Posted 01 September 2016
Interview by Will Hudson

Illustrator and Author Marion Deuchars

This article was published as part of our soft launch in 2016.

Illustrator Marion Deuchars works with major design and advertising agencies, publishes illustrated children's books and has created a much-loved style of hand-lettering. In an industry that tends to mean working on your own Marion works out of Studio 100, a shared space with around 25 other illustrators, graphic designers, architects and writers.

Address: 100 De Beauvoir Road, London N1 4EN
People: Around 25 including illustrators, graphic designers, architects and writers.
Hours: 10am – 7pm

Studio 100

I’m not sure I have the self discipline to work from home. David Rayson who used to be head of Fine Art at the RCA said that “working in a institution or studio is like washing your dirty washing in public, it’s a space away from domesticity”. I liked working in a studio space at college and felt the need to continue that way of working when I left college. Recently we had a visit from an RCA contemporary of mine whom I hadn’t seen in a long time and she joked “talk about not moving on”. Three of us who had been at college with her are together in this studio. I suppose you could see it as arrested development but I’d like to see it more positively that that. I loved college and wanted to continue working in what felt like a very creative environment. More importantly, human beings are social creatures, new technology has enabled us to work anywhere, alone if we want, but I think it’s healthy and we benefit from working with other people. Working in a coffee shop might sound romantic but it’s not practical. I can’t help but notice all these new communal work spaces for start up companies. I feel we creative folks set up that model over 25 years ago. We made an environment that never felt like work, we have a place to come to where we have ideas and enjoy ourselves, we are individual companies but work together, it’s a million miles away from an office environment.

What is important about the working environment?

Primarily space, light and affordability. The location at the time was not great as transport links were poor and it felt very residential. There is always a compromise. but how quickly areas change in London!

What was it about this space that made it right?

It’s a place to come and work, dream, chat, play, be inspired, socialise. I leave everything behind when I come here. It’s never felt like ‘going to work’. It’s a space I feel happy in and where I make things. It’s also where surprises happen, from work breakthroughs to someone bringing in great cakes.

What’s the best thing about the studio?

Lunch is pretty important. Some of us prepare food and eat in the studio (we have a small kitchen). Others buy from local cafes, shops but bring the food back to the large communal table to eat together. Another group prefer to leave the studio most of the week to eat in a local cafe.

Music is a trickier issue, we all like music in the studio, but sometimes getting the balance is hard. The studio is made up of three adjoining studios. I think two of them don’t play music but the one I’m in always does. We are lucky to have a studio member who takes his music seriously and plays great playlists to keep most of us happy!

How would you talk about the studio culture?

They have to fit in, work and personality wise. We normally recruit through word of mouth, friend of friend kind of thing. I think we are open to different professions coming in as long as it works. Anyone that makes noise in their profession, banging, phone chatting for etc would probably not work as most creatives here don’t make a noise when working. I may be guilty of putting a hair dryer on occasionally to dry paint but otherwise the studio production line is pretty quiet!

What do you look for when recruiting and adding the team?

Yes quite a lot of cross fertilisation goes on all the time in a very informal way; from commissioning others, to collaborations, to parties, to advice.

Are there any self initiated studio projects projects?

Marion Duechars

I think everyone in our studio might have a different story/insight into their typical day in the studio, but here is mine. I get up early about 7am (reluctantly) as we have to pack two boys off to school, make pack lunches, and basically organise their day before I start mine. Once the boys are off, I take the dog for a walk. This is a relatively new routine in my day as he is just a puppy. I take him into the studio sometimes and as he gets older, hopefully a bit more.

I live quite near the studio, about a 20-25 minute walk or super fast cycle. I can walk down The New River Walk which is a little oasis and reminds me of what season I’m in. It’s so nice to see to see ducks, cranes and moorhens, I feel lucky to experience this in a city. Walking in particular is a nice separation between home and work. I plan my day as I walk. We have a lovely deli around the corner from the studio, and that’s my first stop. I can’t eat when I first wake up, but I can’t work without breakfast and coffee. I rarely arrive in the studio before 10am. I feel I should get there earlier but in all these years haven’t managed it, so should stop feeling guilty!

