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  • Natasha Hastings, Yulia Brodskaya. Photo courtesy of Yulia Brodskaya

Common Thread

The Spirit of Carnival

Crafts Council x Creative Debuts presents Common Thread, a celebration of the diverse creatives in the UK and beyond. We believe in the power of storytelling through craft, art, and design. Throughout August – October 2018, we will be providing a platform for the talents of tomorrow to tell their stories. 

On 30 Aug – 1 Sept we will celebrate the spirit of Notting Hill Carnival by bringing together the works of over 20 artists reflecting on African-Caribbean history, identity, and culture. Expect to see works including photography, ceramics, textiles, embroidery, digital art, film, and an opportunity to make something yourself.

See some of our highlights below.

Abo, The Adorned Series, Aami, Ade Asikò Okelarin. Photo courtesy of Ade Asikò Okelarin

Ade Àsìkò Okelarin

Born in London, in 1978, of Nigerian parents, Ade is a self-taught visual artist who expresses his ideas through photography and mixed media. Following his birth, Àsìkò spent his childhood years in Lagos and migrated back to London in 1995 as an adolescent. The resulting mixture of cultures and disciplines continues to influence his work and helps inform his decisions as an artist.

The Adorned Series: Aami explores stages in womanhood and its confluence with African culture and adornment using jewellery. Wearing specific jewellery tells a story about yourself, it is a form self-expression prevalent in African culture. Jewellery isused to show your place in society, the stage you are in your life or your status. The type of materials used in the jewellery like feathers, shells, beads, bones or metals all provide clues and statements about you. This symbolism and meaning in expression provided the basis of these conceptual images. In the works, Àsìkò used materials like cowrie and feathers used in African jewellery to construct symbolic narratives of the stages of womanhood.

I Don't See in Colour, Rayvenn Shaleigha D'Clark

Rayvenn Shaleigha D'Clark

Rayvenn is a London-born and UK-based sculptor that specialises in lifecasting, bodycasting and prosthetics. Her practice exposes the black body laid bare - in traction, unencumbered. She is motivated by issues inherent to the African diaspora - including invisibility vs. hyper- visibility, blackness and the notion of the body politic – in a larger discussion of the irregular position of the black body in the contemporary art-world. As an artist of colour, she believes her work negates stagnant, collective Terms of Reference and a persisting 'outsider' status, and it is this ideological positioning that she hopes to question within her practice.

In her 3D printed sculpture I Don’t See in Colour, Rayvenn  felt  engaged  within  the  process  of  keeping  the  black  figures  at  the  forefront  of  our  consciousness. The  image  of  black  bodies  becoming  lasting  and  impermeable  by  being  sculptured  into  objects.  The idea of power and hierarchy also influenced her work. For  example,  the  dominant  criticism  of  the  presume  whiteness  of  Renaissance  sculptures  is  something  that  informs  her  practice

I  Don’t  See  In  Colour  is  a  voyage  into  the  Economics  of  Sex,  Race  and  Gender  in  the  Digital  Age.  A  response  to  discourse  surrounding  the  commodification  of  women;  imposed  upon  them  through  consumerist  trends  and  unrealistic  capitalist  idealisations  and  visualisation,  this  work  is  an  exercise  of  turning  the  system  inwards,  on  itself.  To  use  the  power,  influence  and  materials  of  the  industry  to  re-articulate  and  elevate  the  black  female  form. 

Luna Slippers, Anita Quanash. Photo courtesy of Anita Quanash

Anita Quansah

Anita’s work evolved from her background as a textile designer and jewellery curator. Not only is the designer from a highly diverse mixed background Nigerian, Ghanaian and British, she’s also from a traditional; African family who have been in the creative industry for many generations, designing and making traditional attires out of handwoven and embellished textiles for the political leaders, kings, queens and traditional rulers of Igbo Land of Eastern Nigeria.

Each piece in the collection is the Revered Beauty collection are made using different elements such as traditional and rare African materials, semi-precious stones as well as pieces of vintage jewellery in order to create new and exciting pieces.

This collection is inspired by her childhood memories of African Masquerades and Masks. Growing up in Africa as a child, she was used to attending a lot of festivities and family events. Usually at some of these events such as burials or events held by the king; several Masquerades parade the village displaying their colourful costumes. As a child, Anita was fascinated by this tradition. This curiosity inspired her to design this collection that is heavily influenced by the, facial characteristics, colours, patterns and symbolisms of the African Masks and Masquerades.

Liberated, Desrie Thomson-George. Photo Aduke Thomson

Desrie Thomson-George

Desrie’s work has its basis in the social, cultural and political awareness of her existence as a Black woman brought up in the west and its effects. Desrie’s practice focuses on art for empowerment to provoke dialogue and affect change.

For this series of work, Desrie was inspired by and believes she has descended  from  a  long  line  of  storytellers  or  West  African  ‘Griots’  -  someone  who  passes  on  their  society's  history,  especially  through  stories,  poems,  and  music. For as long as she can remember vivid stories have been recounted around her usually with a moral message. Through the creation of figurative sculptures and installations she tells the story of Jilo, a Black woman, her struggles and her journey to liberation. Her invisibility while being visible, and the irony of this. Desrie experiments with recycled metal, glass, paper and textiles, sometimes pressed into jesmonite and plaster moulds, to reflect the complexities of her experience and who she is. The materials were selected deliberately to symbolise different states of being. For example, metal for strength, latex - invisibility and vulnerability, glass – fragility, and paper - media or propaganda.

Forget Me Not, Rianna Norbert-David. Photo courtesy of Rianna Norbert-David

Rianna Norbert-David

Rianna is a London-based storyteller. Her work often reflects the diversity of her British-Caribbean heritage; exploring themes of community, displacement, migration and the home. Specialising in Printed Textiles at both Chelsea College of Art and The Royal College of Art, Rianna has developed her own multidisciplinary style. She mixes digital printing with screen-printing, hand dyeing, hand drawing/painting, and embroidery techniques to create immersive collages that hold a narrative.          

In her Forget Me Not collage, Rianna captured the Newington Green/Mildmay area in Northeast London that she sees as a treasure of history and culture and has fast become a trendy hub in recent years. The regeneration of the area has resulted in the rise of living costs that has consequently left some of the local community feeling alien and pushed out. Rianna grew up in the area and experienced first-hand the changes that are happening. The #forgetmenotproject was born out of a need to document her feelings about the transformation of her home in hope of keeping my memories alive. She explored the themes of disappearing communities through the mix of various surface pattern, print and stitch techniques. The use of both hard and soft materials, Over-layering and collaging is a very important aspect of this project-used to show the diversity that makes up the community as well as the many different sides to gentrification.

Natasha Hastings, Yulia Brodskaya. Photo courtesy of Yulia Brodskaya

Yulia Brodskaya

Yulia is a paper artist and illustrator. She uses two simple materials-paper and glue, and a simple technique that involves the placement of carefully cut and bent strips of paper - to make lush, vibrant, three-dimensional paper artworks. Yulia started working as a graphic designer and illustrator in 2006, however quickly abandoned the computer programs in favour of paper art. Fans of her work include the likes of Oprah Winfrey and Paramount Pictures.

Yulia evolved her technique away from traditional Quilling in creating this series of work by combing different coloured paper strips as if she was mixing different paints on a pallate, and then pack them tightly together into angular arrangements that mimic the look and feel of an Impressionist brushstroke. The series depicts portraits of young people. Her portraits shows strong and inspiring muses such as athletes or a fantasy world to evoke an emotion.