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Ann Carrington

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Ann Carrington
The large pieces on the wall are mine. They are huge coins made from flattened tin cans.

I grew up in Broadstairs in Kent, a small seaside town on the east coast of England. As soon as I was old enough to hold a pencil I wanted to draw, paint and make things. I remember saving up for a year so I could purchase my first camera when I was seven, and when I was nine my art teacher at school gave me a present to take home, a box of beautiful inks and a drawing book. I wrote my own books and illustrated them and even won a couple of national drawing competitions for children. I enrolled at the local art college when I was ten where they had weekend art lessons for children—needless to say, I loved it!

Ann Carrington

My family were not artistic, but they really supported me. As a child I used to make things from materials that were available to me; I made shoes from cardboard boxes and dollhouses from cereal packets. I had a huge box of scrap fabrics that I cut up and made into brooches and small toys. It never felt like second best materials or second best toys. Because I made them, they were really alive in my imagination.

I like to explore and unravel the stories within an object to make a new narrative.

I always loved drawing and painting and was quite good at it too! My teacher used to ask me to illustrate the lessons on the blackboard for the other children. I can remember other people telling me I would be an artist when I grew up, but I had no creative role models, as I am not from an artistic family, so it wasn’t until I went to art college that I realised I could be an artist as my job!

Ann Carrington
The first everyday materials I tried were what was available to me as a child: cardboard, egg boxes, string, material scraps. After The Royal College of Art, I won the Commonwealth Fellowship for sculpture, which enabled me to travel extensively in Southern Africa. I set up a studio in Zimbabwe just outside Harare for a while. It was a very inspiring time. I was documenting and researching all kinds of creative recycling, particularly children’s toys. Children who don’t have access to manufactured toys make their own, and I decided to study their making techniques and record their remarkable toys and sculptures. A lady in the village I was working in made me two bowls from woven telephone wires. I love them because they transport me back to that time and because they remind me that humble materials in the right hands can become something quite remarkable. My time there provided me with an awareness that most materials in the world, new or old, have the potential to be material for artwork.

I went to quite a few different schools in England as my family moved around. After school I went to study at Bourneville College of Art, which was an art college established for the workers of the local chocolate factory. We had to walk through the chocolate factory every day to get to the art lessons. At Bourneville College I decided I wanted to specialize in Fine Art so I studied for a degree in painting; but during the course of my time there my paintings became more and more three dimensional and I started to incorporate lots of ‘found’ materials into them—I was a frustrated sculptor! I got a first class degree and was awarded a place at The Royal College of Art in London to study for an MA in sculpture.

Ann Carrington

I always made things at home from old materials. It didn’t occur to me that it was art. The art I did at school was more conventional but I was pretty good technically—drawing still lifes, learning about perspective, how to use paint, etc. It was only when I went to art college that I realised that what I was doing at home also qualified as art! I’ve been a professional artist for 30 years but an artist all my life!

I got quite a bit of attention at my Royal College degree show and almost straight away had my first one-person show. Back then I shared a number of studios with a group of artists—we squatted buildings in central London and, because we were not paying rent, we were able to concentrate on our artwork. We didn’t need to sell work as we didn’t need any money! This was a fantastically creative period.

Ann Carrington
Making wheat from tea spoons. Here I am finishing them off. I am adding the ‘ears’ of wheat. The ‘ears’ are made from silver wire. Here I am tweaking the wire into the right shape and length for the wheat.

I tell stories with materials. I like my art works to tell a story and the materials are part and parcel of that. All objects come with their own histories or associations whether you are talking about an old teapot, a pair of shoes or a box of old buttons. So, for example, a coconut shell, for me, evokes memories of being a child and banging together two halves of a coconut to make the sound of galloping horses. From this seed of an idea I made sculptures of life size galloping horses from coconut shells. Another idea I had was to make a crocodile from beaten up crocodile shoes—taking the shoes full circle and returning them to the crocodile.

By sourcing and salvaging existing components as partial ready-mades, I was coercing a sculpture into being, like a sampled song from existing music and lyrics.

Using found materials, for me, is about observation and lateral thinking; an awareness of everything in the world. There is a great wealth of resources waiting to be used from what others deem unusable materials which have been exploited or discarded, and I approach them all indiscriminately. The resulting artworks comment indirectly on the modern throwaway culture and also on the artistic climate that had helped pave the way. This route was laid down by the likes of Picasso and Braque, whose African-inspired constructions suggested that modeling clay and chiseling stone were not the only material options for a sculptor.

