Helen Carnac

Helen Carnac is a maker, curator and academic who lives and works in London. Drawing, mark-making, the explicit connections between material, process and maker and an emphasis on deliberation and reflection are all central to her practice as a maker and thinker.

‘I run an environmentally grounded practice, developing projects using design methodologies that are rooted in an acute awareness of physical location, place and working practices. The populated environment is of key importance to me and through my practice and projects I aim to bring people together, creating social and creative engagement and collaboration in an open-ended design process.

My early education was in making, I developed a curiosity about how things are made and how making is a form of thinking. My ongoing concerns are process-based, which means that often, if there is an outcome, it is an event rather than a product, a resting point rather than an end point. My understanding of ‘stuff’ or ‘things’ is fundamental to how I work and see the world and in my view there is a clear differentiation between understanding things and objects, how they may act as metaphorical devices and the wanton proliferation of products.

I often work in interdisciplinary environments and am currently working with various designers and artists on projects, including a DJ, textile artists, scientists, fine artists, choreographers, a performance artist, furniture designer and silversmith.

Since 2007 I have run the project ‘Making a Slow Revolution’ which aims to provide a forum for open discussion around the contribution of contemporary making and design to some of the philosophies presented within the Slow Movement. With particular development in thinking about place, provenance, co-design, relational methodologies, collaboration, gestational and layered time of processes, waste streams and walking, upcycling, mutability of life cycle and dialogue and conversation. I have travelled extensively to talk about the project and to contribute to developing thinking around it.

I have developed my own philosophies for thinking about these things through walking, talking and making by using an understanding/awareness of place through tracing the histories of making, industries past and present of a particular place and by collecting the detritus of place, something akin to an ethnographic study may be considered’

Research interests include

Process and ways of working; making and curating; drawing as an intellectual act, especially in relation to non-verbal discourse; exploration of industrial vitreous enamel and processes on steel plates and found objects; sustainability, ethics and values within design in the global context. Developing interdisciplinary networks between makers, academics, writers and curators. Using walking and collecting as a conceptual framework to understand place.

Redruth, Cornwall, UK

A sample of current and future projects

2015Edge and Shore: Visual artist Helen Carnac and dance artist Laïla Diallo present a new work in process. Jan 2015 Dovecot, Edinburgh, July 2015 Arnolfini, Bristol and 1 other venue TBC shortly.

2013 Edge and Shore: Research and new commission: Visual artist Helen Carnac and dance artist Laïla Diallo present a new work in process: exploring the edges and boundaries of making and working, performance and installation. Working in four architecturally distinct spaces the artists investigate place together and in close proximity to each other, considering the commonalities and tensions between seemingly disparate forms of creative practice. The Goods Shed, Stroud; Quay2C, London; Siobhan Davies Studios, London and The Control Room, Bristol.dge and Shore is commissioned by Siobhan Davies Dance and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Developed with support from Battersea Arts Centre, Bristol City Council, Bristol Old Vic Ferment, Quay2C and Stroud Valleys Artspace.

2012 and ongoing – Side by Side residency and commission to make new work with dancer and choreographer Laila Diallo. Siobhan Davies Dance Company, London. http://www.siobhandavies.com/sidebyside/

2011/13 Collaboration Through Craft Chapter contribution: Moving Things Around: Collaboration and Dynamic Change Bloomsbury publication November 2013

2012/13 Contemporary Jewellery in Perspective Chapter Contribution: new Sterling books publication September 2013

2013 Intelligent Trouble An exchange and collaboration between a shifting group of makers, designers, musicians and writers. Most recent installation at the Institute of Making, Kings College London

2011 and touring through 2014 The Tool at Hand Milwaukee Art Museum and touring

2012 A shared view: Stitching together ideas in time, a 4 month walking project in Berlin New book release: Editor

Professional History

1994 – present Artist, curator, independent academic and writer: I work from my studio in South London making work and developing projects. My aim is to work independently but in collaboration with academics and artists from different fields. https://helencarnac.wordpress.com/

2014 –  Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader Middlesex University: BA Jewellery, BA Design Crafts, MA Jewellery Futures.

