It is a great gift when we encounter extraordinary people who inspire us. Often, there is a quietness about them, and they tend to prefer being hidden in the background without seeking trumpets and fanfare. When I met Inge Cordsen a few years ago, I was struck by the singularity of this soft-spoken lady who exuded an aura of a rare kind. Even the noise and clatter of a busy café and rush hour seemed to miraculously block themselves out from the protective and powerful sense of serenity that surrounded her.
She calls herself a "traveler". This is an unexpected and simple answer from a long-established, highly-respected textile designer who has been creating and curating some of the most exquisite and refined creations of fabric that hail from Asia to Europe. A standard curriculum vitae would not do her justice. Rather, noble mandarin collars, the refined details of a cuff, objects that evoke human warmth, her equanimity, and her kindness to all who enter her space capture the essence of this rare lady.
There is an enigma that surrounds Inge. Perhaps it is her "charismatic discreteness" which seems to be the underlying quality of her being, her creativity, and the universe, Livingstone Studio, she has created. Or perhaps it is in the choice she has made to follow a different path to those of her peers. It hints at a life and lifetime of work that she has mindfully crafted and woven to what is natural to her. And she seems to graciously navigate simplicity, the countercurrent, in an age where speed, commerce, and recognition are considered values. Inge has managed to preserve her own notion of time and space with her quiet vitality, staying steadfast to her vision to remain small, discrete, independent—and true. And this is an inspiration.
In the northern end of London, there sits a converted coach house from the early 18th century hidden within the oneiric Hampstead village. It is so quietly tucked away that one can easily miss this hidden paradise if not mindful. The textile design studio and gallery of Inge and her partner Kate is a retreat from the brutality of the city. Everything is exquisite, yet they are not boxed up in untouchable exclusivity. One can actually breathe in here. And beauty feels democratic and open.
Livingstone Studio was created in 1991 to bring prominence to natural textiles, exceptional handcrafted techniques, and minimal contemporary design. In the true spirit of "studio", it nurtures long-standing collaborative relationships with creators such as Asha Sarabhai's Raag Studio and others who are deeply in tune with its vision for quality.
There is a flowing sense of time, which is aligned to the shapes, textures, and the natural textiles that grace this space. Objects and fragments of nature seem to have found their natural places. Tea and mooncakes are offered to those who enter this enclave. At times, part of the space becomes a children's art school—an expression of the studio's ability to organically transform, evolve and connect to life around it, in this case its neighborhood.
Carefully selected objects and antiques from around the world feel approachable and accessible. Everything seems to breathe serenity and quality. Everything is aligned without affectedness. The space is an extension of Inge, a hidden place that leaves one with the feeing of having been—even if momentarily—immersed in its beauty.
Inge Cordsen is a London-based designer and director of Livingstone Studio, a long-established textile design studio and gallery located in Hampstead, London. The gallery exhibits works of designers, textiles of exceptional beauty, works that emphasize fine contemporary craftsmanship, and objects of ethnographic or antique interest. The studio works closely with international designers such as the renowned Raag Studios of Ahmedabad, India, European designers Aenne Cordsen, Ian Batten, Daniela Gregis, and Jurgen Lehl based in Japan, as well as the new generation of designers to support their work and encourage the tradition of creativity and innovation.