A ceramicist, illustrator, and textile designer - when it comes to art, John Booth is a multi-hyphenate in every sense of the word.
His signature style - bright, playful and graphic with a mix of texture and colour - is exactly what we need in these tough times.
With collaborations with the likes of Fendi, Ashish, and Paul Smith to name a few already under his belt, Booth has teamed up with Farewill for an unlikely but rather lovely project. The UK specialists for funerals, wills and probate have called upon him to design five bespoke urns to encourage more positivity around the uncomfortable topic of death. Confronting and planning for death will never be a fun conversation but these designs certainly will make it that much more pleasant.
The Scottish born, London-based artist shares information on his latest work, his London hotspots and the items he couldn’t live without.
What does 2021 look like so far for you?
This year, I’ve been working with Farewill to explore how we remember people when they die, creating urns that reflect who we really are. I’ve created five urns in my colourful, graphic style, which will be available for people to apply for on Farewill’s website. The project is about encouraging people to talk about and plan for death in a way that’s approachable, modern and interesting.
I usually work on high-fashion and interiors and this brief took me into a completely new space, which I loved. I was really inspired to create something in an industry traditionally void of creativity and choice. Many people choose an urn as their final resting place, but we rarely talk about how they can help us express who we are.
After the year we’ve had, it’s more important than ever to bring some joy to how we’re remembered, creating urns which reflect the vibrancy of our lives. It’s been a really interesting project, especially in the context of the pandemic, and has definitely been a new way to start the year!
Which part of London do you call home?
I live in Hackney, East London and I absolutely love it. It’s really close to my studio in Haggerston, so I hang around there a lot. It’s full of vibrancy and I love how diverse it is.
I also think East London has the best pubs and nightlife. I can’t wait for everything to open up again!
What are your go-to independent businesses in your neighbourhood?
The Better Health Bakery in Haggerston, the Turkish restaurant across from my studio, Jolene in Newington Green, online yoga classes at Yoga on the Lane, Side Chick on Deliveroo. Other than my work, food is high on my list of priorities.
What is your creative process?
I like to approach the work I do with a sense of joy, playfulness and use of bright colour, combined with graphic shapes. The project I’m working on with Farewill was an interesting one for me as urns aren’t traditionally colourful and bright, in the UK at least. I decided that the urns should be a tribute to the person they’ll home, with a true sense of celebration for the life they lived so wanted these to be colourful and positive in their aesthetic.
When I started drawing, I wanted to keep the shapes really clean and graphic because that’s typical to my work. The thought that they are going to hold a person’s ashes is a thought that’s stuck with me throughout the project, but I’ve been trying not to let that scare me off, and create a monument to the person that they’ll eventually hold.
I’ve also created sections to accommodate dried flowers in each urn. That’s something I’ve used before, but it felt right to use this technique for this project given with the subject matter. It also gives a nice nod to traditional send-offs, while doing something a little different. Alongside bold colour, I like to take inspiration from nature and what’s around me.
What’s the one item you can’t live without?
A black felt tip pen.
What are the things you always have in your tool kit?
I always have felt tip pens on me (preferably Japanese ones), lots of paper pads, loads of other stationery, books and magazines for reference and distraction. Also lots of different types and sizes of paint brushes, I have accidentally ended up collecting different types of chairs, so I have plenty of chairs to sit on in my studio space.
What’s the most Londoner thing you’ve ever done?
Having managed to live here for nearly 17 years, and I’m still loving it.
What are you reading at the moment?
How would you describe your style and what are your wardrobe staples?
I studied fashion design with printed textiles, so I have a fashion background and I’m still very interested in it as a form of expression. I’m often seen with a garish print, a block colour, a dungaree or a short. I’m also usually seen ruining my nice clothes at the studio, but I get bored of wearing scruffy clothes at the studio.
See the John Booth x Farewill ‘A Colourful Life’ urns here.