2011 – 2014 Visiting Lecturer Middlesex University, London

April – July 2011 Guest Professor Kunsthochschule Weissensee, Berlin

Sept 2006 – 2009 London Metropolitan University. Sir John Cass Department of Art, Media and Design Senior Lecturer, working at BA and MA level across Product Design and Applied Arts, Silversmithing and Jewellery. http://www.londonmet.ac.uk/jcamd/research/staff-research/dpm/helen-carnac.cfm

Sept 2002- 2006 London Metropolitan University. Sir John Cass Department of Art, Media and Design Research and Employability Manager and Animateur.

Jan 2001- July 2002 Ravensbourne College of Design and Communication Lead Tutor Foundation: 3D Design – Product, furniture, Jewellery, constructed textiles, interiors, set design, industrial design.

Sept 1999-2002 London Guildhall University. Visiting lecturer: BA Silversmithing, Jewellery and Allied Crafts

Selected Exhibitions

2016 Edge and Shore, Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK

2015 Edge and Shore, Arnolfini, Bristol, UK

2015 Edge and Sore, Dovecot, Edinburgh, UK

2014 Writing and Object, Galerie Handwerk, Munich

2014 1st World War Commemoration, Royal West of England Academy

2013 Setting the Scene, New Landscapes, Craft Study Centre, Farnham

2012 Drawing, Permanence and Place, Kulturhaus Kroenbacken, Erfurt, Germany

2011 Drawing, Permanence, Place, Kunstverein, Coburg. Catalogued and touring

The tool at Hand, Milwaukee Art Museum and Touring

Installation 91ft 5” Institute of Making, Kings College, London

SOFA New York

Collect, Saatchi Gallery, London

Host, Velvet da Vinci, CA, USA

2010 Under The Counter, Smiths Row Gallery

SOFA, New York, represented by CAA

Collect, Saatchi Gallery, London

Intelligent Trouble, CAA, London

2009 In Transit84GHz, Munich

Collect, Saatchi Gallery, London

Inner Voice: Curated by Dorothy Hogg, CAA, London

Cluster, Installation at Velvet da Vinci, San Francisco

Metal Exhibition, Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh

2008 In response to…84GHz, Munich

Elizabeth Turrell and Helen Carnac, University of East Carolina

Playing With Fire, Juried Exhibition, Devon Guild of Craftsmen Catalogued and touring

Collect at the V&A, London, represented by Contemporary Applied Arts

2007 Process Works, 5 Jewellers: University of Hertfordshire Galleries Catalogued and touring

Badges, Museum der Arbeit, Hamburg Catalogued and touring USA

Anti War Medals, Gallery I/O, Thomas Mann, New Orleans.

Collect at the V&A

2006 Collect at the V&A

2004 Anti War Medals exhibition, Curated by Velvet Da Vinci, Touring: Electrum, London Norway and USA

Solo: Open Eye, Edinburgh

2003 Celebrating Education, Contemporary Applied Arts, London

David Gates and Helen Carnac, Flow, London

2002 Diaspora Cymreig, Ruthin Gallery: touring and catalogue

2001/2002 Home Sweet Home, group show, curated by Lesley Jackson for the British Council catalogued and touring

2000 Contemporary British Silver: A Crafts Council Touring Exhibition catalogued

Contemporary British Silver: Gallery Marzee, Netherlands

1999 Heim und Handwerk, Munich

1996 Living at Belsay: Belsay Hall

Public Collections

Museum of Art and Design New York

Rotasa Foundation, California, USA

Racine Art Museum, Wisconsin, USA

Bilston Gallery, UK

Visiting Artist/Professor/Lecturer

2015 – Course Director MA Jewellery Futures, Middlesex University, London

2014 – 2016  Course Director BA Design Crafts, Middlesex University, London

2011 – 2015 Co-course Director, BA Jewellery and Accessories, Middlesex University, London

2014 Oslo National Academy of the Arts (KHiO)

2013 Haystack School of Arts and Crafts, USA

GOMA, Glasgow.

Independent Dance: Summer Intensive: Sharing, Making, Moving with Laila Diallo

2012 University of Hertfordshire

Manchester Metropolitan University

2011 Guest Professor, Kunsthochschule Weissensee, Berlin

Sint Lucas, Antwerp: ‘Marking Place: understanding environment through journeys and collecting’

California College of the Arts, San Francisco, USA

Camberwell College of Art and Design, London

2010 Pratt Fine Arts, Seattle, USA

Strelka Post Graduate School for Architecture and Design, Moscow: QUICK and SLOW: Time is in your hands

Penland School of Arts, North Carolina, USA

2008 University of East Carolina, North Carolina, USA

2007 Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, USA.

