Me, My Desk & I: Tom O'Dell

The desk of the art director, stylist and artist tells many different stories.




Anton Rodriguez

Me, My Desk & I: Tom O'Dell

As someone who wears the many (evidently stylish) hats of art director, menswear stylist, and brand consultant – plus, is increasingly working as a paper-based artist – Tom O'Dell, of O'Dells Studios, clearly has a lot to do from the desk at his home where he works. Whether he's sketching store window displays, noting down new ideas for the brands he consults or cutting paper for his artwork, his desk is a page that tells many different stories.

What are your desk essentials?
Lots of paper, whether that is scraps to write notes on, notebooks for lists, sketchbooks for small drawings or larger pieces as canvas for my artwork. A lot of my art is made from small pieces of paper so nothing is really wasted. I have a bag of lots of bit of paper and off-cuts that I delve into when producing a new piece. I might find a little square and think let's pop that on this current piece of art. Other musts are a good pen, strong coffee and great music in the background. It also helps if the sunlight is flooding the flat.

How would you describe your desk vibe?
A little contrasting to the rest of my flat. Everything in my flat is perfectly organised and positioned, from the plants to my ceramics and records. My desk is a little less organised with tools and objects thrown across it. I do tidy it at the end of the day and make sure everything is put away in their appropriate homes.

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How has your career influenced what you have on your desk?
I owned an interior and menswear store for four years and luckily met many talented makers and creatives along the way. Many of the items you see on my desk are items I have collected over the years, many of which are from small makers and people I've met: from ceramics to independent magazines and handmade plant pots. I love items that tell a story and have been made with care and I hope my work and art have the same feel.

What do you use notebooks for?
Lists, notes, ideas, drawing, working out my finances and planning. I have had hundreds and hundreds over the years. Some full, some I've used for one meeting and then put in a draw and not used again... I normally have one in the bottom of my bag or a tiny book in my jacket pocket.

What do you like about using analogue stationery in the digital age?
I've never been into technology, I sort of missed that one. I have a computer but I rarely use it. I'm a big thinker and enjoy having a pen and paper on me so I can make notes wherever I am: on a train or flight, beside my bed. It's quick, instant and for someone that works in a visual way I like doing a little drawing and seeing what it might look like. For example, doing a great window display, if I come up with an idea I grab my sketchbook and pen and quickly sketch up what it might look like. I also leave lists around my flat that I want to tick off.

Lots of jobs I have done recently for clients I have hand drawn up the different ideas. My clients seem to like this rather than just sending over references I've found on the internet in a file. For my artwork, a little sketchbook is perfect to draw up ideas before putting them on the canvas.

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Tell us more about your art. What drew you to the type of art that you make?
In all honesty I had been struggling with a few mental heath issues, depression and anxiety, and wanted to do something that could ease my mind in the evening. Alongside this I wanted to make some art for my home and thought I would give it a go. I spent four evenings back-to-back working on ideas and techniques and I liked the outcome. I made five pieces over two weeks and that's where it started . I just thought let's put some on Instagram and see what people think. I make pieces that fit into my personal colour palette and that of my home and it seems that other people like this too.

I have been selling a few pieces each month and have been proud to work on larger pieces commissioned by an architecture and interior company for a new penthouse they're working on. Fingers crossed this continues, either way I will keep making art. It's been brilliant and really added something to my life.