Artists under Lockdown: Iain Howlett of Studio Furthermore
Design duo temporarily decamped to Birmingham.
The Design Edit (TDE): How are you keeping busy in self-isolation?
Iain Howlett (IH): Our place in London is undergoing a big renovation, so we needed to move out for what should have been a month or so. A family member lent us a flat in Birmingham and so we are working from here – nothing messy just now, no metal casting or ceramics! Marina makes handbags on the side. She started doing them for herself a few years back and wearing them around, then people from our circle started asking for them. They are made from leather with a weaved element and Marina has been making a new design a week. As for me, I’m making foam pieces which will become ceramic when we get back into our studio. Usually I have some specialist tools to work with, but now I’m exploring a different tactile language through hand carving with a knife. It is really slow and hypnotic work, but the results are pleasing.
TDE: Everyone’s pace of life has slowed down considerably; what is the impact of this new rhythm on your work and home life?
IH: I don’t know, because with the birth of our son a couple of months ago life had already slowed down. Other than concern for family and friends, oh and pub lunches, life is pretty similar at the moment. Workwise though, we are able to focus on making – and not think so much about organising, planning and shows – so that’s quite nice. We have both naturally moved towards small scale things that are time intensive. In the daily grind of Shoreditch, where our studio is based, I suspect we might not have given ourselves quite as much time to let this kind of work happen the way it is.
TDE: Do you have a favourite self-isolation recipe to share with us?
IH: We often finish up late at the studio and I would always say it’s too late to start cooking by the time we got home. So I’m making the most of it now and there are lots of dishes – fish with roasted fennel, lentils, and Martino Gamper’s famous ginger pasta [recipe featured in The Design Edit] – but the one I want to share is a very simple dish and something I’d never thought to cook before lockdown. Every year at this time we go to Milan for the fair, to do a show and see our friends. During the trip I have Milanese saffron risotto at least once or twice. Our thoughts have been with our friends there and we are looking forward to the next time we meet. This dish reminds me of them. It’s a great lockdown recipe with very few ingredients:
1) Put a pinch of saffron threads into a glass of water an hour or two before starting.
2) The real way is to cook it with bone marrow, but beef or veg stock works well too – and it is lockdown after all. Keep the stock warm on the stove.
3) Sweat a finely chopped onion in butter until soft then add Carnaroli rice (or Arborio, or similar) and stir until the rice is coated in butter, plus one or two minutes.
4) Deglaze with a glass of white wine, turn down the heat and add warm stock a couple of ladles at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the liquid, and repeat. Remember to stir.
5) When the rice is almost ready add the glass of saffron and gently stir in, it should turn a uniform golden colour.
6) Once the rice is cooked, grate a generous amount of parmesan and fold it into the risotto.
7) Add some butter, mix and enjoy.
TDE: What is saving your sanity under lockdown?
IH: Precious time with our newborn son. So in one way we are lucky with the timing of this momentary pause, although it’s tough on his grandparents and he must think they live inside the phone. Sitting in the sunshine on the balcony carving and listening to music is great too. Marina punches holes in the leather she is working on with a big malet and leather punch – although I’m not sure how this acts on our sanity.
TDE: Which online exhibition/gallery viewing room, or other internet offerings have caught your eye?
IH: I haven’t really looked. Didn’t even check Insta for a week or so, strangely enough.