! Eva describes it as “energy in a loaf” that she is conveniently able to tear apart with her fingers and eat directly from the packet whilst she works – a perfect way of sustaining momentum through the long days in the workshop.
Words Lucy Macdonald
Images Victor Pare Rakosnik