Like most folks, I switch on the computer when I get to work and check my mail. Sometimes if I feel like I’m spending too much time on admin or being distracted by online temptations, I use the Pomodoro Technique. It’s basically a 25 minute timer with 5 minute breaks. I allow myself a maximum of 2 pomodoros of mail and general time wasting. It also makes you get up and walk around after 25 mins. It’s quite scary how quickly that time passes.

Most days I work on what I call my ‘play desk’. It’s actually 2 or 3 desks, where I have lots of art materials from pens, pencils, inks, paints, stamps, cutters etc. I often work standing up here. I love that I can make a mess here and it doesn’t matter. I have a red apron, I generally put on as this means I can wipe my hands, dry brushes, and be less inhibited as I work. What’s important on this desk, even though I generally have a task to complete is to experience some kind of unpredictability. I roughly know what

I have to do, whether it’s lettering or drawing, but by having an assortment of materials around, I can experiment, play or go ‘off piste’ if I feel the urge. Trying to explain one’s creative process is not easy but as I’ve been asked to give several lectures on it over the years and so I’ve gleaned some insights. I worked out that I really enjoy the process of making things as much as the final outcome. Play is the most important thing and also combining any experience I’ve had recently into the work, whether it was an exhibition, film or a conversation with someone on the bus. It’s also important for me to keep moving to the unfamiliar, that’s what keeps me interested in what I do.

I sometimes film what I do, I keep a camera and tripod handy, but I can’t do it too much as I find it affects my concentration and freedom to work in that uninhibited way, it’s like having an audience. I find it works best if I have it on slow timer, then I can forget it’s there. I am envious of the younger generation who manage to make work, film it, blog it, photograph it. I find it hard enough just to make the work without thinking of promoting it at the same time. I think our generation missed out on that opportunity, I’m sure I would have embraced it when I first left college had that been the means of promoting oneself.

I work through most of the morning until lunch. I wander over to a few folks in the studio, to have a nosy at what’s going on, catch up on chat. It’s nice to see what people are working on. I can’t get round everyone as that would take up the whole day, which wouldn’t be such a bad way to spend it! My agent has a studio within the studio here, so I normally check in with them on jobs, gossip. We make quite a lot of cups of tea in our studio. Everyone generally takes a turn, though of course some make it more than others! Because we have at least 24 people in the studio, someone has a birthday every other week, so the rule is to bring cake in to share on that day. We eat too much cake in this studio and too many Jaffa cakes.

For lunch, I mainly bring something in from home that I can make in the small kitchen we have here, or I buy something from the deli. I try to go out once a week to a cafe, partly to stretch my legs but also for social reasons to chat to the studio members who like to eat out.

In the middle of our studio we have a large refectory table. This is not only where we have lunch but where folks put things for others to see, whether its sweets, books, discarded presents exhibition invites, interesting mail art, student work that’s been sent, trashy magazines alongside highbrow art magazines. I like that table, it’s like an interactive notice board.

In the afternoon, I do more admin, email, fiddle around and buckle down and start working again. The afternoon session is always a bit more intense as I’m usually on a mission to get some work done before I have to leave. (and I’m not so productive in the morning) In the days before kids, my most productive time was between 4pm and 8pm. I still feel that is my most creative time, but practically it’s a disaster. I normally have to leave the studio any time between 3.30 and 4pm to pick up the kids. It’s always a wrench as I’m normally just getting into the swing of things and I have to down tools and run out of the door. My exit from the studio is normally a bit stressful as I always leave it too late and run around grabbing my stuff whilst I shout goodbyes. I quite often put some work in my bag with the intention of finishing things off at home. I really shouldn’t bother, because by the time I collect the kids, make dinner, do homework, walk the dog and sit down, I am incapable of doing anything other than whimpering with exhaustion until my lovely husband gets home and cooks our dinner and helps get the kids to bed.

Interview by Will Hudson
Photography by Jake Green
Mention Marion Deuchars