[Originally posted on January 2009]
Francesca Gavin is a writer, critic and editor based in London, though she grew up in Woodstock NY as a child . She has written a number of art books and has an interiors book out in May (Creative Space: The Urban Homes of Artists and Innovators), for which she traveled the world from Tokyo to Berlin to New York looking for cluttered, creative, anti-minimalist homes. She’s also the Visual Arts Editor at Dazed & Confused, a contributing editor at Elle and freelance for Guardian online, Ponystep.com, and Another magazine, among others.
Could you please tell us more about your background? How did you start writing?
I studied History of Art at the University of York but had no idea what to do with it. After a terrible miserable period picture researching book covers, I phoned up Dazed and bluntly said I want your job. I ended up working there part time for free for a year and started writing, initially about literature. I’ve bought at least 3 magazines a week since I was 12 so it was a natural place to fall. After 18 months working at TimeOut magazine, I went freelance and have been ever since. I love the variety – I edited an online magazine for Kenzo for a couple of years, curated some exhibitions and met lots of great people.
Who is your role model? Or the most interesting woman you met?
My role model is actually my friend Alexandra Senes – the editor in chief of Jalouse in Paris, who works on everything from Officiel magazine to the Pret a Porter fashion fair to hotel launches. I spent last fashion week racing around Paris on the back of her scooter to the shows. She is the most stylish, generous, energetic person I’ve ever met. A total inspiration.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I am addicted to printed matter. I make beautifully produced scrapbooks of the images and ideas I cull from the world and they are a massive inspiration. My own personal sieve on contemporary culture. I think wandering around cities is a massive inspiration too. Ideas just pop up.
What are your favorite places in London you’d recommend to visit?
So many – I’m passionate about the city. Visit Sir John Soanes museum and Camden Arts Centre, eat at Daquise a 1950s Polish place near South Kensington tube, get coffee and cake at The Wolseley, and drink at The Birdcage on Columbia Road (after hours only) or The French House in Soho for ageing decadence.
Since you work both for printed magazines and for webzines/blogs, what difference do you feel between writing for screen and for print? Does the process change?
Online is faster, lighter, quicker. You’re much less precious about it. It’s innately ephemeral. With print I feel like that are more rules to how your present ideas. It’s a little more thoughtful. I love them both but I’m definitely a paper whore. It feels more stable somehow.
And what about your books? How do you approach your subjects and your writing?
The ideas for my books have grown out of personal interests, and a feeling that something was in the zeitgeist. I wrote about street art for many years and found the stranger 3D sculptural end of things the most progressive and innovative. Contemporary gothic art was a total labour of love. Black, dark artwork seemed to be everywhere. I see shows every week so find people there – and the internet is a huge help for approaching people and new discoveries.
The interiors book was slightly different. I had no idea what people’s homes looked like so it was very word of mouth. I approached people who on gut instinct, looking at their work, would have a good home. And random international contacts I had over the years helped with recommendations. With a lot of footwork around the world I managed to find 30 spaces that were perfect.
What is the house you live in like? Could you describe your neighborhood?
I spend my daytimes wandering around Soho and my evenings in East London, but I live in quiet, green Hampstead. It’s a flat in a stunning Georgian house, right near this giant wild park called Hampstead Heath. In the summer I swim in the ponds with the ducks a lot and feel like I’m not in a city.
What are your favorite magazines and fanzines?
ANP Quarterly is my favourite. I love the content. Dazed (obviously). I think Paperback magazine is the best new publication to emerge for years (paperbackmagazine.com). Apartamento is a genius concept. I also regularly read French Vogue, Tokion, Peres’ Daddy magazine, Jalouse and far too many others.
What is the most stimulating place you ever been to / lived in?
For me London is the most stimulating place in the world – nowhere compares. But I’m still addicted to travel. Tokyo is food and consumer paradise, New York has energy but on a personal level I’m most inspired when I’m in Paris, which I visit often. I like the internal life I have there. The cinema is cheap. The galleries are good. It’s a good fantasy backdrop.
Who is the woman you’d like to see featured / interviewed here?
I do love Katherine Hamnett. She’s one passionate, smart and witty cookie.