Martha Freud: ‘The best advice I ever received? ‘Go to bed!’
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My personal style signifier changes. I like being a chameleon. But at the moment it’s boilersuits – a kind of uniform that says, “I’m in work mode.” Working with clay or when my kids are coming at me with dirty hands, I don’t want to be afraid of getting messy. I have different tiers: I’ve got grubby Dickies ones, some nicer cotton ones from Whistles and my new favourite is from Spry Workwear. The other one-piece I favour is a kimono-esque dressing gown. Because I work from home I can throw one on in the morning and feel like I’ve got dressed, even if I haven’t. Spry Workwear boilersuit, £240
The last thing I bought and loved was a pair of black suede boots by Isabel Marant. Not all of her clothes work for me – I feel like they’re designed for tall people, and I’m short – but the boots… they’re long and have a cowboy feel. I’m obsessed with them. I wear my clothes to the very end and I like going through that journey with them. I don’t buy new things very often, but when I do, I really appreciate them.
The place that means a lot to me is a village called Walberswick in Suffolk. My great-grandfather [Ernst Freud] was introduced to the place when he came to England and bought a house there in the 1940s, and my family has been in love with the area ever since. We spend much of the school holidays there, spotting adders and seals, and still discovering new walks after all these years.
And the best souvenir I’ve brought home is from a jewellery shop somewhere in Morocco about 20 years ago. There wasn’t any jewellery that I liked, but I loved a mirror hanging on the wall: this mound of raw clay – very warm, earthy – with a square mirror embedded in the middle of it. It was about £3 and I still love it. It’s simple but beautiful.
The podcasts I listen to are by Brené Brown; everything she says is gospel to me. She’s a researcher who specialises in shame, vulnerability and leadership, and she breaks down behavioural patterns and consequences in a way I can completely understand. She interviews fascinating people, such as psychologists John and Julie Gottman on relationships. She tries to explore all that it is to be human. And I love her Texan accent.
The best gift I’ve given recently was a trip to Heckfield Place in Hampshire with my daughter, Nancy, for her ninth birthday. We had a mother-daughter weekend for the first time. We went to the spa, spent hours at the jigsaw puzzle table, then got dressed up for dinner. The food is delicious: it’s mostly grown on site and designed by Skye Gyngell, whose recipes I try to recreate at home. We met the pigs and cows, and mucked about by the river. heckfieldplace.com
And the best gift I’ve received is a ring my partner, Adam, gave me just after Nancy was born. It’s from Grays Antique Centre and is a diamond in an art deco platinum setting. I like that it has a mysterious history. I never take it off, so I’m constantly having to dig porcelain out of it.
My style icon is Shirley MacLaine as the lead in the 1960s film Irma la Douce. She plays a prostitute who has a very classic look with a twist. So she’ll wear little black dresses with amazing green tights. And also the girls from Grease, which, growing up, was the film I watched every week without fail. I like the preppy, ’50s, hourglass shapes, but also Sandy’s skintight black outfit at the end.
The last music I downloaded was probably the Encanto soundtrack – that’s the honest answer! But, for me, it was Florence + the Machine. I like the loudness of Florence Welch’s sound and seeing how she interprets her world. I recently put together a playlist for an exhibition at Nonemore Gallery. I reference song lyrics a lot in my work, so I included many of those, then just some of the music that I love. It was a total mix, from “Les Fleurs” by Minnie Riperton to “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” from The Aristocats.
I have a collection of words – snippets of conversations and ideas. When I hear or think of something that strikes a chord, I write it on an index card and put it on the wall in my studio. My mum has always said that it’s important to collect something so that people know what to give you for your birthday. She used to collect lemon squeezers. When I was younger I collected teapots, but I haven’t kept that up. We do have a fun collection of old toys at home, displayed in a cabinet. [My partner] Adam has a brilliant eye for junk-shop finds that sit alongside vintage Happy Meal toys and iconic tin packaging.
In my fridge you’ll always find a hot sauce such as Flying Goose Sriracha; milk for the kids, which we get delivered in glass bottles; and a jar of mini cornichons, which I feel are best snacked on while standing at the fridge. There’s something really satisfying about a pickle – it’s high impact.
The objects I would never part with are photo albums. I have mine from my childhood and I’ve made scrapbook photo albums for my kids. I’ve included funny things that they said and memories. I feel like so many people do that now on Instagram, but you can’t hold it. I wanted something I could actually touch. It’s very private. It’s a love letter to my children.
The thing I couldn’t do without is moisturiser. My hands get really dry from the ceramics. I find Weleda Skin Food particularly good. I also swim a lot so I like a body oil; I often use the Moroccan Rose one by REN. I’m a sucker for a rose fragrance. I recently worked with 1882 Ltd to make scented candles for my pots, so I’ve been collaborating with a nose for the past year to develop the fragrances. Rose has always been my go-to scent – then my mother recently told me that she wore a rose-tea perfume for the first two years of my life. Weleda Skin Food, £8.25 for 30ml. REN Moroccan Rose Otto Ultra-Moisture Body Oil, £38 for 100ml. 1882 Ltd candles, from £140; conranshop.co.uk
I’ve recently discovered pastry chef Cédric Grolet. I’m late to the game; I’m sure everyone knows about him already. But we went to his patisserie in The Berkeley hotel, and it’s so beautiful. His creations are edible works of art. I get excited about new culinary experiences, and that is what you get sitting in his “lab” for the tasting menu, seeing these masters of dough do their thing.
The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Jenny Saville. I find her paintings empowering. Because she’s a woman painting women it feels less objectifying, more celebratory. Her work is sensual but raw, and I love being able to see the working process – the layering of lines.
The beauty staple I’m never without is collagen. My grandmother, who is 95 this month, swears by it; she looks amazing and is still so active. I like to exercise, and I feel the collagen helps with that, as well as having good skin benefits. I use Ancient + Brave True Collagen that comes as a powder. Every night, as part of my wind-down ritual, I stir it into a cup of my own blend of Chinese herbal tea made by my acupuncturist Engin Can. His shop in King’s Cross is like being transported to another world. True Collagen Powder, £27 for 200g
My favourite room in my house is my studio. The light is amazing and I like it because it’s mine. In every other room in the house I’m conscious of it being a shared space. I also love the stoop at the front, looking over the square. It gets the evening sun and sitting out there is a lovely way to connect with the neighbourhood.
The work of art that changed everything for me isn’t a traditional work of art but the Chemical Brothers concert my friend took me to in Paris 11 years ago. The visual side of their shows is incredible and afterwards I met the show designer, who is now the father of my children.
Some of my best ideas come while I’m swimming. I go to London Fields Lido because I love to be able to see the sky changing overhead, the birds, the sun. When I’m swimming I go back into my body and out of my thoughts. That, or a really long walk; you get into a rhythm that opens up space. If I’m doing something in town or in west London, I’ll walk there from Hackney.
The best bit of advice I ever received is “Go to bed.” For many reasons! Just go to bed. I put it on one of my new candles.
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