My London Glossary

Artist Martha Freud shares her cultural picks and inspirations in London

From her favourite piece of art to the local spot where she goes to get away from it all, these are the ceramicist must-sees in the capital

If you’re lucky enough to own a piece by Martha Freud, you’ll know they make great ice-breakers. The London-born ceramicist is known for her witty and irreverent works, which often feature clever plays on words – porcelain platters that read, ‘I run a tight shipwreck’, for example, or ceramic side plates etched with the phrase, ‘Waste not, want lots.’ As the great-niece of Lucian Freud and the great-great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud, creativity is in her blood and her pieces can be found in all the smartest homes in the capital, as well as luxury hotels and boutiques. Here, she shares her favourite cultural spots in London.

My London Glossary

Martha Freud

Early influences

Where I grew up in London had a huge influence on me culturally. I was born in Battersea and lived there for the first 30 years of my life. Back then, it was full of artists, because it was comparatively cheap. There were art supply shops under the arches and it was very lively. Battersea Arts Centre was around the corner, which always had brilliantly quirky things going on, and then you only had to go north a little bit to South Ken to reach some of the best museums in London. Also, the cultural history of the King’s Road is so significant, as the birthplace of Punk and Teddy boys. The whole area just felt like it had a really good energy about it, but it’s changed a lot now.

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Battersea Arts Centre

East vs. West

For me, Hackney has that artistic edge that Battersea seems to have lost. That’s where I live now and it feels a lot like the Battersea I grew up in. What I love about Hackney is the sense of inclusivity and diversity there. I tend to get my inspiration from my environment, and what I like about east London is that it just feels very accepting and non judgmental. I find that very liberating creatively, as well as personally. One of my favourite local spots is the Duke of Wellington pub, which is at the end of our street. On a sunny day there are so many people drinking beer outside and sitting on the grass; it’s a great place for people watching.

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Duke of Wellington pub

Top commissions

My art has been displayed all over London, but one of my favourite places is at the Dorset Square Hotel. They’ve got one of my ‘Mixed Messages’ light boxes in their Potting Shed restaurant, which takes up an entire wall. The work has a cricket theme, because the hotel is on the original site of Lord’s cricket ground. My ‘Mixed Messages’ boxes feature hundreds of porcelain cups, with seemingly random words written on them. They don’t make any sense until some of the cups start lighting up in a sequence, and then they spell out sayings or quotes. There you’ll find quotes from cricketers, as well as things like, “What’s an insect’s favourite game?”

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The Potting Shed at Dorset Square Hotel

Under-the-radar galleries

London is home to so many great independent art galleries. One of my favourites is the Soho Revue on Greek Street, which feels like a proper Soho gallery. What I like about it is that it always introduces me to artists who wouldn’t necessarily be on my radar otherwise. It feels quite young and lively and it’s got a slight wildness that I enjoy. Maud and Mabel in Hampstead always has really exquisite ceramics. I find it very inspiring going there and seeing how the material is used by other artists. And I like everything that Claridge’s ArtSpace has done so far. Plus, the events they have there are always fabulous, because it’s Claridge’s – and I always like a good party.;;

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The Soho Revue on Greek Street

Go-to museum

The V&A Museum holds so many fond memories for me. Because it was fairly local to where I grew up, that’s where I learnt to draw. I used to go on weekends with a sketchbook and just sit in there and practice drawing. Then, decades later, my daughter learnt how to walk on the grass in the courtyard there. Of their permanent collection, there’s always a room that I hadn’t noticed before and I love how their exhibitions infuse contemporary art with the more classical. It’s really lovely seeing the new and old side by side. The rooms there are so familiar to me, yet they’re always reinventing them in really engaging and different ways.

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The V&A Museum

Standout artwork

My favourite artwork in the capital can be found in the National Portrait Gallery. It’s the Burlington House Cartoon, which is the Leonardo da Vinci drawing featuring the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist. It’s in this very dark, quiet space – because it can’t be in natural daylight – so there’s something about walking in there that feels like you’re removing yourself from the outside world. The picture itself has this unfinished rawness and amazing, delicate detail, and I feel like you can almost see the hand of da Vinci as he drew the piece and the way that he built up the layers… It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

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Leonardo da Vinci, Burlington House Cartoon

Wellbeing walks  

A long walk by the Thames never fails to inspire me. I find there’s something very magical about walking along the river – the movement and the force that flows with the water, combined with being able to get this perspective on the vastness of the city and the brilliance of its architecture. There’s something about being by the water that’s very energetically cleansing as well. Watching it, you kind of understand why the city exists. The city formed here because of its place by the river and what the river could provide in terms of access to the rest of the country, so it feels almost like going back to London’s source.

