Today we celebrate World Ocean Day, and what a perfect day to introduce you to Anna, multitalented artist and designer, very conscious about ocean and environment pollution.
Anna is an incredible artist and designer whose work is mainly focused on recycling and upcycling, being conscious about the environment and about how she can create eco-friendly, wearable art.
Her work is intricately detailed and beautiful. Everything Anna makes, she does it by hand, giving her work that extra luxurious touch. The mixture of fashion and comtemporary art can be appreciated in her master pieces, which become fantastical stories to be experienced.
Let's talk about you and your work.
There is a global problem with plastic bags. They end up in oceans and soil, becoming a massive danger to our species, which die as a consequence of eating this plastic or get seriously injured, not to mention the environmental pollution of tons of plastic bags piled in beaches or landfill. I think what you do with plastic bags is absolutely amazing and inspiring. You recycle them and create masterpieces. Tell us more about what you do with them and why you decided to create wearable art out of plastic bags.
I started working with plastic bags a very long time ago, when I was young. I was already working with tights from maybe the age of 6 or 8, making rugs out of them, turning them into yarn. Just seeing people at the supermarkets grabbing all these free plastic bags, I know they are not free now but they used to be. It goes beyond that, all the plastic packaging even before a product reaches the shelf, it's been in so many plastic bags. It is quite shocking.
I quickly realised I could turn plastic bags into yarn as well. I am wearing a plastic bag as a necklace right now, one Sainsbury's bag. I am very lucky to have been able to do many projects because plastic bags are still such a threat to nature, to our world. The current plastic bags projects are mainly in collaboration with the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.
I hope you also feel inspired to do something with them.
You hosted an event at the National Maritime Museum where you created and showed people how to make head pieces out of the plastic bags polluting our oceans. How did attendants find the experience? Do you think people are aware of the dangers of the excessive use of plastic or do you think society still needs more information on this matter?
I've worked with the National Maritime Museum on several projects about plastic bags now and other institutions including Kingston University's Stanley Picker Gallery, so I hope I've done my bit to educate people. It is interesting because working with children is totally different when you are working with adults. I think adults are aware of the environmental impact of plastic bags but they forget about all those unseen plastic bags, the plastic bags being used in packaging packages, packaging of foods. Children are easier to influence and I often feel that I create a longer lasting influence which, in turn, influences their parents.
So far the response has been amazing and most people don’t even realise that things like my necklace are made from plastic bags and all these amazing ways you can use them in your everyday arts and crafts.
You teamed up with Lenka Horakova on your project The Tights Ball. I find it very interesting as I am a big fan of upcycling tights to give them a new life. Can you tell us why tights are harmful for the environment and what this project is about?
It is a project I am really passionate about. It is a project that started when I was 6 or 8 years old making rugs with my grandma out of tights and when I met Lenka in Goldsmiths (University) we teamed up with John, just after we graduated, and this project we had Arts Council funding for. We’ve worked with lots of amazing places and charities, the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and lots of councils in London. It’s gained a lot of momentum. We had a little pause and now we are restarting it, which is very exciting. As my motto for this project is: ‘Tights are basically plastic bags for your legs’. They are made out of nylon, so they are non-recyclable. They are small, flimsy and have a stigma of being thought of as underwear around them, that people really don’t think about the impact that they have but you wear a pair of tights most days. I do, for sure.
The future for the Tights Ball Project is looking very exciting. In the past we did workshops, educating people on how to crochet out of tights, teaching people why tights are bad, what other things they can make out of tights. We are doing blogs about all the many uses of tights that you could have: in your garden, in your crafts, making dog toys, anything you can think of. It is about trying to get people to repurpose tights, rather than just put them in the bin. That is the key, so even if you don't feel crafty, you can cut tights into yarn and give it to someone who is feeling crafty. We are now hoping to partner with some more councils to collect tights to help people think about this, and all the other plastic materials that we wear, so it is a lot more than just tights.
In 2018, you participated on Andrew Logan’s renowned show Alternative Miss World. One of the dresses you designed was completely made out of tights! Wow. That is astounding. What other materials and techniques did you use to create your outfits?
Alternative Miss World was a huge undertaking. I absolutely love making my costumes.It took me a very, very long time. I think the dress made out of tights took me the longest, probably. It was over 600 pairs of tights all crocheted and it was so ridiculously heavy. The eveningwear costume I made it out of lots of things: tights, bottle tops, plastic bags, anything you can think of plastic rubbish related. Then the swimwear I made out of seashells, which I collected, tights as well, pebbles and marbles. It was lots of fun to make. These costumes you should really have to see them up close. I think being on the stage of the Globe didn’t do as much justice as I hoped but there are lots of photos, so have a look.
The techniques for my wearable art, both small and big, I do not use sewing machines at all, so everything is created by hand. I have a sewing machine, but I literally take it out once a year for something. Even seams, I love to do them by hand. It is quite magical when something is created by hand, it sort of goes back to before people had sewing machines and everything became so industrialised and so mass produced. Even if it is a simple object like these earrings I have on (Anna´s own design), they are similar but they are not exactly the same, the makeup on my face, it is not going to be identical because it is done by hand and I think wearing something like that you really respect the maker a lot more than if something that is produced by machine. I don’t really think about time when it comes to making wearable art.
You design impressive bespoke jewellery using recycled materials with your signature touch of sparkling details. Which are your favourite materials when it comes to jewellery?
For the smaller pieces of wearable art I have my own vocabulary of favourite materials. It usually starts with a recycled material that is like the hero. It could be anything from old, unwanted clothes, which can be cut into yarn or strips or used as fabric, or buttons or zips, bottle tops, tights, plastic bags, ring pulls, wine corks. I get lots of unwanted flowers from all sorts of displays and florists. With beads, I try to get as many reclaimed beads as I can. It could be anything that came off a handbag and lots of Swaroski, which I also try to get reclaimed rather than new.