University of East Carolina, North Carolina, USA

Millersville University, Pennsylvania, USA

2003 – 2011 Enamel Research Centre, University of West of England, Bristol


2010 Accredited professional coach, CLP and Relational Dynamics

1994 BA (Hons) Silversmithing, Jewellery and Allied Craft, London Guildhall University

1993 Fachhochschule fur Gestaltung, Schwabisch Gmund, Germany

1990 B.T.E.C HND Design Crafts, Plymouth College of Art & Design.

1988 Art Foundation, Newport College of Art and Design


2010 Curator Under the Counter: Jewellery in Conversation. Smiths Row Gallery

2010 Curator online exhibition for Alias: Making, unmaking, repair and repetition

2010 Curator for inaugural Craft Rally, London commissioned by Artquest and Crafts Council

2007 – 2012 Curator of National touring exhibition ‘Taking Time: Craft and the Slow Revolution’ 

2005 – 2007 Curator: Process Works exhibition, beginning at University of Hertfordshire. Catalogued

Feb 2000- present Dialogue – Co-Instigator, curator and participant in Dialogue: a series of projects, exchange of ideas and exhibitions

Selected writing and Consultancy

2013 Contemporary Jewelry and the Relational Turn. Published on Sterling Sept 2013

2012 A shared View: Stitching together ideas in time: a project in Berlin

2011 ‘Collaboration through Craft’ To be published on Berg 2013

2010 Into the Unknown’ A reflection on fellowship in Cultural Leadership in the Arts

2010 ‘Making Time’ ‘Studio; Craft and Design in Canada’, Fall/Winter 2010, pp38-42

2010 ‘House of Words’ Journal of Modern Craft: Exhibition Review Volume 3, Number 2, July 2010 , pp. 253-256(4)

2010 ‘Stitching it together in time’ :Essay Contribution to Upcycling Textiles: Adding Value through Design http://www.everandagain.info/

2009Handmade is favourite’ Paratus Communication: Consultancy and written report on Handmade to support International press campaign

Seminar, Conference and Academic Development

2010: Craft Rally, London and Sheffield for Artquest, Commissioned by UK Crafts Council

2009: Slow panel discussion, Southbank Centre debate as part of curatorial development of Taking Time; Craft and the Slow Revolution, Royal Festival Hall, London for Slow Down London

2007: Carry the Can seminar, The Women’s Library, London

Process Works Seminar, The Language of Making, The Women’s Library, London

Dialogue, A walk and talk about collections. Starting point Collect at the V&A, London

2006: Association for Contemporary Jewellery Conference, Director and Co-chair of steering committee

Victoria and Albert Museum: Seminar to introduce ‘Carry the Can’

2005 Chair: Jerwood Debates, London Metropolitan University, A series of debates focussing on the future of metal in association to Jerwood Prize for Metal

2003 Creating a Happy Living’, Professional development seminars for students

HEIM (Honour, Ethics, Integrity and Morality), London, Forum fur Schmuck exhibition, Bei Meine Ehre


2011 – Fellow Royal Society of the Arts

2011 –  Advisory Board Member, Artquest, University of the Arts, London

2011 – Membership Committee, Art Jewelry Forum, USA http://www.artjewelryforum.org/blog/

2010 Invited participant: ACC USA Why Craft Now? http://www.americancraftmag.org/blog-post.php?id=11574

2009 Haystack Mountain School, Maine, USA, invited participant O Brave New World:  Looking at Time, Making, and Creativity http://www.haystack-mtn.org/symposia.php

2009 Contributed to SLOWLAB development, London, ICA http://slowdialogue.blogspot.com/2009/05/seeking-slow-directionality-at-ica.html

2008/9 Peer reviewer forConstructing the Applied Arts: Past Visions – Future Possibilities’ Plymouth College of Art and Design http://makingfutures.plymouthart.ac.uk/journalvol1/papers.php

2002 Director of the ‘Carry the Can’ project, an ongoing project that provides a forum for the discussion of ethical issues that concern contemporary making and material practices in the UK and internationally. www.carrythecan.org

