Studio Tour with Charlotte Mei

Charlotte Mei is an Artist and Illustrator based in London. She has been a long-term collaborator of ours and we're lucky enough to work with her again on our latest collection for Lazy Hotel. The collection features Charlotte’s dreamy landscapes and tonal abstract illustrations across co-ords, knits and accessories. We last visited Charlotte in her studio back in 2014, but a lot has changed since then so we re-visited her in her new studio to catch up on what she’s been up to since then and find out a bit more about her inspirations behind the collection. Her studio dog, Monkey, also made an appearance in our flower bed jumper!


Hi Charlotte! How are you? Last time we came to visit your studio was 2014! Lots has happened since then! Is this the same space?

C: Hi Lazy Oaf! Last time you came to visit me I was a little baby and I had a studio in Elephant and castle! I'm still in South London but now I have a unit in Camberwell where I have more space to paint.

Who else has spaces here?

C: I share this studio with my friends and fellow artists Liisa Chishom and Halima Akhtar. We have a cozy art nest, and share the building with even more wonderful creatives, Synthesizer maker Tom Mclean, Set designer Dale Slater, Jewellery maker H2erg, and lots more, there’s always something fun going on.

Studio Tour with Charlotte Mei Studio Tour with Charlotte Mei

What are you working on right now?

C: I have just finished my first children's book, it’s called Pippin Paints a Portrait and it's about an artist-dog trying to find his unique groove! It will be out later this year.

Has the last year changed your studio practice?

C: During the lockdowns I was lucky to have long-form narrative projects to keep me occupied. I moved my work home and as I was illustrating on a smaller scale - for books - so it suited me fine. During lockdown I created a 110 page fully painted comic book which was published by Shortbox. I really enjoy the changing pace that being a freelance artist offers, each year is different from the last and each day is different too! Im happy to be back in the studio making big works again!

Studio Tour with Charlotte Mei

What are your go to studio snacks?

C: I'm stocked up with Shin Ramen (spicy instant noodles), Shortbread, and Vitasoy (little sweet soy milk cartons that I used to drink as a child in Hong Kong). For lunch I like to go to the famous falafel shop on camberwell green, or munch veggie sausage rolls from Greggs. Today I have peanut rice balls that I grabbed from Chinatown bakery in the morning!

Where or what are your favourite places to go for inspiration when you’re feeling a creative block?

C: Anywhere except my desk! Going for a walk in the park with my dog to clear my head helps with creative block. A gallery day or walk around a museum always inspires me to start making! But I really find the best way to kickstart yourself into doing something, is to start by doing nothing. A clear-ish, and rested mind is the best canvas for creativity. On sunny mornings I take a cup of tea into my small garden, just sit and enjoy some nothing-time.. If I'm struggling to clear my mind after a stressful week, reading a short story helps narrow my focus and relax. I love short story collections by George Saunders and Ted Chaing!

Studio Tour with Charlotte Mei
Studio Tour with Charlotte Mei

Can you tell us a bit about your inspirations and references behind your designs for Lazy Hotel? How did you start to generate your ideas?

C: When I started working on the Lazy Hotel collection, I was imagining where I would like to be on my dream holiday. The prints are based on fantasy landscapes: I imagined hiking through leafy mountain paths, bathing in a hot spring, lying in a field of wildflowers!

How did you find working on this collection?

C: With my fantasy holiday in mind, I wondered what would be my dream merchandise and souvenirs, and this was the inception of my pieces. Designing them was the most fun I've had in recent history, because I used to do this all the time as a kid, (I loved to draw cartoony characters in my felt tips, inspired by Sailor moon and the spice girls and design outfits for them, only this time they got made real!)

Studio Tour with Charlotte Mei Studio Tour with Charlotte Mei

Talking of hotels, what's the most memorable place you've stayed. Could be worst, best or weirdest experience?

C: A few years ago I went camping with my boyfriend’s family in Dorset, and a badger came in the tent and stole our peanut butter. That was quite thrilling and scary.

What's your favourite piece from the collection?

C: I'm in love with it all so this is hard, but the Abstract Thinking set feels like it has been lifted directly from my mind, it's so perfect I can hardly believe it exists. This was the very first initial sketch, so to see it transform from my head to the collection is magical.

Studio Tour with Charlotte Mei
Studio Tour with Charlotte Mei

Tell us about the pieces you're wearing today?

C: Today I'm wearing the Abstract Thinking set, and landscape knit. The abstract thinking set is a breezy, playful two-piece with an abstract and textural landscape design that is a signature motif in my work. The scenery knit jacket is a really cute statement cardigan, with rolling hills, fluffy clouds stitched into the design. I was really excited to do a knit as I love the way that incidental and painterly marks translate on a knit fabric.

We’re so happy to see your dog, Monkey, in our Flower Bed knit, is she a studio dog?

C: Monkey is my sweet four-year-old dog. She has a silly personality, a small fuzzy body and long legs. She is usually sleepy and likes burrowing under cushions, so I have to always check before sitting down anywhere that she's not underneath. She really likes cheesy Wotsits though I try not to give her too many.

Studio Tour with Charlotte Mei Studio Tour with Charlotte Mei

We know you love a good conspiracy...what are your favourites?

C: I like the conspiracy that Aphex Twin lives in the silver cube in the middle of Elephant and Castle roundabout. I also heard that McDonald’s chips contain 0% potato, but I think that’s just a rumour.

What TV shows have you been binging lately?

C: I have been watching ‘Blackpink House’, a reality show about the K-pop girl band, ‘Hoarders’ which I’m not particularly proud of but it puts me in a mood to tidy up my junk and is usually quite emotionally touching too, and dog grooming videos on YouTube - there’s a great channel called Shu and Tree who groom a lot of cute poodles.

What are your South London recommendations?

C: Silk Road - Hand pulled noodles and yummy veggies in Camberwell, I have been going regularly for 10 years. Peckham mall which is a little shopping arcade on rye lane with bubble tea and a great nail bar, and Crystal Palace Park, which has lovely gardens and wacky dinosaur statues created in the 1800s that are described as ‘incorrect by modern standards’.

Studio Tour with Charlotte Mei Studio Tour with Charlotte Mei