There’s a twenty minutes walk separating Artwords’ two outlets, one in Shoreditch and one in Hackney, London Fields. From the narrow streets and brown bricks of London’s creative neighborhood par excellence, to the canal banks and leafy lanes of Hackney’s former industrial hub, now known as one of the city’s most livable spots. Art galleries, cozy cafes and thrift shops surround both bookstores, somehow defining an ideal London lifestyle: appreciate literature, experience art, sit somewhere pleasant to read and write and sip coffee surrounded by fellow creatives, then treat yourself to some second-hand, therefore non-boring and environment-friendly, shopping. And then retreat to your house-boat in Hackney or to your Shoreditch loft. Of course this is only half true, and if you look behind the curtains of the plain houses built in the cheaper and ordinary looking area which connects the two boroughs, you get a glimpse of the working-class London, the one that can’t afford to sit in cafes, doesn’t really have time for art galleries, and mostly buys clothes from fast-fashion retailers or charity shops. However, even when and if art and cafes are out of the picture, in London and in the UK in general books do not belong to any social class in particular. If it’s true that most authors have an OxBridge or a Harvard degree, it is also true that the city is full of book worms and that not all of them are expensively educated, or rich. The Brits read, and you can tell just by taking the tube or by sitting in any cheap-ish fast food chain: people are not necessarily staring blankly at their phones, nor are they absentmindedly flicking through free press; most of the customers and the commuters are actually reading, as in holding a book in their hands and absorbing each word. Oh the beauty of seeing so many books traveling around the city! the beauty of seeing so many people reading…
This is perhaps the reason why there really is no shortage of bookstores. Most of the city’s neighborhoods feature one or two Waterstones at the very least, but the authentic treasures are the independent bookstores which often reflect the vibe of their surrounding. Artwords specializes in contemporary visual culture: books, art publications, comics, photography and magazines. The landing pages of the website show a selection of the newest arrivals with details of the publication, the stock is updated every week – a fully functioning catalog come archive of art and lifestyle trends, more like a virtual library with a well-instructed librarian then a simple e-commerce. And of course, the bookshops. Small and unpretentious, no excessively distracting decorations, a clean backdrop which allows the books to take center stage. One says ‘never judge a book by its cover‘, but in Artwords that’s exactly what you do. From Cabin Porn to Feminism, from the Bauhaus to the East London homes, with photos of Patti Smith by Robert Mapplethorpe, and Chupette the cat by Karl Lagerfeld in between. Jurgen Teller ‘rubs shoulders’ with Pradasphere, while Chloe Sevigny’s eclectic style appears next to Grace Coddington’s journal of her years at Vogue. An essay on Japanese houses pops up next to Basquiat journals and an illustrated book on the history of sex looks alluringly from behind the Curious Barista’s Guide to Coffee. And Greta Thunberg.
Although this statement is often scorned upon by the world’s literate society, it is a fact that books play an important role on interior decoration. In one way or another: some people deliberately scatter books and magazines all over the house in an effortless way for a shabby-chic effect, others prefer to carefully arrange them, classifying them by author, by subject, or by the color of the cover. There are also those who place literature in various rooms in a strategic way – Colette and Françoise Sagan on the nightstand, Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters in the bathroom, War and Peace, Anna Karenina, and the rest of the Russians on the bookshelves, together with classic and contemporary poetry. Art and architecture books with large pictures go in the living room; a coffee-table book makes both the parlor and its owner look more interesting. In a similar way, there are some children’s books which adults buy first and foremost for themselves, not because the kids wont like them, but because buying them automatically makes them feel like better parents and better house owners: the beautiful pictures, smart titles, interesting stories and illustrated biographies of the most unconventional heroes in history that you find in Artwords London Fields have the power to transform even the shabbiest of nurseries into a Montessori-approved one, minus the wooden furniture.
On the other hand, Artwords Shoreditch focuses on magazines. All of them. The kind of place where fashion and art students spend their entire day doing research while deciding on which publication they should sacrifice their monthly allowance. The Gentlewoman and Man, Purple, Odda, worldwide Vogue, Flash Art, The Artforum, the Central Saint Martins magazine, Kinfolk, Archer, World of Interiors, and Bloom – a botanic magazine loved by landscape designers and stylists alike. Pop culture, the way it’s represented and the way we perceive it. A well-framed and well-curated picture of contemporary society – at least the best, more interesting side of it.