Conference Chairing

2010 Chair: Crafts Council Craft Rally, Millennium Gallery, Sheffield UK

Co-Chair: Craft Rally, Chelsea College of Art

Chair: Stroud Textile Festival Conference on Slow Textiles

2009 Chair for strand ‘Making Futures’ conference on Sustainability, PCAD UK

2006 Chair: Carry the Can, The Brewery, London www.carrythecan.org

Mentoring and External Examining

2014 – External Examiner: Sheffield Hallam University

2013 – WorkWeld Committee, ARTEZ, Arnhem, Holland

2013 – 2014 Chief External Examiner: University of Brighton

2010 – 2013 External Examiner: University of Brighton

2007 – 2010 External Examiner, Contemporary Crafts, University College Falmouth

2008/9 Mentor for Contemporary Fellowship Scheme

2005 – 2010 External Examiner, BA Crafts, Staffordshire University, Dept of Art, Media & Design

Selected Artist Talks

2015 Dovecot Studios, Edinburgh; Re:Public Jewellery, Munich; SNAG Conference, Boston USA.

2014 KHIO, Oslo; Whitechapel Gallery, London, University of Hertfordshire, MA.

2013 Norwegian Crafts Council, London; Chelsea College of Art, MA programme; GOMA, Glasgow; Haystack, USA

2012 Design Council Wales: 10 things I learnt: Slow Design, University of Hertfordshire, Manchester Metropolitan University, Institute of Education, London

2011 Jerwood Foundation in Conversation with Choreographer Siobhan Davies; Cubitt Arts with Tim Ingold; Museum of Science and Technology, Seattle, USA; Haus der Kulteren der Welt, Berlin, St Lucas, Antwerp Marking Place: collecting, curating, sifting ideas., California College of the Arts, San Francisco

2010 Chelsea College of Art: Slow Design, The Burberry projectStrelka, Moscow: The Diversity of One Design PracticeSheffield, UK: http://www.craftrally.org.uk/page/sheffield-2010Stroud International Textiles: http://www.stroudinternationaltextiles.org.uk/conference.htmlSaatchi Gallery London, Metropolitan Works, London: http://www.metropolitanworks.org/events/event_listings/detail/168/

2009 Central St Martins/Camberwell College HYP 3 Research Group, London, Royal Festival Hall, Southbank, Slow Revolution

2008 ALIAS, Devon, UK, Velvet da Vinci, USA

2007 Staffordshire University, Guest Critic, The Women’s Library, London and University of Herts: Process Works

2006 The Brewery, London, Carry the Can, South West Arts, ALIAS, ‘The Poetics of Making’

2005 Dartington Hall, ‘Talking about Talking’ Commissioned by ALIAS, Whitechapel Art Gallery ‘Navigating the London Art Scene’

Public Commissions

2005 Collaborative commission with David Gates: Permanent installation of Furniture with   enamel for Bilston Craft Gallery: Wolverhampton City Art Galleries

Lead Artist, Artquest, London: Forum project: lead debate


2009/10 Cultural Leadership Partners: Artist Leadership Development Fellowship

2008 Innovation in enamelling, UK

Third prize Juried exhibition, Metal Inclinations, USA

1996 Winner Carroll Foundation Award

Selected Index, Crafts Council

Membership, Contemporary Applied Arts

1995  Runner-up Carroll Foundation Award

Setting Up Grant, Crafts Council

Recent peer review and critical writing

Metalsmith Vol 35. No 1, 2015, Liminal Landscapes, Marjorie Simon

ArtPulse Fall 2010 USA

The Journal of Modern Craft’, vol3 no.3 Nov. 2010 pp373-5. Exhibition review, Taking Time; Craft and the Slow Revolution.

Perspectives’, Sept. 2010, pp60-62 ‘Playing With Time’

Crafts Magazine 2010

FibreArts Sept/Oct 2010 Volume 37 No 2 Review Taking Time by Jessica Hemmings

Works Published In

Taking Time: Craft and the Slow Revolution ISBN-10: 0952683296

ISBN-13: 978-0952683292, ‘The Compendium Finale of Contemporary Jewellers’, LIM, A. Darling Publications, Germany ISBN: 978-3-939130-95-6, 500 Enameled Objects, Lark Books, 2009, Enamel Experience’ UWE, 2007, ISBN  978-1-906501-00-6, Process Works 5 Jewellers, Jan 2007, Site Projects, ISBN 13 978—0-9554379-1-5, Diaspora Cymreig, Makers of welsh origin working outside of Wales: 2002 ISBN-10: 1900941503, ISBN-13: 978-1900941501, Form: Wales Art International by Ceri Jones (Editor)ISBN-10: 0954513029 ISBN-13: 978-0954513023 2003


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