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  • LYRA, Anita Quansah. Photo courtesy of Anita Quansah

Between Art and Culture

by Sara Khan

As part of our Common Thread campaign, we met with Anita Quansah who has been making beaded African inspired accessories since 2006. 

Hear about her inspirations below and see her work in the flesh at Common Thread, 30 Aug – 1 Sept in London. 

Anita Quansah. Photo courtesy of Anita Quansah

 

What made you get into jewellery and accessories design?

My grandmother and family inspired me to get into jewellery and accessories design. I grew up in a traditional African family who have worked in the creative industries for many generations. Many members of my family have designed and made traditional attires out of handwoven and embellished textiles for the political leaders, kings, queens and traditional rulers of Igbo Land of Eastern Nigeria.

Like many of my family members, my grandmother was a strong, independent woman who had her own unique and individual style. She had boxes and boxes filled to the brim with so many treasures that inspired me to get into jewellery and accessories design. She loved and enjoyed dressing up. Her status as a designer, and wife of a celebrated traditional ruler and chief, meant she adorned herself majestically with gorgeous jewels, made of precious stones and dressed in cloths enriched with intricate embellished textiles.

As a child I looked up to her and her style. I often fantasized about her treasure box of jewels. Her inspirational collections and treasures inspired me to start designing. Delving into my very own imaginative trunk of treasures and recreating those wonderful memories.

FRIDA, Anita Quansah. Photo courtesy of Anita Quansah

How did you start your brand and what were some of the challenges?

I started my brand in 2006, after I gained more experience from working with various design companies. My brand set up was incredibly challenging at first, especially being a self-funded independent designer and expose was incredibly limited. Living In a world saturated with so much creative brilliance, I often found it difficult to break through.

Another challenge is that of reaching the needs of the masses and fulfilling interests.  As a one-woman run company, I wanted to maintain that small-scale business with a project plan of a big scale business.  Whilst it’s a dream of mine to have my products in reputable stores, I had to undertake projects that I can successfully fulfil and execute brilliantly as an individual creative.

This has helped me to not take on too much and exhaust my creative mind frame.

What inspires your work?

I’m always inspired by the various cultures around the world but especially my African heritage. From the rich cultures to the exuberant colours, textures, patterns and textiles. In my work I always try to pay homage to the wonderful experiences I had growing up being exposed to different cultures. I try to weave this into my work and use materials that best represents my culture.

Luna Slippers, Anita Quanash. Photo courtesy of Anita Quanash

Tell us a bit about your background and how this has influenced your work?

I’m a curious human, who loves the beauty and magic that can manifest into reality by working with my hands. As a child, I was extremely inquisitive about my surroundings and visually perceived things differently.

This curiosity led me to train within the creative field. I gained a textiles degree from Chelsea College of Art and Design in 2003 and evolved by background as a textiles designer to set up my accessories label in 2006 after working for many fashion design companies. I’m so fortunate to be influenced by my African and British background. Designing is a process of transformation and culture preservation to me. It helps to keep my tradition, heritage, and memory alive. I like to create pieces which are unique, distinctive, and show a true flair for combining cultural inspirations through statement pieces that have their own stories behind them.

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