It has always been very important for me to break at Christmas and step away from my London studio. I usually spend a little less than two weeks in Ireland, visiting family and friends. There is a pub in Dublin called Grogan’s that I go to pretty much every Christmas Eve, as does half of Dublin. We also spend some time in the countryside, either in County Cork or in Kerry, but always in the west of Ireland, looking out to the Atlantic Ocean.
I personally love this time of year. I think it’s a real reset. I feel the season changing, that shift to the end of the year with the anticipation of the year to come. I always try to swim in the sea on New Year’s Day as a cleanse.
This year my family is a little bigger as I had a second daughter, so we will be splitting Christmas between Ireland and London for the first time. I live in De Beauvoir, in east London, and I’m looking forward to walking from east to west along the Regent’s Canal. It will be my first Christmas in our own family home. I enjoy decorating the house. We always have a live Christmas tree, which over the past few years we have decorated with my daughter’s drawings. I love little wooden figures, too, and more kitsch playful ornaments like the ones from Choosing Keeping, which have an old-worldy feeling to them.
If you don’t know exactly what a person wants, I think it’s important to give something that you would like
When it comes to gifts, if I see something that really suits somebody I would always buy it then and there and save it — I’m kind of a gift hoarder. Wrapping gifts is a highlight for me and I love to match postcards and cards with the paper. I’m a fan of the whole process. If you don’t know exactly what a person wants, I think it’s important to give something that you would like. There is a beautiful traditional art materials shop called L Cornelissen & Son in London and they have so many nice things, from paper to oil and brushes. Their set of pastels is such a nice gift to receive, you don’t have to be an artist to appreciate it.
I usually give things that are close to me and inspiring, but also practical, like the DR Harris toothbrush, which is beautifully made. My brother’s new restaurant, Café Cecilia, makes a batch of olive oil and that makes another beautiful gift, especially because so much of the holiday tradition is breaking bread with family and friends.
I also like to give gifts that keep on giving and are not disposable, such as a membership to the West Reservoir Centre in Hackney, which allows you to swim in the reservoir as much as you like, or the Daunt Books subscription, through which you get a new book in the post once a month. Since I was a kid, I have been given book vouchers as gifts, that was always our “thing”. You would walk into town and pick any book of your choice with your voucher. My daughter recently got a book voucher from her school and she was like “Oh my God, I can go and pick my own book”, and it made me so happy to see that the feeling is still there.
Climax is an amazing website run by Isabella Burley where you can find these brilliant, one-off books. I think that if you find a book that you appreciate, like There’s a Camera Between Man and Woman by Nobuyoshi Araki, you should give it to someone because whether they like it or not, they’ll learn something. One of my most absolute precious gifts is a personalised, handmade book by artist Roni Horn.
Simone Rocha: ‘I ‘like to give gifts that keep on giving and are not disposable’ © Lydia Goldblatt
One thing my brother introduced me to is the Machine Learning Irish Poetry book, a collection of AI-generated Irish poetry. It’s amazing how they put all of this information into a computer and how it regurgitated texts with recognisable beauty and fluidity running through them. It’s a good gift for any Irish person who lives abroad, like myself. It is very nice to have something in your hand that feels like home.
The best gift I have ever given is a ring with a harp on it that represents Ireland. I gave it to my partner and I like that I get to see him wearing it every day. I love antique jewellery. I’ve been given many antique pieces with my initials on them and I always find the idea that they represent my identity but were representing someone else’s very interesting. I also have a ring made of an etched piece of glass which says “Erin go bragh”, which means “Ireland forever” in Irish. I think it’s amazing when you have these pieces that have a history in them.
Gifts that keep on giving
Christmas ornament, £95, choosingkeeping.com
DR Harris & Co.
Hard bristle toothbrush, £20, drharris.co.uk
Carnal Flower by Dominique Ropion, £172, fredericmalle.co.uk
’Machine Learning Irish Poetry’
Book, £10, passagetomb.com
Paperback subscription, £180, dauntbooks.co.uk
Astier de Villatte
Regence large deep plate, £78, astierdevillatte.com
‘There’s a Camera Between Man and Woman’, £80, climaxbooks.com
Leather biker jacket, £1,350, shop.simonerocha.com
Pearl micro egg bag, £475, shop.simonerocha.com
Black hoodie, £35, kojaque.pias.com
iPad Mini, £479, johnlewis.com
36 standard pastels, £114, cornelissen.com
Designer Simone Rocha launched her eponymous line in London in 2010. Rooted in a Romantic-meets-Gothic aesthetic that transcends trends, the label has stores in London, New York and Hong Kong.
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