Join Kindred Studios,
West London's Creative Allotment
Running along below the Westway like a hidden river, Kindred Studios is a Ladbroke Grove secret of sorts. As the studios throws open its doors to new artists, designers and craftspeople from September, here's the story of this unlikely community.
PHOTOS - Oliver Holms
18 months into their search for a London studio, Angelique Schmitt and Jaime Turner were still looking. Their requirements were modest: space to each continue a ceramics practice.
Most people would have given up. Even more would have baulked when they were finally shown around a huge disused technical college. Instead, Schmitt and Turner decided to gauge interest in the space. They phoned friends, put an ad on Gumtree, held an open day.
Schmitt describes what followed as a “frenzy.” The pair leased the entire building and opened Kindred Studios in 2015 with 85 members.
Two years later, the studios' street presence is unassuming. You turn off the road under the Westway into what looks like an industrial cul-de-sac, walk past a delivery depot, and heave open a high metal gate. But once you're inside, the discoveries keep coming. Room after room reveals a different discipline: ceramics, painting, photography, fashion, illustration, 3D printing. The fine art studio used to be a classroom for decorators-in-training, and still has the mock plasterboard walls to prove it. There's a basement, mostly occupied by designer Molly Goddard who is fast becoming famous for turning frills into an art form. There's an attic, occupied by no one. A human-sized papier-mâché moose in a Christmas jumper sits in the common room.
White Noise has spent the past few months as part of this accidental enclave. It's been a precarious time in Kindred's existence, one that has pitched it dangerously close to being back at square one. The tenancy on this building expires in September, and Schmitt and Turner have been doggedly hunting down a West London space for not two artists but 95. Finally, the studios have just announced that they will be moving to a larger building still and are accepting applications for 100 new members.
On one of the first hot days of the year, Schmitt and I slipped out to a cafe down the road for a chat and drinks with plenty of ice.
I've noticed over the past few months how engaged you and Jaime are with all the artists, and that’s what gives Kindred its charm. You are the glue bringing everyone together.
It’s funny, I went to visit my sister who has an allotment last summer, and the idea that we have a creative allotment came to me then. Someone gives you a little patch of land, next to other neighbouring patches of land, and everyone grows something completely different. I think the process is quite similar: nurturing and planting something that needs to be worked and prepared, as everyone does in their spaces, and eventually something beautiful grows out of it. Also, the relationships between people’s allotments are similar.
Have there been times when you've seen people's work influencing each other?
Oh, lots. Mark Goddard, for example, has worked very two-dimensionally forever, but by virtue of being next to Odile Cadiot who’s a ceramicist, he got really inspired by the clay. He’s in the process of making 100, 200 heads that are almost self-portraits on different scales. That is a perfect example of the proximity and the influence that it imparts.
There is a sort of magic when people walk into our studio, but many of them don’t realise that we're even there. We’ve created something that’s quite powerful, and quite important, especially in this world that I’ve heard described as atomised: everyone split inside their little cells, everyone on their phone. We’ve sub-divided the rooms, and you’ve got actually no walls, just virtual separations between people.
A lot of artists work in their own little cells and imagine that they can only work that way, but it's not always the case. It’s quite changing; you don’t necessarily know that until you work in this kind of environment. On the open days that we had right at the beginning, people came and realised they couldn’t afford the whole space, so they wanted to put up big separators and we said, “No. That’s not what we’re about.”
How much do you find yourself running a business and how much being an artist?
It’s been a journey. I almost wish sometimes that someone else had created Kindred. I’ve never identified as a businesswoman, but it turns out I’m quite organised and methodical. It has a cost, and the cost has been creativity to a certain extent. I find that using the left-hand side of my brain to organise and respond and to plan has to a certain extent thwarted my ability to create. I can’t seem to separate myself in two. I struggled with that a lot in the first year, both of us did. We had envisaged that we would be able to create alongside the community. But about a year ago, I realised that in the same way that people I met manifested themselves in their spaces and then in their work, I think I’ve done the same.
My work is all about getting lots of pieces together and then assembling them, and that is something that I’m certainly doing now. Both for Jaime and I. Her work is similar which is why we spotted each other in that creative art room at the very beginning. Her work is very much about assembling too. So somehow I think we're still doing it, but the medium has changed. The studio is essentially my artwork. Once I got my head around that, I was much more at peace.
Is Kindred tied to this part of London?
This model could be taken anywhere, but if we were to take the studios somewhere in east or south London, we would never take our artists with us. It would need to be grown again. It’s a little bit like [cultivating] yoghurt. There’s only so far people will travel. 60% of our members were previously working from home, pretty much working in isolation. We’ve introduced a lot of people who were neighbours, who never knew each other. There are 95 business we have, really, in the studio. Being able to step outside the home, and for your home to become a place of rest, not work, is very important. So, yes, we're keeping the studios in West London. We’ve had a large influx of people from different studios who just couldn’t afford it anymore. We’re a little haven.
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