IN CONVERSATION | DESIGNER- ADAM NATHANIEL FURMAN

28.05.20

“London is kind of everything. It is what’s defined my way of seeing the world. It’s allowed me to be who I am, I don’t think I could be who I am if I hadn’t been brought up in London.” – Adam Nathaniel Furman

Adam Nathaniel Furman is trained in Architecture and Fine Art, working in areas of products, interiors, writing and teaching. His designs are “always approachable, usually adorable, often cheeky, and take inspiration from a passionate & lifelong exploration of the themes of Queerness, colour and ornament as a political- aesthetic project, with his objects, artwork, spaces & installations invariably being embodiments of the diasporic, fluid & roaming cultures that surrounded him as he grew up and continues to fascinate & inspire him to this day.” [adamnathanielfurman.com]

What is your definition of studio space?

You’re probably finding out it’s very different for everyone, isn’t it? My definition of studio space is a space that is all mine. Where I can completely get away from everything from my life. To really just get away from all other stimuli and worries and just everything. That’s probably the most basic fundamental definition, so privacy is a huge thing for me. I think there is a strong emphasis on it because I come from an architectural background and I worked for many years in practices. And as you know, architects sort of went for the kind of open plan thing, almost before everyone else and I found it very difficult to work in those environments.

After having left that; I mean, I always had my sort of artistic/ design practice on the side, and when it took over I had to leave full time work in architecture offices. I ended up working from home, which is very common, because it’s so difficult to finance or find a place in London. So I was working from a kitchen table for a long time and that was very, very, very, very difficult because the way everyday life led into work life was, frankly, just horrendous. I mean, it was mentally draining and was bad for my mental health. This is something that I found is a very common response amongst freelance people or people setting up on their own that’s not necessarily discussed very often because everyone’s like, ‘Yeah, you’re working from home that’s so great! Freedom, freedom, freedom!’ But actually for some people, or at least those I’ve spoken to, it can lead to sort of depression, sort of lack of structure in life. I ended up not seeing friends and not working properly. I guess it got to the point where I sort of went out and was able to get a studio space. It was just so fantastic and so important that it was private and I could concentrate and focus, but it was also really separate from my everyday life.

I spent a lot of time looking at a lot of coworking spaces. First of all they’re really stupidly expensive, unnecessarily expensive I think for what you get. Secondly, everything seems to be geared towards like, I don’t know this “American New York style  I can live off my laptop wherever I am, kind of digital nomad” rubbish. I do not know anyone in the creative world who can actually work like that. Especially artists, they need a space where they can think and externalise ideas and pin up and have a big screen or like have a wetspace or a dirty space. 

So I tried out a few free trials and it was just completely impossible to work, plus they were ridiculously expensive. And it’s like I don’t want to spend loads of money to have social events, and a coffee machine and interior design that looks like I don’t know, Central Park from 1999.

So then, do you think that formula can work for some people?

Well, I don’t see how it can work for anyone in the creative industries. The actual desk space is a hugely expensive in those co working spaces, at least in London. I got to put this in context because I’m lucky, like I have friends who are just fine artists, and they really struggle with money. I’m actually really lucky because I do design, some interiors, and fine art as well. I do research, but I also do commercial stuff, so I’m actually very lucky in that sense in terms of money.

And still, it was like no way, I’m not spending that.

Do you believe that London has an impact on your art?

Oh, God yeah absolutely. In fact, I was just asked by a curator in Milan to do one of these Instagram talks next week and the title is going to be “London”, because London is kind of everything. It is what’s defined my way of seeing the world. It’s allowed me to be who I am, I don’t think I could be who I am if I hadn’t been brought up in London.

So would you ever consider moving outside the city?

There’s a big difference. Saying would you move somewhere else in the UK or would you move anywhere in the world because I think that’s the case with a lot of Londoners. I think a lot of us have been brought up with very strong connections to different places of the world, like, especially my family is from different cultural backgrounds from other countries. 

As long as I can, I’ll stay in London., The rest of the country is amazing, and it’s a fantastic country with the most beautiful countryside in the whole bloody world, but I do feel it is like stepping a bit into a foreign country slightly. London is such a different place than the rest of the country. It’s not a bad thing. It’s really, you know, it’s healthy and nourishing that there are contrasts. London is very different, but I’m sure, Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool are also completely different to the rest of the country in their own ways, but I haven’t experienced them.

Do you think it would impact your work if you were to move out of London? 

Inevitably, I mean, context does affect work. I furiously, through my youth was absorbing influences and being in London and sucking up the best of the city. So that’s in me, right. That’s my foundations. So I don’t think hugely, like the core is always going to remain the same because I’ve grown up here. But yeah, I mean, it will influence to a degree, but that should not change it completely at all.

What do you think the future of studio spaces will look like?

Well, I mean, hopefully just lots of different types. I mean, I think that’s the key is that what I found is that there’s so many different practitioners and I mean, I don’t know how London’s creative economy is going to survive after all of this. But one of the most incredible things about this creative economy is its diversity. It’s just so many different people doing some completely different things. And each have quite specific needs. I mean, not wildly different in terms of equipment necessarily, but spatially they’re all quite different.

Some people can work together, some people need to work alone. Some people need shared machines, some other people need extraction equipment. You know, other people need to live very near the centre because they have a lot of meetings with businesses, other people can be very far out because they’re mostly just makers. So it’s that diversity that is just super key and also that’s an absolutely extend into studio spaces. So, you know if there was ever a mega project for a creative hub or something, it really shouldn’t just be like loads of space for yoga, sofas, and I don’t know a cinema. It should be lots of really functionally different studio spaces all working together with some shared spaces. I haven’t seen that yet. They always tend to be very different providers. The actual companies that provide these spaces tend to specialise in a specific type of space. Like I’m renting from Workspace at the moment and they specialise in very small, medium to very small, individual units.

How do you believe we can ensure artists remain in London in the future?

Affordable spaces. It’s very simple. Business rates relief is also very important, that tends to be a very big issue. If you have to pay business rates, but you’re a creative, who’s earning you know 25 grand a year, but then you get whacked with a 10 grand business rate it’s not going to be very feasible and that’s a difficult game to play.

Rates relief is important from the councils and then also developers who you know and are willing to take up this market. It’s difficult because you know, if everyone’s gonna have to go move to Ramsgate just to get studio space, it kind of really sucks London dry of that creative energy. And, you know, I personally think that if artists have to be producing from very far across places, it’s not terrible, but it also means that the art loses a particular urban dimension, which I think is very important to include in that sort of artistic production.

How do you think artists can collaborate and communicate with developers in London to try to maintain that cultural community?

Well, I mean, the earnest is not on the artist, to be honest. I mean developers are meant to generate a profit you know. It’s a bit difficult to ask them to like be philanthropic. I think maybe perhaps it’s more important to speak to councils and the GLA and the mayor, because they’re the ones who hold the levers of power in terms of planning. And they’re the ones that can put pressure on, let’s say, studio spaces to be included in developments or stipulations in planning. The only real way to get these spaces to happen is to ask for them to be included from the people who are going to get planning permission or not. London has been quite inventive with housing, and they could send in space for creative industries as well. I’m sure the will is there but obviously right now you’ve got the priorities of what’s going on.