One Fun Thing: Manolo Blahnik Sketches the View From His Window

The shoe designer is at home in Bath, England, designing fantastical stilettos and drawing the view from his bedroom window.

One of the Manolo Blahnik sketches of the view from his window with a garden

For W’s new series, “One Fun Thing,” we’re inviting creative people around the world to share an easy, relaxing activity that has brightened up their days spent at home, from guided meditations to coloring books. Consider it a grab bag of ideas for how to shake up your own quarantine routine.

The shoe designer Manolo Blahnik has been sketching since he first started designing shoes for lizards as a young boy growing up in the Canary Islands (if you’re curious about that peculiar origin story, the 2017 documentary Manolo: the Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards is on Netflix and has all the answers). Right now, he’s at home alone in Bath, England, and has gotten back into the habit with renewed fervor, sometimes spending all day at the window with his sketchpad, recording what he sees or coming up with fantastical stiletto designs inspired by nature. On his website, he has rolled out an initiative called “Manolo At Home,” sharing his favorite films, virtual garden tours and more. Here, he gets into the details about his preferred hobby.

A fantastical shoe inspired by the leaves of the Acanthus plant, with acorn baubles.

Do you feel that this has been an especially creative time for you?

No matter the horror around, I always manage to create. I mean, it’s not all creative, as I spend time with other things—I sketch a lot, but I watch lots of films and read many books. Lately I’ve been reading The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and The Last Attachment by Iris Origo.

Has quarantine changed the way you approach or think about sketching?

I have always sketched, all throughout my life—so nothing has really changed. Although I think design needs to be simplified.

What does a typical day look like for you right now? Any new daily rituals you’ve added to the mix?

Each day I wake up very early—I spend my time sketching, of course, but I recently have been watching a lot of movies from the 1930s and 1940s—from another time, and a pleasant distraction from what is going on in the world. I watched Dinner at Eight with Jean Harlow and Marie Dressler, it was very funny, well-constructed—I loved it!

About how much time do you spend sketching every day?

Depends how I feel, sometimes all day, sometimes not at all!

A mule inspired by the colors and textures of coral reefs

Any preferred brands of paper or paints?

All of my tools are from the wonderful Green & Stone in Chelsea, London. A pad of paper, brushes, and Dr. Ph. Martin’s inks, which are my favorite!

What would be your advice to someone who is trying out sketching for the first time?

Start out with doodling and take it from there.

What are some of the ways you’ve been connecting with friends and family right now?

I have been using FaceTime unfortunately, I don’t like it so much but I am happy to use anything and ready for anything.