arts and design

Sunday with Ilse Crawford: ‘I see bathing as a spiritual experience’

What wakes you up? The sound of a coffee grinder. My Colombian husband is very pedantic about what we drink, so he’ll get it ready. The rest of my day is spent adrift: I can take my time to think without needing to find conclusions. There’s a pressure to produce during the week, but the journey of design is far more circuitous.

Do you work out? Yes, with a set of colourful Russian army weights I found years ago wandering through a flea market in Georgia. We were there on a project. Somehow I managed to haul them back, though at the time I feared for the plane’s overhead lockers.

How do you relax? In our steam room, which is really just a setting on the shower. It’s the antithesis of a busy week – you just can’t rush the ritual as your body relaxes. I’m obsessed with the culture of bath houses, hammams and saunas. I see bathing as a spiritual experience.

Sundays growing up… Were filled with noise. Ours was a busy house with five children. My sisters were into punk and my brother listened to heavy metal. Dad was a budding opera singer. The fact he never quite made it didn’t stop him enthusiastically practising.

Sunday evening? I’m consumed by an audiobook, if my husband’s cooking. Now it’s Wade Davis’s Magdalena, a wonderful, vast narrative set along Colombia’s most important river. And then I’ll do some work, although never before 6pm, so I don’t pollute the afternoon with it.

Last thing you check on your phone? Duolingo, religiously. I’m desperately trying to learn Spanish, although I fear I’m not a natural. We spend a lot of time in Colombia. I want to one day master the language. I’ve been at it for two years, and have 235 crowns, whatever that means. I’ve a long way to go be, but I’m sticking with it.


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