Tell us about your journey into sustainable fashion. How and when it began and how it developed over time.
I always created things out of recycled materials when I was little. I loved making things and my mum obviously didn’t give me that much money for materials. It was the norm to create things out of materials that you have, so at first I didn’t really think about it, but later on I realised the impact that plastics and rubbish have on the world and what I am actually doing is really good for the world, so that kind of was a natural thing for me. It still shocks me now that people try to buy new materials than use what they have. It seems so natural to me. As I say everyday, if I can save one plastic bag from going to landfill, I’ve done a good thing today. If I can save one pair of tights or one bottle top, I’ve done a good thing.
I like to say 'buy less, buy what you love and buy sustainably' . I like to buy things as much as any other person so I understand the need for some retail therapy. There's 2 questions I ask myself when I'm shopping - Does this item represent my beliefs (fairtrade, sustainable, organic etc.,)? And, when I wear it, will it make me feel happy? If the answer is yes to both then absolutely, buy it, treat yourself!
How do you source the materials for your creations?
In terms of sorting the materials for my creations, I've been very lucky to develop a great network of friends and acquaintances who all know that I am looking for materials for my art and collect it. One of my friends who was a manager at Sainsbury’s, she had the keys to the bins where they put the plastic bags that people come to recycle, I would get those. Friends who have shops would collect plastic bags for me, and florist friends give me flowers. Recently I was in touch with Chapel Down, the vineyard, where I went for my birthday. I love their wine so much, so I needed an excuse to come back. I’ve asked them to collect corks for me, I had to come back to collect the corks. All my friends have little rubbish bins in their houses for Anna. They collect bottle tops, ring pulls, corks, you name it. have embraced this idea of foraging for materials on social media and onlineIt’s been fantastic having social media as a tool. For example, when I need the materials, say I was running out of green plastic bags for a costume I was making. I did a few posts and people have started to bring them to me.
I think a lot of my friends who are also creatives have embraced this idea of foraging for materials on social media and online. It’s just amazing the sort of swapping culture that has really become more popular recently. With crystals I even was getting some from a girl who stopped making greeting cards. It’s amazing what you can find when you put your mind to it. It just seems so simple to go and buy something new online and get it delivered, but you really don’t have to, so if any of you want to try this method, let me know how you get on.
Who and what inspires you to create? What are your influences?
I don’t think I could pinpoint one influence or one inspiration. When I am working I actually don’t like to have too many moodboard images on my wall, because I don’t want to feel like I am picturising anybody. I love art, culture and history and historical costume. I love the Elizabethan period, I like the Victorian era, I love reading, I love going to museums, I am obsessed with the Wallace Collection, the V&A and the National Portrait Gallery, probably my favourite museums in London. Outside, whenever I am in Bournemouth, I love to visit the beautiful Preraphaelite paintings by Dante Gabriel Rossetti at Russel-Coates museum.
I love film, I love the world, I love the planet, I love nature, I love flowers, I love the intricate details of flowers, I love animals. There is no one particular thing that I could pinpoint to you.
I guess I would be sad if I didn't say amazing people like Dali and Frida Kahlo have always been an inspiration to me, their work is amazing and I think a good work ethic for me has been a driving force, especially with what I do, which is very meticulous and very time consuming, you have to have a passion for it, you have to have a structured day, you have to make yourself work, you have to push yourself. Having amazing friends/mentors who have really pushed me creatively to the next level, so I think surround yourself with people that will inspire you and will make you work harder.
Could you give some tips to create a more sustainable wardrobe?
Key to having a sustainable wardrobe is many things, including knowing what you are buying, what materials are your clothes, so if you are buying a blend of polyester and cotton that means the item is essentially bad for the world whilst if you by silk or cotton 100% natural fibers, that is a good thing for the world. I think it is better buying less and buying things that you truly love, which will in turn allow you to buy beautiful pieces made by happy people that are reasonably paid, which will make you feel great, not like Primark, clothes which make you think of the children who made them. And then, actually styling these pieces in lots of different ways, using accessories like belts and jewellery to make your clothes look different.
The next stage would be once you know for sure you are not going to wear it again, you can give it to a friend, give it to a charity shop, sell it on one of those fantastic apps and websites out there, like Vestiaire Collective, Depop, Ebay, Shpock, anything. In the very worst case scenario where your item is definitely not wearable or reparable, you can’t even repurpose it to make a cushion out of it, what you could do, you could chop up the trimmings, like buttons and zips, so they can be recycled separately or you can use them for a craft project. As long as it is a single material like cotton or silk or wool, they can still be recycled, which is very exciting, put it in a textile recycling bin. Kind of think about the whole life of the garment.
Any future events you would like to share with us?
It is very hard to talk about future plans at the moment because, obviously, as with everyone in the world, we all had plans and they got cancelled, and especially with the live events I had plans for, obviously they got either cancelled or postponed to next year. There are lots of things online that are happening that I am part of, so watch the space. I can’t really talk about anyhing yet, it’s all hush hush. It’s going to be an exciting year and I am fully embracing working from home and doing more things online, so hopefully this change is actually good, you know, we will all come out stronger out of it. That’s a way of seeing it now. I haven’t really been making so many big costumes because I usually make them for events or for big public things and I am not planning to do any of that anytime soon.
I found an outlet (among other fellow creatives) for my creativity making beautiful luxurious facemasks during the pandemic and spend a bit of time painting and drawing. I'm looking forward to the times ahead whether it normal or the new normal.
Thank you Anna
If you would like to see more of Anna's art, check her website: https://www.annakompaniets.com/