I am one among many who occupy the spacious, lofty and barn-like structures in Hackney Wick, in the East end of London. My studio takes up a 4m by 3.5m portion of the floor marked by a wall and two pillars and directly above is the mezzanine where my bedroom is, which I reach with a rickety orange ladder – the bane of my boyfriends existence, it is exactly the same amount of floor space.
Something about my bedroom being totally out of sight but directly above me is very interesting… I never think about the other when I am in either and I like that if I stand in the kitchen I can see a cross section of my world.
‘K3’ as the warehouse is known, had no windows, walls or even door when we found it in June ’12. This was part of the pull of living in the Wick, a chance to build our own story, from scratch. A summer of hard graft and huge parties (another attribute of the Wick) with neighbours and friends made quickly meant that by September we had a home. A home that has a front door built by a man I met at the pub, curtains handmade by myself and reflections of each of us on every exposed brick wall.
Reflections, can be taken literally, as our direct neighbours are still a functioning mirror manufacturer and we have been know to take the odd reject.
For all three of us living in K3, Jacob – a geographer/filmmaker and Gabriella – a visual and interactive artist respectively, it provides comfortable though unconventional, open plan living with enough space for us each to work independently. Whilst this is important, when needed, it also offers invaluable insight and dialogue between three different disciplines.
I mustn’t forget the smallest housemate, Mia the cat, whose tiny, soft presence is made known as she curls around my feet silently whilst I sew, then runs off with my thread and hides.
A normal morning will see me woken early by said hungry feline and pestered until I climb downstairs, feed her, then myself and use breakfast time to sit at our huge reclaimed kitchen and plan the hours that follow. Already the mirror factory will be producing a comforting clatter and hum as well as the beautiful, rusty old freight trains that pass directly beside our large, second floor windows set the audible pace for the day.
The previously mentioned table, which four of us dragged up our corrugated irons stairs from the street in the dead of night within a week of living here, acts as my cutting table – if I am lucky enough to be in the house alone during the day that is. Pattern cutting is the act of producing ‘maps’ of the garments in cardboard with the various tools I have become accustomed to in the past 5 years of practice. Often a toile, which is a prototype of a garment, will rest on the shoulders of my mannequin, standing obediently waiting to be pinned, tweaked and finalised. When it has, the final fabric will be carefully cut along the chalked marks with large tailors shears and piece by piece.. sewn together on my flat bed, industrial sewing machine. If I am painting the picture of calm, don’t be convinced, I am almost always singing loudly.
There are other advantages to living among industry, a nice example is the de-ionised water I must use in my steam iron would be quite difficult to get hold of in almost any other area of London, however… out of my yard and just around the corner is ‘Zamo’ the manufacturer. It has been known for me to dash down, when my iron will steam no longer, in the copious layers of knitwear and felt shoes that I tend to work in and grab a few litres in the midst of a tight deadline. I knock on the shutter and the nice man who runs it smiles handing me the discounted bottles allowing me to run back to carry on with minimal disruption and believe me you must run, every walk along these streets with their urban tapestry of years of street art, self-initiated or commissioned on the walls you ‘risk’ bumping into a friend, which leads to a coffee then maybe a beer at our very own micro-brewery Crate. As quickly as it takes you to say ‘just a half’ you find yourself having dinner at one of the other warehouses. I say risk with my tongue firmly in cheek although it is true that a sense of discipline must be exercised to keep the work/pleasure balance in check in such an all-encompassing area.
Another of the alternative living arrangements here are the narrow boats and barges that line the many canals smoking from their chimneys like friends outside of a bar. I often flirt with the idea of life on a boat, it lasts mere seconds before I think of K3 and what a wonderful, unparalleled quality of life and the work opportunities it gives my flatmates and I. We won’t be leaving, not for a long while.
For a consultation appointment for custom designed, made-to-measure outerwear, coats and jackets, contact Nathalie through her website.