I first turned to found materials for the building of artwork as a new student in the Sculpture School of The Royal College of Art. The sculptures were a three dimensional extension of the scrap and sticking-in books I had kept since a child. Instead of paper cut-outs and post cards; spoons, knives, forks, tin cans, tea pots, maracas and shoes were rearranged, altered or manipulated to give new meaning as sculpture.

What I found fascinating about these objects was that they were already made of multiple processes, materials, influences and components and often manufactured in different countries. As such, they were rich with meaning, association and history.

I am constantly working with new materials and textures, which keeps me on my toes, as I have to constantly learn new techniques to conquer new materials. In order to make my signature bouquets from found objects, I went to welding school in the evenings for four months. Two months ago I learnt how to glass blow and right now I am on a silversmithing course to enable me to solder silver teaspoons into delicate flowers.

I love Dutch still life flower paintings and have spent a lot of time in Amsterdam in my youth and more recently. European painting, especially Dutch still life painting, is the backdrop to what I do. It informs my sculpture. My flower sculptures are modern day memento mori, Latin for ‘remember you will die.’ They are inspired by Dutch still lifes of the 16th and 17th centuries in which the pictures teem with precious objects testifying to the pleasures of life and the flow of time, such as a pocket watch, a pewter mug, a vase of flowers, a set table.

Ann Carrington

The flowers in my cutlery bouquets are constructed from silver plated spoons, pewter tankards, silver vases and plates—the contents of a 16th century Dutch still life reassembled in another dimension and time.

Ann Carrington

Sometimes I will see interesting objects juxtaposed which might suggest an idea. Or I may see things in multiples and that will trigger a new direction. The idea for the bouquets came to me in part by observing a pile of spoons at a junkyard and noticing how they looked like a blossom. I always take photographs or record the idea in sketch form and then I will return to it when I have the time to develop the idea more fully.

I sold the first big bouquet I made from cutlery to The Victoria and Albert Museum, which is the world’s leading decorative arts and design museum, about two years ago and it is on permanent display. This has always been my favourite museum. Confidence is the key to being creative and having my work exhibited there has made me more confident in my making.

The materials often determine the artwork as they reveal their stories to me.

When I set out to make a bouquet, I will order in vast quantities of cutlery, mainly spoons. I will buy spoons at auctions and junk shops. When I have enough spoons I will sort them. Small spoons like tea spoons will become small petals for flowers like primroses or buttercups. Silver spoons are soft and I can hammer them easily to make curled rose petals.

Then I will cut the spoon ends from the spoon handles; the ‘bowl’ part of the spoon becomes a petal. Then I will hammer the spoons to make the correct shape depending on what flower I am making. So, for example, to make a tulip bud I will hammer a spoon until it closes in on itself. A rose petal would be made from a round spoon like a soup spoon. I would then hammer the soup spoon and curl it with pliers to make a rose petal shape.

Ann Carrington

Next, I weld the flowers. Some spoons are steel and require welding. Silver spoons have to be soldered. Brass spoons are brazed. It’s quite complex and you have to know about different metals and how to join them. There are many different techniques, and making the flowers for a bouquet can take up to four months. I need hundreds of spoons, even though I don’t use all of them. They have to be there in case I need a particular flower.

When all the flowers are made I put them in a big pile. I find a large metal vase, and then I weld the flowers into a bouquet shape. I don’t use pictures or drawings. I have (I’ve been told!) a very good visual memory. I don’t even have a picture in my head. I just start, I focus…and the bouquet almost builds itself.

In the future I would love to set up studio in a new city, ideally New York. I sell most of my work there and find New York totally exhilarating and creatively inspiring. I’m looking forward to having a solo show open this year in Los Angeles at Paul Smith on Melrose Avenue. I am making lots of new bouquets for this show, amongst other new pieces. I am also making a large mural in Houston, Texas in May. It’s a giant magnet onto which I attach by magnetic force lots of scrap metal items to build up a cityscape. I’m going to Japan, where I will be looking at bamboo sculptures as research. I have also been commissioned to make a huge banner for the Lord Mayor of London for his inauguration. It will be made from thousands of silver buttons on a blue velvet backdrop.

Ann Carrington

In the meantime, I am expanding my studio practice. I currently have a large studio in a converted railway goods yard, but I am making it twice the size. I want to continue my work, which is about about seeing things with fresh eyes—seeing beauty where it might normally be hidden.

