Helen Carnac

Redruth, Cornwall, UK

Helen Carnac has been working full time as an arts professional since 1994. Her work, research and other professional commitments bring together a diverse, but connected ecology of teaching, advocacy, studio-work, curation, mentoring, and writing. Finding the most appropriate means and strategies to enable knowledge and understanding to emerge in a range of settings is at the core of Helen’s work.

Helen is a leading artist in her field with several major articles written about her in the past three years. Most recently Emma Crichton-Miller wrote a detailed article about new work Helen and the Furniture Designer David Gates have been making in collaboration. In 2015 Marjorie Simon wrote a major piece about Helen for the USA publication Metalsmith and Reinhold Ziegler an online profile for Norwegian Crafts.




Helen has a solid grounding and education in making and in the applied arts, always taking this knowledge to be a starting point. Her approach is expansive and connective, aiming to develop knowledge and forge new thinking and links from this grounded practice. This has been tested most recently through working with the dancer and choreographer Laila Diallo in a process based practice since 2012, their most recent works have been shown at Whitechapel Gallery (2016), Arnofini Gallery (2015) and The Dovecot, Edinburgh (2015).

Helen has worked at Middlesex University since October 2011 as a visiting lecturer and since 2014 as a 0.4 Senior Lecturer, writing the MA Jewellery Futures and developing the BA Design Crafts programmes. She has worked in Higher Education since 1999, firstly as an associate lecturer and then as a Higher Education Innovation Funded, Research and Employability Manager/Animateur working in the realm of knowledge transfer and exchange. This outward-facing project resulted in the development of external projects for students and staff, writing funding bids and conducting research about student employability alongside the University’s Head of Employability.

Helen has sat on Artquest’s advisory panel since 2010 contributing to the development of ideas and supporting and advocating their work. Since 2011 she has been Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

It is this outward-facing and research-driven exchange of knowledge that Helen is deeply committed to and she sees the process as one that both informs and develops the work that she does with colleagues, students and audiences of her work – in made, written and spoken forms.


Edge and Shore, 2014-6

Commissioned by Siobhan Davies Dance and funded by Arts Council England. Engaging audiences in thinking about how processes that are emergent and ongoing but not necessarily ever finished or complete are understood.

Side by Side, 2012

Commissioned by Siobhan Davies Dance to work with the choreographer and artist Laila Diallo in a six-week residency. This has led to the artists developing thought about how we remember through our selves, objects and places. The project was funded in order to document artists’ processes and to develop knowledge about how a work may come into being. It has been used in the ongoing research and current PhD of David Bennett at Coventry University, where the Siobhan Davies Dance archive is also held.

Cultural Leadership Fellowship, 2011/2

Awarded Cultural Leadership Programme (CLP) in order to develop thought about how the Arts are communicated. Working extensively on disseminating knowledge through curating the Craft Rally, 2010, Chelsea College of Art and funded by UK Crafts Council and Artquest with a follow up event at the Millennium Galleries in Sheffield. Also taking part in two USA based seminars: ‘O Brave New World’ at Haystack Mountain School of Arts, 2009 and ‘Why Craft Now’ a USA Crafts Council invited 3 day seminar where Helen was the only International invited guest and contributor. Through this fellowship Helen trained on the Clore funded programme in Relational Dynamic Coaching and took part in a Leadership Development scheme called ‘Method’ with 21 artists.

Commissioned to write an online piece about the Fellowship and the potential for artist leadership by CLP. The Artist Leadership Fellowship is now known as the Clore Artist Leadership Programme. Helen is particularly interested in the idea of ‘Quiet Leadership’ (developed by Chris Fremantle) and leading through doing/practice, she went on to evaluate a programme for CLP that Battersea Arts Centre ran on leading in the arts. (2010)

‘A Shared View, Stitching Together Ideas in Time’, 2011

Guest Professor at Kunsthochschule Weissensee for four months. This project underscored the importance of working collaboratively, in motion and developing thought from real life situations and scenarios that were encountered through the project by the student cohort. The project resulted in the publication of a book. ‘A Shared View, Stitching Together Ideas in Time’, published by Greenlab, an EU sustainable laboratory for design.

Helen has developed many similar projects and presented them Internationally from Moscow to Seattle. Speaking extensively about the connection to making and thinking through the connection of hand, body and mind, most notably at seminars with the anthropologist Tim Ingold (Cubbitt Arts 2011), choreographer Siobhan Davies (Jerwood Foundation 2011) and at the Norwegian Crafts Council’s symposium on Craft and Social Change (Toynbee Hall 2013). Currently she is a member of a development committee for the Product Department at ARTEZ, Arnhem, Holland, where the aim is to redevelop and redesign the structure of all their programmes to include a highly reflective and applied approach to making and designing.

Making a Slow Revolution, 2007 – 2011

Commissioned to research and co-curate with Craftspace ‘Making a Slow Revolution’ which aimed 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. This research resulted in writing and securing a substantial Arts Council bid and a seven venue national touring show, which premiered at Birmingham City Art Gallery. The project received international attention and has been peer reviewed internationally, (several featured artists returning it as an outcome for REF2014). Helen travelled extensively to give lectures and run seminars about the subject matter over a number of years, bringing focus to the development, sharing and dissemination of knowledge. The exhibition ended in 2011, but its legacy has continued and Helen still regularly writes and talks about the project. Through the project she was appointed an Associate Fellow with the Textile and Environmental Design (TED) based at Chelsea College of Art.

Intelligent Trouble, 2009 -11

Emphasising the contingent nature of process, doing, handling material and working together Intelligent Trouble (IT), a London based collective of makers sought to explore the possibilities of working together whilst ‘shift(ing), change(ing) and remain(ing) the same’. IT began when a group of 4 makers, Lin Cheung, David Clarke, David Gates and Helen Carnac, decided they wanted to work together, with no particular outcome but as a response to showing works together during the exhibition In Transit in 2009 in Munich, which was installed in a working foundry as part of the Schmuck jewellery show.

Carry The Can, 2006

Co-convening, fundraising, directing and chairing the ‘Carry the Can’ academic conference funded by ACJ, HEIF, Arts Council England and Metal Events in order to raise issues of awareness and a forum for discussion of how artists and makers contribute to legacies within practices, processes of designing and in making objects.

Process Works, 2007 (curated with Ruth Rushby)

This project aimed to gain understanding of discreet languages of making and their specificity to individual practice. Examining this in the first instance through an exhibition and catalogue, with an invited written contribution in the form of essays and maker interviews by Dr Paul Harper. The exhibition toured 3 venues. Aiming to understand more about how the act of making may be understood both inside and outside practice and whether this act is more understandable when we are able to encounter the process in whatever way? In 2006 ‘process’ was rarely examined in exhibitions of made artefacts in the Crafts and yet we wanted to show that making implies a process – a journey, an examining of thought, of meaning and a putting together of elements, materials and ideas.

1999, Dialogue

Exchanging work and making with a group of staff and recent graduates from London Guildhall University and Alchimia Jewellery School in Florence. Dialogue was both collaboration in making and conversation. It initiated a long period in Helen’s work, which continues, when she has actively chosen to work with others, often in preference to working alone. It was around this point that Helen had also begun to think that the importance of her work did not lie only in finished artefacts but that it was about a more open-ended and expansive process of putting things together and taking them apart: exploring the nuts and bolts of making.

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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