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  • Anita Carnell in her studio

One to Watch: Anita Carnell

We speak to Hothouse 2017 maker Anita Carnell about 'painting in gold', Cordovan leather and Japanese textiles

Anita Carnell is a London-based designer-maker who specialises in hand-sculptured leather and gilded wire wall coverings.  These large works are meticulously created by hand over weeks, using techniques acquired during her time at the Royal School of Needlework. Her inspiration derives from 9th century Cordovan leather works and is inspired by the cycle of time.

Anita has been selected for Hothouse, the Crafts Council's Talent Development Programme for emerging makers. Find out more about Hothouse

What first got you interested in making? 

While visiting an exhibition of Japanese art, Threads of Silk and Gold at the Ashmolean Museum, I was struck by a pair of silk embroidered panels designed by renowned Japanese artist Takeuchi Sehio which depicted a skeleton kneeling and dancing. These panels incorporated a technique known as blank space or margin, this was a ‘light bulb’ moment for me, I knew I wanted to make and to understand this concept and incorporate it into my works, and for other people to see it in my works.Anita Carnell, Revealing Something New. Photo: Michael Lenny Studio

What in particular drew you to 9th century Cordovan leather? 

I was drawn to Cordovan leather wall hangings while researching my MA. I was struck by the elaborate designs, highly decorated with natural subjects and I loved the fact that they have longevity and acquire a great beauty over time. Leather panels do not retain the smell of food so they were used to adorn the dining rooms of European Palaces. I felt this could be reinterpreted into a modern concept.

Where have you shown or sold your work so far? 

I graduated in July 2016 from Camberwell which was my first show and I will launch my new works at Design Days Dubai, with the Crafts Council, in 2017.

Which project are you most proud of so far and why? 

I am proud of my collection as a whole. Each work has its own particular quality which I feel stands out.

Anita Carnell, Chance of 7. Photo: Michael Lenny Studio

What do you hope to get from Hothouse?

To have a platform for people to see my work and understand my story. Also, I hope to improve my business marking and overseas skills.

You describe your technique as ‘painting’ with leather and gilded wire. Can you explain more?

I used the term painting because each stitch is like a brush stroke, which applies a little bit of gold colour at a time

Elements of rhythm, meditation and Buddhism seem to be constant in your work. Could you tell us more about this? 

The process of stitching and forming is a rhythmical action which allows me an understanding of the symbiotic connections of the world, the invisible, and the visible and the feeling of space. The process is a meditative one which has some affinity to Buddhism.

You work at a wide range of scales, what are some of the differences and challenges at working at a larger

I do like to maintain the organic shape of the hides which can be large, so far as scale is concerned we are limited to the size of the hide used.


You can see more work from Anita and follow her at the Crafts Council Directory