Meet the Maker - Anya Paintsil
Anya Paintsil is a Welsh-Ghanaian artist working primarily with textiles.
From rug hooking to embroidery, her assemblages evoke tactile tapestry on the one hand, and constitute semi-sculptural interventions on the other. Frequently using weaves, braids and other hair pieces (as well as her own hair), Paintsil laces debates around race and gender into the very fabric of her work.
Playful and profound, flippant and forceful, her practice engages the language of fibres — of all kinds — with interrogations of materiality and political personhood.
We caught up with her for an exclusive interview to learn more about the inspiration behind her work plus some top tips for textiles projects!
Hi Anya, thanks so much for taking part in our Meet the Maker interview. Please can you introduce yourself to FOQ visitors and those interested in entering The Fine Art Textiles Award.
Anya: My name is Anya Paintsil, I’m a textile artist from originally from North Wales living in NW England.
What do you make?
Anya: I make hand hooked large scale textile pieces using traditional rug making techniques and afro hair styling techniques, combining yarn, human hair and hair pieces to create portraits.
How did you get interested/started in your creative field?
Anya: The skills I use in my practice are things I’ve known how to do since childhood – I learnt to rug hook as a from my grandma and taught myself to braid hair from around age nine. I went to art school when I was 24ish because I was bored and wanted to dedicate a portion of my life to something I truly enjoyed – making art.
My textile practice was secondary to painting at that point but I became more and more interested in the relationship between art and craft, and I became interested utilising creative skills of mine that I’d learnt out of an arts education context. I wanted to challenge people’s preconceived notions of what can be considered ‘fine art’.
Your mum eats like a Camel, 2020
I also began working this way because I view craft, particularly textile, quite a politically charged medium, largely due to it’s history with the feminist art movement but also because of its innate ability to draw viewers in with its familiar nature, but it in ways it is disarming; drawing people to something somewhat familiar and stealthily confronting them with difficult issues – in the case of my own work – racism and trauma.
What is your workspace/studio like?
Anya: My whole house is basically my studio, I have a dedicated room but I find I end up just using it for storage and end up picking up my work and taking it wherever I feel like being. There’s loads of yarn everywhere!
Creative tool you couldn’t live without?
Anya: Punch needle
What’s your creative process/ routine? How often are you making?
Anya: I wake up at around 11am I work until about 5pm if I have no meetings or other stuff to do and then I cook and eat and then watch tv but occasionally work while watching tv then around 10pm I start work again until about 3am. I do this usually in bursts when I’m finishing a piece at then I have a bit of time off.
Do you listen to anything whilst you’re working?
Anya: Usually audiobooks
What is your next project?
Anya: I’m currently working on a body of work exploring the concept of ‘natural hair journeys’. A process when black women stop chemically straightening their hair and transition to their natural texture.
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
Anya: Everything has been pretty disrupted because of the covid situation but I have a solo show opening at Glynn Vivian Art Gallery on 26/05/2021 and a work of mine will also be shown at the Craft Council Gallery Makers Eye show later this year! There’s also lots of stuff that’s yet to be announced so keep an eye on my IG.
God Will Punish Him, 2021
What have been your biggest challenges/achievements, or your favourite story so far?
Anya: My biggest achievement so far is being able to have a career as an artist and support myself from my work – something I even up to about two years ago I thought would be a complete impossibility.
Other highlights have been winning the 2020 Wakelin Award, getting commercially represented by my gallery Ed Cross Fine Art, and a solo presentation at my favourite art fair, 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair.
My favourite moment so far was actually at the one 1:54 – a little black girl walked up to a work of mine, depicting my sister as a child, and said “That looks like me!”
I’ll never forget that.
What are your three top tips for crafters and makers…
- Find a way of making that suits you
- Push your tools and experiment
- Look for bargains in charity shops
Mair at Cylch Meithrin 2020 (work acquired by the Glynn vivian from the Wakelin Award and the work that the little girl pointed at and said that ‘looks like me!’)