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Hackney Studios by Jenny Lewis 10.06.15

Written by 
  • Rosy Nicholas, maker

  • Marawa, world-conquering hula-hoop master

  • Amber Butchart, fashion historian

  • Rob Flowers, illustrator

The London-based photographer is following a chain through Hackney’s creative community, taking portraits of artists and designers before inviting them to nominate her next subject

Jenny Lewis has been taking portraits of artists and designers based in the borough of Hackney in east London for the past two years. The project works a little like a family tree – each person nominates the next in line, ensuring that the series grows organically. Lewis tells me over coffee that the process started when she saw the fashion designer and graphic artist Isobel Webster at a local market one day and asked her if she could visit Webster’s studio and take her portrait.

As Lewis only discovers who her next subject will be when she has completed the previous shoot, the project remains fresh and engaging. She describes it to me as a “dream project” as she gets to meet artists in their own workplaces, and attempts to understand and capture both their habitat and their methods: “These studio spaces tell you so much about the designers and what their work is really about. Some people have been in one place for 20 years and their work process really shines through.”

There is a great network of creatives in Hackney, and Lewis is planning to continue the project for another couple of years. So far, she has done more than 70 portraits in studios around the area – here is one of the threads.



Anja Wohlstrom



Jenny Lewis

quotes story

The process started when Lewis saw the fashion designer and graphic artist Isobel Webster at a local market one day and asked her if she could visit Webster’s studio and take her portrait

hackney 1

Rosy Nicholas, maker, nominated by Fred Butler 

hackney 2

Marawa, world-conquering hula-hoop master, nominated by Rosy Nicholas

“This chick hula-hoops in tasselled bikinis and high-heeled rollerboots," says Rosy Nicholas. "Her energy is infectious, her costumes sequinned and her hair sensational.My kind of girl, Marawa reminds me not to take work too seriously and have a good time."

hackney 3

Amber Butchart, fashion historian, nominated by Marawa

“[Communal workspace] Studio 212 seemed to be full of all the exciting creative ladies I knew and saw out and about in east London – I was so happy when I moved in there. There is an exhausting amount of activity going on and it’s great to be surrounded by that," Marawa says. "Amber is one of my smartest friends and favourite dinner date – she can tell you the most fascinating things about the history of fashion and always looks immaculate. I knew she would take an excellent picture, so she was my number-one pick to be next!”

hackney 4

Rob Flowers, illustrator, nominated by Amber Butchart

“Rob Flowers is my boyfriend," Amber Butchart says. "He’s an illustrator and his studio space is a huge source of inspiration for him. It’s crammed with artefacts, from Romanian folk masks to 1970s McDonald’s toys. All of these elements are instrumental to his aesthetic. His studio is a physical representation of the inside of his mind.”

This article first appeared in our Studios issue, which also features interviews with Inga Sempe, David Adjaye, Frank Gehry and Michael Young


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