Deborah Needleman: Career Pastorale

June 10, 2020

Something Deborah Needleman said to me when I sat down with her in New York earlier this year (just before Covid-19 turned the city and the world upside down) particularly struck a chord:

…in days gone by, a basket, woven by hand, was the diary of a person’s day”.

For me, her words summoned up a time when an object, well-made, was celebrated for its flawless and enduring utility. 

So, it’s not surprising that Deborah Needleman has turned her mind to crafting the next chapter of her career, by tuning back into the seasons and rhythms of nature. She’s moved, by choice, from the summit of the hyper-fast world of editing NYT’s standalone style magazine, T, to embrace a slower, more considered pace and purpose, all on her own terms.

If she’s not in her garden, she spends her days trawling the cultural and community repositories of the world, where the handmade, the precious and the endangered are forever preserved and admired.

Deborah is fascinated by how disparate cultures have narrated their histories, through the medium of simple utilitarian objects, many of which we now esteem as works of art. 

She has opted unashamedly for a different life as master explorer, and the unhurried luxury of pleasing herself. But she’s no slacker; she’s fully prepared to turn her own hand to the wheel, the bodkin, the barrow or a piece of string, to fully comprehend the end-to-end of an object’s actualisation.

Her Instagram feed gives a sense of both where she’s been and where she’s heading, but first, listen to her interview in this new episode of Unpaused.

And if you’re still sceptical that this has any particular resonance right now, see her post of 17th April;

Today’s output. A peony cloche. Busy busy day”.