Martha Freud: “The best advice I’ve ever received? ‘Go to bed!’
My personal style signifier changes. I love being a chameleon. But for now, it’s coveralls, a sort of uniform that says, “I’m in work mode.” Working with clay or when my children come to me with dirty hands, I don’t want to be afraid of getting dirty. I have different levels: I have grimy Dickies, some nicer cotton ones from Whistles and my new favorite is from Spry Workwear. My other favorite piece is a kimono-style dressing gown. Because I work from home, I can put one on in the morning and feel like I’ve dressed, even though I haven’t. Bright Workwear wetsuit, £240
The last thing I bought and liked was a pair of black suede boots by Isabel funny. Not all of his clothes fit me – I feel like they’re designed for tall people, and I’m short – but the boots… they’re long and cowboy-like. I’m obsessed with them. I wear my clothes to the end and I like to live this journey with them. I don’t often buy new things, but when I do, I really enjoy 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 a large part of the school holidays there, spotting vipers and seals, and still discovering new walks after all these years.
And the best memory I brought home comes from a jewelry store somewhere in Morocco about 20 years ago. There was no jewelry that I liked, but I loved a mirror on the wall: this mound of raw clay – very warm, earthy – with a square mirror embedded in the middle. It was around £3 and I still love it. It’s simple but beautiful.
The podcasts I listen to are by Brene Brown; everything she says is gospel to me. She’s a researcher specializing in shame, vulnerability, and leadership, and she breaks down behavioral patterns and consequences in a way that I can fully understand. She interviews fascinating people, such as psychologists John and Julie Gottman about relationships. She tries to explore all that it is to be human. And I love his Texas 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 hit the spa, spent hours at the puzzle table, and then got dressed for dinner. The food is delicious: mostly home grown and designed by Skye Gyngell, whose recipes I try to recreate at home. We met the pigs and the cows, and walked by the river. heckfieldplace.com
And the best gift I’ve received is a ring that my partner, Adam, gave me right after Nancy was born. It’s from Gray Antiquities Center and is a diamond in a platinum art deco setting. I love that it has a mysterious story. I never take it off, so I constantly have to dig into porcelain.
My style icon is Shirley MacLaine in the lead role of the 1960s film Irma the sweet. She plays a prostitute who has a very classic look with a twist. She will therefore wear little black dresses with superb green tights. And also the daughters of Fat, which, growing up, was the movie I watched every week without fail. I love 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 love the volume of Florence Welch’s sound and seeing how she interprets her world. I recently created a playlist for an exhibition at the Nonemore Gallery. I refer to song lyrics a lot in my work, so I included a lot of them, and then only some of the music that I like. It was a total mix, from “Les Fleurs” by Minnie Riperton to “Everybody Wants to Be a Cat” by The Aristocats.
I have a collection of words – snippets of conversations and ideas. When I hear or think of something that hits a chord, I write it down on an index card and put it on my studio wall. My mom always said it was important to collect something so people would know what to get you for your birthday. She collected lemon squeezers. When I was younger, I collected teapots, but I didn’t keep that. We have a fun collection of old toys at home, displayed in a cupboard. [My partner] Adam has a brilliant eye for second-hand finds that sit alongside vintage Happy Meal toys and iconic tin packaging.
In my fridge you will always find a hot sauce such as Sriracha flying goose; milk for the children, which is delivered to us in glass bottles; and a jar of mini pickles, best nibbled standing in front of 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’ve had mine since I was a kid and have made scrapbook photo albums for my kids. I’ve included funny things they said and memories. I feel like so many people are doing it now on Instagram, but you can’t hold it back. I wanted something that I could actually touch. It’s very private. This is a love letter to my children.
The thing I couldn’t do without is hydrating. My hands get really dry from the ceramic. I find Weleda Skin Food particularly good. I also swim a lot so I like a body oil; I often use REN’s Moroccan Rose. I’m a sucker for a rose scent. I recently worked with 1882 Ltd to make scented candles for my jars, so I’ve been collaborating with a nose for a year to develop the scents. Rose has always been my favorite scent – then my mum recently told me she wore a rose tea scent for the first two years of my life. Weleda Skin Food£8.25 for 30ml. REN Otto Moroccan Rose Ultra Hydrating Body Oil, £38 for 100ml. 1882 Ltd candles, from £140; conranshop.co.uk
I recently discovered pastry chef Cedric Grolet. I’m late for the game; I’m sure everyone already knows him. But we went to her pastry shop at The Berkeley, and it’s so beautiful. His creations are edible works of art. I’m excited about new culinary experiences, and that’s what you get sitting in his “laboratory” for the tasting menu, watching these dough masters do their thing.
The only artist whose work I would collect if I could is Jenny Saville. I find his paintings stimulating. Because it’s a woman who paints women, it seems less objectifying, more festive. Her work is sensual yet raw, and I love being able to see the working process – the layering of lines.
The essential beauty from which I never part is collagen. My grandmother, who turns 95 this month, swears by it; she looks amazing and is still so active. I like to exercise and I think collagen helps with that, as well as having good skin benefits. I use Ancient + Brave True Collagen which comes in powder form. Every evening, as part of my relaxation ritual, I mix it into a cup of my own Chinese herbal tea blend prepared by my Engin Can acupuncturist. His shop in King’s Cross is like being transported to another world. Real Collagen Powder£27 for 200g
My favorite room in my house is my studio. The light is amazing and I love it because it’s mine. In all the other rooms of the house, I am aware that this is a shared space. I also like the porch at the front, overlooking the square. There is evening sun and sitting there is a great way to connect with the neighborhood.
The artwork that changed everything for me is not 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 scenographer, who is now the father of my children.
Some of my best ideas come while I swim. I go to London Fields Lido because I love being able to see the sky changing above our heads, the birds, the sun. When I swim, I return to my body and get out of my thoughts. That, or a very long walk; you enter a rhythm that opens the space. If I’m doing anything in town or West London, I walk there from Hackney.
The best advice I’ve ever received is “Go to bed”. For many reasons! Go sleep. I put it on one of my new spark plugs.