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try.” —Dr. Seuss

Ann Carrington
The large pieces on the wall are mine. They are huge coins made from flattened tin cans.

I grew up in Broadstairs in Kent, a small seaside town on the east coast of England. As soon as I was old enough to hold a pencil I wanted to draw, paint and make things. I remember saving up for a year so I could purchase my first camera when I was seven, and when I was nine my art teacher at school gave me a present to take home, a box of beautiful inks and a drawing book. I wrote my own books and illustrated them and even won a couple of national drawing competitions for children. I enrolled at the local art college when I was ten where they had weekend art lessons for children—needless to say, I loved it!

Ann Carrington

My family were not artistic, but they really supported me. As a child I used to make things from materials that were available to me; I made shoes from cardboard boxes and dollhouses from cereal packets. I had a huge box of scrap fabrics that I cut up and made into brooches and small toys. It never felt like second best materials or second best toys. Because I made them, they were really alive in my imagination.

I like to explore and unravel the stories within an object to make a new narrative.

I always loved drawing and painting and was quite good at it too! My teacher used to ask me to illustrate the lessons on the blackboard for the other children. I can remember other people telling me I would be an artist when I grew up, but I had no creative role models, as I am not from an artistic family, so it wasn’t until I went to art college that I realised I could be an artist as my job!

Ann Carrington

The first everyday materials I tried were what was available to me as a child: cardboard, egg boxes, string, material scraps. After The Royal College of Art, I won the Commonwealth Fellowship for sculpture, which enabled me to travel extensively in Southern Africa. I set up a studio in Zimbabwe just outside Harare for a while. It was a very inspiring time. I was documenting and researching all kinds of creative recycling, particularly children’s toys. Children who don’t have access to manufactured toys make their own, and I decided to study their making techniques and record their remarkable toys and sculptures. A lady in the village I was working in made me two bowls from woven telephone wires. I love them because they transport me back to that time and because they remind me that humble materials in the right hands can become something quite remarkable. My time there provided me with an awareness that most materials in the world, new or old, have the potential to be material for artwork.

I went to quite a few different schools in England as my family moved around. After school I went to study at Bourneville College of Art, which was an art college established for the workers of the local chocolate factory. We had to walk through the chocolate factory every day to get to the art lessons. At Bourneville College I decided I wanted to specialize in Fine Art so I studied for a degree in painting; but during the course of my time there my paintings became more and more three dimensional and I started to incorporate lots of ‘found’ materials into them—I was a frustrated sculptor! I got a first class degree and was awarded a place at The Royal College of Art in London to study for an MA in sculpture.

Ann Carrington

I always made things at home from old materials. It didn’t occur to me that it was art. The art I did at school was more conventional but I was pretty good technically—drawing still lifes, learning about perspective, how to use paint, etc. It was only when I went to art college that I realised that what I was doing at home also qualified as art! I’ve been a professional artist for 30 years but an artist all my life!

I got quite a bit of attention at my Royal College degree show and almost straight away had my first one-person show. Back then I shared a number of studios with a group of artists—we squatted buildings in central London and, because we were not paying rent, we were able to concentrate on our artwork. We didn’t need to sell work as we didn’t need any money! This was a fantastically creative period.

Ann Carrington
Making wheat from tea spoons. Here I am finishing them off. I am adding the ‘ears’ of wheat. The ‘ears’ are made from silver wire. Here I am tweaking the wire into the right shape and length for the wheat.

I tell stories with materials. I like my art works to tell a story and the materials are part and parcel of that. All objects come with their own histories or associations whether you are talking about an old teapot, a pair of shoes or a box of old buttons. So, for example, a coconut shell, for me, evokes memories of being a child and banging together two halves of a coconut to make the sound of galloping horses. From this seed of an idea I made sculptures of life size galloping horses from coconut shells. Another idea I had was to make a crocodile from beaten up crocodile shoes—taking the shoes full circle and returning them to the crocodile.

By sourcing and salvaging existing components as partial ready-mades, I was coercing a sculpture into being, like a sampled song from existing music and lyrics.

Using found materials, for me, is about observation and lateral thinking; an awareness of everything in the world. There is a great wealth of resources waiting to be used from what others deem unusable materials which have been exploited or discarded, and I approach them all indiscriminately. The resulting artworks comment indirectly on the modern throwaway culture and also on the artistic climate that had helped pave the way. This route was laid down by the likes of Picasso and Braque, whose African-inspired constructions suggested that modeling clay and chiseling stone were not the only material options for a sculptor.

