“So it’s the kind of space where there is enough room to just throw stuff everywhere, forget about it, and then find it again. There’s something really magical about that.”
Edward Crooks owns a design studio that makes installations, interiors, architecture and illustration. The studio enjoys frequent collaboration across disciplines, working with craftspeople including filmmakers, stonemasons, carpenters, and ceramicists to develop projects in context. [Edwardcrooks.co.uk]
What is your definition of studio space?
Good question.. I think my main definition of studio space revolves around people. It’s usually about who I’m with. And I think having worked in studios alone for long periods of time when first starting up a studio, I think it took a little while to realise that you require good company to produce good work. I think now, the way I work in a studio, which works really well, is that I share a studio with a whole bunch of other practitioners. Some are other artists, some are architects, occasionally graphic designers, so we’re always bringing different people into the studio.
And the idea of space, more conceptually, I think is one where there is kind of two sides to it: where there is a complete creative freedom on one side to plaster the walls with stuff- I’m a real hoarder, and quite a messy person, which I think is a really positive trait and so I tend to, if I’m working in a studio space which is purely my own, which I still keep at home when I’m not sharing a space, that tends to be one where I just plaster the walls with stuff all over the place and it’s complete chaos. It very rarely matters if anything gets broken, it just turns into something else usually. And it’s the kind of space where like, I was digging through my drawers the other day, just to find a tool that I needed, and on the way I found a whole bunch of drawings that I drew last year which I completely forgot I done. And I think I put them away because I didn’t like them and then I pulled them out and loved them again. So it’s the kind of space where there is enough room to just throw stuff everywhere, forget about it, and then find it again. There’s something really magical about that.
Collaborative/communal spaces are on the rise, do you think this formula can work?
I very much think it depends on the people and who’s using it. Like it happens to be that the reason I think all the people I work with, enjoy it so much and stay sane, is because we’re all just good mates and a lot of the time it’s just like having fun. I’m not so keen on like the formulaic options where they like present ‘happy fun time at 5 o’clock, but first coffee in the morning’, that kind of stuff. Much more like ad hoc, informal, and enjoyable company tends to work well. But I think, I think more in terms of like collaborative working, it’s the kind of thing where it’s becoming more and more necessary, the way that projects are procured and the way that things happen. It’s almost impossible now with any project to be an individual. Like you’re always working with other people and the nature of the work that I do means that, I work very closely with collaborators right from the start and so being in a space where, even if you’re not directly with those collaborators in the space, but you’re in somewhere where other people might be bringing in graphic designers or engineers, to the point where like as boring as it sounds, at the minute I’m doing a really fun hair salon design, but I kind of need someone to put me in touch with a good plumber and if i was in the office right now, I’d probably know who to ask!
It’s really simple stuff isn’t it? To be honest, when I look around at new collaborative work spaces, I don’t see anything all that new compared to like- I studied in Sheffield for my undergraduate and that’s a place that has a history of like nesters and little workshops where different craftspeople would work in different units within the same industrial complex. And everyone, the idea of that you’d lend each other a hammer when you need it or whatever, so it’s shared resources. And so I don’t see anything all that new in what’s happening now, it’s just kind of an updated model.
Do you believe that London has an impact on your art?
Yeah absolutely. I mean there’s a strong reason that I’m here.. Well there’s multiple different facets to it. It’s firstly like, constantly inspirational, just in terms of walking around the city and enjoying what’s going on and enjoying what already exists. I think obviously, there’s so much to do all of the time, that helps! But also, people and resources are all here, everything you need is here basically and international connections which is extremely useful as well as the fact that I tend to like distribute my work across a bunch of different sectors which might be illustrating, it might be interior design, it might be architecture, public realm stuff, and it just happens to be that in London, all of those sectors are operating at different levels at different times, whereas I think other cities don’t necessarily have that kind of continuity in the same way. I don’t think I’d be able to sustain the studio in the same way elsewhere, so it’s a very exciting place to be.
Do you think you’d ever consider moving outside of london?
Yeah, I’ve been thinking about it for a long time actually. It’s just more a logistical thing than anything because when you establish yourself somewhere for a period of time it becomes quite hard to detach those things doesn’t it? But I think I’ve been exploring a few options for a while where it’s just trying to think about what could be possible. Those decisions are more based on like, not to put too much of a negative spin on London, because I think it’s wonderful for many many reasons, and at certain periods of life it’s wonderful for others and not so good. But I think like quality of life when you get to a certain stage you have to consider other ways of living and how that might work for you. And I certainly think for me having.. I grew up in a small town in the countryside, and it’s not that I necessarily miss that way of living, but there are certainly qualities of that which London can’t provide. So I’d be more than happy to get back.
Do you think, from an artist perspective, is there any way we can ensure artists stay in London in the future?
Well, erm, there’s a few different ways I think. It’s like how industries can support artists, so for instance I teach at universities here, and I always think of how difficult it must be to graduate and end up in a city, well firstly it must be difficult to study in a city that’s so.. Like there’s a lot of things to conquer, to overcome before you can even think about studying in terms of house prices, costs of living, and all that kind of stuff. And then, yeah i think beyond that, I always wonder what it must be like, it must be such a daunting task for students to come out into the city and then go ‘what do i do now, there’s too many options! There’s so much to do’. But I think in general there’s a few good support systems in place in the city. Like I remember when I first moved, the way i went about it was working in offices and in practices for a while to get to know how things work, who knows who, that kind of thing. And I think in general, you begin to suddenly realise there’s a whole bunch of networks of people who are out there supporting in various different ways. It’s always informal which tends to make it stronger. But I think some of those things could be maybe, strengthened or formalised, but in general, the main thing is just cost isn’t it? It’s really hard to sustain what could often be quite a precarious way of life in a city that kind of necessitates expenses.
How do you think artists can collaborate/communicate with developers in London to try to maintain that cultural community?
That’s a good question. I see a lot of examples of it happening, and it seems to be happening more and more over the last, it must be over the last ten years. I remember seeing it a bit before the Olympics and since then it really skyrocketed. But in general, I think it has to be a really early stage conversation if that’s the way projects are being developed and procured nowadays. I think artists have a lot more to offer to developers than maybe they are currently being used for. It doesn’t have to be wallpaper, a lot of the time it’s about experience, it’s about how people use spaces every single day and I think artists, creatives, craftspeople, can really contribute to kind of the life and to what’s valuable in a city. I spend so much time in London walking about, looking at beautiful Victorian terra cotta and an amazing tube station where someone really put an effort into some infrastructure and someone crafted an amazing tile or a beautiful piece of iron work or something and not to sound nostalgic, but I think there’s a degree to which developers have a duty to care for the city and to provide things that have an ongoing value beyond just serving a purpose or a function. And so I really think artists can be engaged from very early stages to contribute to that and hopefully make a much richer city.