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Finding Nest in Bath

photography & words by Charlie Cumming




'I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.' 

― Gaston Bachelard


As an illustrator, and avid note taker an organised and well stocked work area is very important to me. When I design I usually do it from home, a relatively isolated space where I can truly delve deeply into my ideas and imagination. The area I use to create and form my ideas and it’s atmosphere makes a pretty big impact on my work, and the slight shyness I have with my work means I find working in an area familiar to me helpful in it’s production.

Within the space I currently use, I have a large drawing board, MacBook, various types of paper and a large variety of writing and drawing implements. I like to keep my tools fairly simple in type, and I’m a great believer in limitations within the creative process, so depending on what sort of piece I am working on I will sometimes only have a small selection of writing implements available to me so as not to overload my options in creating. If I have the opposite, an abundance of options – a vast variety of tools to use, I find myself concentrating on the tools, and the possibilities of those particular implements rather than the actual job at hand, it can sometimes be a bit of a distraction.

A peaceful setting is another great enhancement to my general mental state when I’m trying to be creative, I’m someone who get’s fairly easily distracted until I’m fully immersed in a project or idea – so I always feel I need somewhere that is calm and peaceful to really concentrate and immerse myself in my creations.

For some reason, out of habit or just the fact that I am a slight procrastinator – I tend to enjoy taking out the objects I want to use and organising them on my desk or near my drawing board. I always find that if I have all my tools within reach, I am reducing the risk of distraction, or time wasting by looking for something that I need when an idea comes to me.

As well as the tools that I utilise, there are other aspects of my space that enhance my thinking state into helping me design in the best way possible. The right surface, sometimes my drawing board, and sometimes just a board on the floor, with sheets of paper spread out, perhaps existing ideas laid out in front of me allowing me to take inspiration from fleeting moments of creativity that hit me whilst I was on the move or in some other situation where I was able to truly get lost in something.

Having some good coffee (something of which we are spoiled for in Bath), yerba mate or green tea as an accompaniment, to sharpen the senses and assist me in being as productive as possible. Sometimes listening to music, usually music without lyrics, a variety of contemporary jazz. Something from the well known ECM label that I enjoy greatly, and that I can also let trickle away behind me as I work. If I’m really struggling, silence is sometimes the best thing – but then again I can easily get distracted with silence, I’m a little bit awkward in this way.

Often a little frustrated in these processes, the fact I have to spend time doing these things to try and make the most of my creativity. Why is it that I can’t just sit down and draw? Why do I have to set all these things up to truly feel like I am in the right frame of mind for creating?

It’s all about making the most of the time I have, placing myself in an environment to allow myself to make the most of any creative ideas I might have at that particular point in time. It is very difficult to predict exactly when you will be performing the best creatively, and that if I try to plan when I am going to be creative, I need to ensure that any spark of creativity is nurtured and exploited as well as possible.

I want to place myself somewhere calm, so at present I choose my home to work from – not always the best thing to do, there is something to be said for avoiding making your home your office, but sometimes you have to work with what you have.

I know I have all my tools here, the right pencils, pens and paper – ensuring that if an idea presents itself then I am ready to accommodate it.

The space I have, the surface I draw onto, the sensory additions that allow me to be more productive, become more relaxed or feel more at ease – even the extra stimuli that may or may not be enhancing my thought process.

The books I own, they reside here – so if I am struggling for inspiration I can take 10 minutes to admire someone else’s work, gain a little inspiration, a little more drive and maybe even spark a new idea in myself.

As well as creating this space, this incubator for ideas – a space for the hopeful flood of creativity, that I always hope will ensue after those first sips of coffee set in – I sometimes find I work well in environments that are a little more exposed. My love of coffee and beautiful spaces usually draws me to one of Bath’s many speciality coffee shops – a filter or espresso at my side, I find the clinking of china and the often gentle level of conversation quite driving, a sort of atmospheric inspiration that puts my brain into a different space – balanced by gentle décor and well considered interiors in this setting I sometimes find I work well.

With me I can still carry the things I might use at home, as a lover of a good notebook I keep one close, drawing pencils or propelling pencil also.

I love what I do, illustration and business are two things that make me get up in the morning and that keep me wishing my days were longer. So the importance of a space that puts me at ease, that helps me work at my most optimum level are of incredible importance to me. If it makes me come across as a bit of a perfectionist, if it means that I spend a small proportion of my day preparing and organising myself in the hope that it will positively effect my workflow, I’m happy for that to happen.

So I’ve set myself up, I’m in a space that puts me at ease – I have my tools, my favourite things that make me feel like I can work better – and also actually accentuate what skills I have. The quality of the equipment is not always paramount, but I find if I have implements that please me, when I see them and when I use them it might give me a better chance at producing something beautiful.