Constance Read

Artist and Printmaker, Constance Read, is based between North Norfolk and London. Constance was an artist in residence at Central Saint Martins and attended the Royal College of Art for MA, Print. Co-Founder of Haricot Gallery in East London, her aim with partner Harry Raikes is to make art approachable for all. 

Constance Read in North Norfolk by Alexia Mavroleon 
Creative Direction & Styling by Chiara di Carcaci 
Words by Sophie Goodwin

Where did you grow up? 

Boston. Lincolnshire, not America…

How did it all start? 

I trained as a graphic designer and was obsessed with typography, and fell in love with screen printing in New York whilst on a university exchange at the School of Visual Arts. I haven’t stopped since. I have never felt exactly like an artist, more of a hybrid between an artist and designer, which you can see in my work as it is predominantly simple and geometric. 

Where do you live and work currently?  

My studio is in Norfolk where my family live, and I own Haricot Gallery in London with my partner, Harry Raikes, where you will find me the rest of the time. It’s a nice balance between the chaos and the peacefulness of the coast. 

Favourite room in your home? 

The best homes are where the kitchen and sitting room are one. I like to chat to people whilst they are sitting on the sofa listening to music whilst I’m cooking; and relish in the style clash in my kitchen-meets-sitting room. The kitchen is sterile and clean, and the sitting room is the opposite, full of weird ceramics, art and furniture in multiple styles. 

Who or what inspires you? 

I don’t like to be inspired by other art that's similar in style to my own. I think it's a dangerous route to go down. Having said that, I definitely feel motivated to create after visiting particular exhibitions where I feel there is a synergy. I find myself drawing from daily life: people, clothing, colours and food. At the moment I have a particular love for windows from different time periods. Looking online or on Instagram is one of the worst places for ideas, I really need to see something in the flesh to be inspired. Spending too much time scrolling on your phone can be a dangerous hole to fall down which I am conscious of avoiding. 

How do you research and plan your work? 

It’s very organic. Walking around, browsing through books and magazines for colour reference for example. I take lots of photos on my phone, and quick sketches if I feel certain shapes or spaces in my surroundings jump out at me. I always mock up my pieces on my computer before moving onto test screen prints where I experiment with colour before moving onto the final designs. 

Describe your current projects

I am working on canvas instead of paper. Silk screen printing is rarely done on canvas and it's more tricky to work with, so technically I find this more challenging. I am always experimenting with my style as I get bored very quickly. I will next be exhibiting in October in a group show at Haricot Gallery.

Do you have a daily uniform? 

I don’t like wearing the same thing every day, and my clothes very much depend on my mood. If I am feeling energetic, I might leave the house in an all-red outfit - a bright red Simone Rocha tutu and T-shirt for example. On my more mellow days, I keep it very simple with loose-fit trousers and an oversized shirt. Shoes are the highlight of my outfit as I always need an extra couple of inches (I’m very small!) and love wearing heels or platform shoes. Nodaleto are my favourite. 

Whose style do you admire? 

Mary Kate and Ashley because they are always chic. Isamaya Ffrench for beauty, and last but not least Paul Smith. Quite a weird mix! Paul Smith is my everything icon. Not necessarily clothes, but in design, interiors and general style. 

What would you have been in another life? 

A cat. They show displeasure by wagging their tails, and do everything on their own terms.

Which work of art changed everything for you? 

Josef Albers ‘Homage to the Square’ series. The simplicity and use of colour is so iconic.  It sounds very obvious but the most impressive exhibition I have ever seen without a doubt was Andy Warhol at the Tate. As a silkscreen printer I found it absolutely mesmerising to see his works up close, particularly his printing techniques. Now we are taught that a silkscreen print has to be perfect, and Warhol goes against this in every way. He celebrated imperfections and unpredictabilities in printing (and in life) which I find much more interesting.

Favourite designer? 

Marcel Breuer. I like his ability to combine industrial functionality with beauty. His designs don’t seem overly complicated at the outset, yet are very aesthetically pleasing. This is something I am inspired by and try to reflect when creating my own work. 

Last item of clothing you added to your wardrobe? 

I saved up and bought myself a pair of Versace Boots which are mega-high. They kill my feet. 

What is your personal style signifier? 

Chunky Miu Miu shoes.

What values do you look for in a clothing brand?

Other than the style, it’s the colour palette, and combination of colours used. I like it when I find something original, and isn’t super recognisable with its branding. I am much more likely to buy something that I could wear in multiple ways so it’s a bit more versatile. 

Favourite podcast? 

Table Manners by Jessie Ware.

What is your most treasured possession? 

My moon and star ring my parents got me when I was 12. I wear it every day on my wedding finger. I do not believe in luck…

Where is your happy place? 

The beach in Norfolk. It’s tranquil and has been a constant throughout my life. I like swimming in the sea there with my Mum, although she’s much braver than me and goes most days throughout winter.

What is your most marked characteristic? 

I like to know the minutiae. 

Rule to live by? 

Keep strawberry laces in your handbag at all times. 

Advice you’d give your teenage self? 

Try xiaolongbao much sooner (Chinese steamed buns). And stop worrying about everything. 

Soundtrack to your life? 

The The - Uncertain Smile.

Constance wears...

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