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                Helen Downie’s success story is perfect. The enigmatic, private artist, known by her Instagram moniker Unskilled Worker, could never have imagined what a life-changer sharing her extraordinary paintings via this platform would be. Her first Instagram follower was her son, but within a very short time she had gained a worldwide following and, via the creation of her distinctive, sad-eyed characters, this has become what she does every day. Since 2015, alongside her personal work, Downie has been collaborating with Gucci’s Alessandro Michele, creating her magical interpretations of his collections. Downie’s rise…

Years of carbon dioxide damage from the collective heavy breathing of tourists has meant that in a very few years, the tomb of Tutankhamun – which survived a miraculous 3000 years before discovery – will have to be replaced with a 3D-scanned facsimile. Then you’ve got Islamic State’s deliberate bombing of swathes of historic ruins in Iraq and Syria, in particular in Palmyra where tombs and temples of huge historical importance were demolished. What would we do if everything disappeared?

Pop culture would look very different if John Waters had chosen a different career path. What would punk have looked like if John Waters hadn’t made Pink Flamingos in 1972, for instance? For 50 years, Waters – the biggest cult in show business – has proved time and again that “bad taste is what entertainment is all about”. Whether in the role of director, performer, writer, visual artist or fashion plate, what has always been impressive is Waters’ joyful refusal to compromise.

Bethan Laura Wood‘s physical appearance is a riot of colour, texture, experimentation and unconventional beauty. Like her work, which explores the fascinating links between modernity, tradition and the beauty to be found in the everyday, the way she presents herself to the world is in itself a fantastic lifestyle choice. Wood has spent the years since graduating from the RCA’s MA course in Product Design gaining a global reputation for the objects she creates; from lighting to set design, furniture to jewellery. Whether collaborating with other designers or working with artisans in traditional processes, Wood’s work is a response to…

Who is your favourite porn star? Mine is Peter Berlin. Even though his films and photographs were not created ‘for’ me (they were obviously made exclusively for a gay male audience) he leaves me breathless. More because I’m obsessed with human beings who become their own unique creation than necessarily because of a penchant for gay porn. Peter Berlin: the name is pure Warhol superstar, the image: pure Tom of Finland.

Watts Towers, located in South Central Los Angeles, near to Compton and the site of the Watts riots of 1965, is a beautiful, poetic, awe-inspiring art work. It took a tiny Italian immigrant (I know he’s tiny because there’s a life-sized photograph of him in the arts centre attached to the site) called Simon (Sam) Rodia 33 years to build the collection of 17 interconnected structures. Having been sent by his parents to America at the tender age of 15 to avoid conscription, Rodia was gripped briefly by alcoholism and then, when he settled in Watts, by a vision to…

Jackson Boxer is a chef and restaurateur with an evangelical dedication to his calling; his attitude to cooking is an extension of his impassioned attitude to really living life, of elevating the simple pleasures and making them memorable. The night before our interview, he broke his foot lugging a piece of architectural salvage around London’s Brunswick House – business headquarters of antique emporium LASSCO since 2005 and home to Boxer’s restaurant for the last four years – but instead of calling off our meeting, he shoves the poor foot on a chair, makes light of it and proceeds to speed-talk…

My favourite cup is from Peter Shire’s Echo Park Pottery. It’s the cup from which I drink that crucial first coffee of the day. It is paint-spattered, tall, thin. It’s beautifully uneven: the surface has the texture of hessian, as though the clay was rolled over rough fabric. I love it. To use a piece crafted by an artist like Shire every day is a thrill. His work blurs the boundaries between fine art and industrial design, and ranges from public sculpture to teapots. He is perhaps best known for his work with the Milan-based radical design group, Memphis; founder Ettore…