I first turned to found materials for the building of artwork as a new student in the Sculpture School of The Royal College of Art. The sculptures were a three dimensional extension of the scrap and sticking-in books I had kept since a child. Instead of paper cut-outs and post cards; spoons, knives, forks, tin cans, tea pots, maracas and shoes were rearranged, altered or manipulated to give new meaning as sculpture.

What I found fascinating about these objects was that they were already made of multiple processes, materials, influences and components and often manufactured in different countries. As such, they were rich with meaning, association and history.

I am constantly working with new materials and textures, which keeps me on my toes, as I have to constantly learn new techniques to conquer new materials. In order to make my signature bouquets from found objects, I went to welding school in the evenings for four months. Two months ago I learnt how to glass blow and right now I am on a silversmithing course to enable me to solder silver teaspoons into delicate flowers.

I love Dutch still life flower paintings and have spent a lot of time in Amsterdam in my youth and more recently. European painting, especially Dutch still life painting, is the backdrop to what I do. It informs my sculpture. My flower sculptures are modern day memento mori, Latin for ‘remember you will die.’ They are inspired by Dutch still lifes of the 16th and 17th centuries in which the pictures teem with precious objects testifying to the pleasures of life and the flow of time, such as a pocket watch, a pewter mug, a vase of flowers, a set table.

Ann Carrington

The flowers in my cutlery bouquets are constructed from silver plated spoons, pewter tankards, silver vases and plates—the contents of a 16th century Dutch still life reassembled in another dimension and time.

Ann Carrington

Sometimes I will see interesting objects juxtaposed which might suggest an idea. Or I may see things in multiples and that will trigger a new direction. The idea for the bouquets came to me in part by observing a pile of spoons at a junkyard and noticing how they looked like a blossom. I always take photographs or record the idea in sketch form and then I will return to it when I have the time to develop the idea more fully.

I sold the first big bouquet I made from cutlery to The Victoria and Albert Museum, which is the world’s leading decorative arts and design museum, about two years ago and it is on permanent display. This has always been my favourite museum. Confidence is the key to being creative and having my work exhibited there has made me more confident in my making.

The materials often determine the artwork as they reveal their stories to me.

When I set out to make a bouquet, I will order in vast quantities of cutlery, mainly spoons. I will buy spoons at auctions and junk shops. When I have enough spoons I will sort them. Small spoons like tea spoons will become small petals for flowers like primroses or buttercups. Silver spoons are soft and I can hammer them easily to make curled rose petals.

Then I will cut the spoon ends from the spoon handles; the ‘bowl’ part of the spoon becomes a petal. Then I will hammer the spoons to make the correct shape depending on what flower I am making. So, for example, to make a tulip bud I will hammer a spoon until it closes in on itself. A rose petal would be made from a round spoon like a soup spoon. I would then hammer the soup spoon and curl it with pliers to make a rose petal shape.

Ann Carrington

Next, I weld the flowers. Some spoons are steel and require welding. Silver spoons have to be soldered. Brass spoons are brazed. It’s quite complex and you have to know about different metals and how to join them. There are many different techniques, and making the flowers for a bouquet can take up to four months. I need hundreds of spoons, even though I don’t use all of them. They have to be there in case I need a particular flower.

When all the flowers are made I put them in a big pile. I find a large metal vase, and then I weld the flowers into a bouquet shape. I don’t use pictures or drawings. I have (I’ve been told!) a very good visual memory. I don’t even have a picture in my head. I just start, I focus…and the bouquet almost builds itself.

In the future I would love to set up studio in a new city, ideally New York. I sell most of my work there and find New York totally exhilarating and creatively inspiring. I’m looking forward to having a solo show open this year in Los Angeles at Paul Smith on Melrose Avenue. I am making lots of new bouquets for this show, amongst other new pieces. I am also making a large mural in Houston, Texas in May. It’s a giant magnet onto which I attach by magnetic force lots of scrap metal items to build up a cityscape. I’m going to Japan, where I will be looking at bamboo sculptures as research. I have also been commissioned to make a huge banner for the Lord Mayor of London for his inauguration. It will be made from thousands of silver buttons on a blue velvet backdrop.

Ann Carrington

In the meantime, I am expanding my studio practice. I currently have a large studio in a converted railway goods yard, but I am making it twice the size. I want to continue my work, which is about about seeing things with fresh eyes—seeing beauty where it might normally be hidden.

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try.” —Dr. Seuss

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