Artists to watch

I admire all artists, because I think that creating and sharing your work requires a lot of bravery. But I recently discovered the work of Sharon Walters and she’s great. Her work has a lot of her personality in it and there’s something about the simplicity of her pieces and the line of her cut-outs, but then once the light shines on it, you get all these multiple shadows and it becomes a more complex piece. I’ve always loved a Joshua Press oil painting too. I’ve been following his work for about 20 years, and I really enjoy watching artists grow and develop. I think Daniel Lismore, who describes himself as a living sculpture, is very inspirational. Having been lucky enough to spend some time with him, he truly does express his art in everything he does.;;

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Sharon Walters

Literary hotspots 

When it comes to picking up great books, Reference Point at 180 Studios is the place to go. It’s a library and reference space, and when you’re in there you just want every single book. Their collection is fantastic and the atmosphere they create is really fun too, with chess nights and quiz nights. Plus, there’s a little bar, so in the evening it turns into a lively spot. When I was in West London, I used to love the V&A Library. It’s just so serious in there – you sit down and immediately want to make really profound work. But there’s something about the magnificence of that room and the way that you order books that’s very satisfying.;

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180 Studios

Pottery picks

I think of Studio Pottery London in Belgravia as the central hub of creativity in the capital. People can go there from all levels and become a member, and you can make pottery there and learn all sorts of different skills. But also, the ceramic community is really supportive and that’s become a really nice centre for people who are interested in clay. In terms of picking up ceramics for my home, I prefer to swap pieces with friends, because with my home studio, the house is already pretty full of ceramics. I’ve got a friend, Studio Bean, who makes fun figurative things and then Yael Rosenberg does beautiful, more functional pieces.;;

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Studio Pottery

Drama queen

I try to go to the theatre at least once a month. I love concerts – particularly at EartH in Dalston – but I’m so short that all I can ever see is the back of the person in front of me, so the theatre suits me better. My favourite is the Harold Pinter theatre, which shows such powerful plays. The last thing I saw there was Jez Butterworth’s The Hills of California, and before that Dr Semmelweiss starring Mark Rylance – both were great. I feel like I’ve cried more in that theatre than anywhere else. There’s just something about that collective live experience, when it’s done well, that hits differently.;

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The EArtH Theatre in Dalston

Fashion favourites

A Dickies boiler suit is my go-to look in the studio. My work is so messy, I need something I can just throw on. Though my favourite boiler suit was made by Spry Workwear – they’re taking a pause at the moment but I keep pestering them to go back into production, because they were the best. If I’m getting dressed up, I find there’s always something interesting happening at Tallulah and Hope, as you can pair their pieces with trainers or heels, depending on where you’re going. And I can’t resist a bit of Vivienne Westwood, because they understand curves and sometimes you just want to wear something fabulous.;;

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Vivienne Westwood SS24

Unmissable events

Collect Art Fair at Somerset House has become an annual must-see for me. I walk around there and I want every single thing. Some of the pieces are exquisite and delicate, others are more raw and expressive. It’s like getting all of the great galleries together in one space, you can see it all in one hit. Another favourite is the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum. Being a Londoner who loves nature, it’s just such a great way to access the best images of the natural world, all curated in one room. And then London Craft Week has become a really great way of celebrating all the amazing work that comes out of this city. It’s just like a treasure chest of interesting things.;;

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Collect Art Fair at Somerset House

Hidden gem 

When I want to get away from it all, I escape to London Fields Lido. Being in water, I find that change of environment really helps me shift my perspective and get out of my head. Also, I love that when you’re in the water, nobody can get hold of you. I swim there all through the year, but it’s heated – it’s the only Olympic-size outdoor heated pool in London. In the summer it gets really lively, but it’s pure magic in winter, because you’re swimming and there’s steam rising off the water – it’s so atmospheric

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London Fields Lido

To learn more about Martha’s work, visit

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