Carne Griffiths


Written by Liz Cookman
31 Thursday 31st January 2013

Starting out as a gold wire embroidery designer, his work featured in films such as Valkyrie and The Last King of Scotland. Now working as an artist, Carne Griffiths manipulates the drawn line using everything from tea to brandy. The result is delicatly opulent with an exquisite attention to detail, a nod to his previous life. We caught up with him to find out more.

How's your year been so far, resolutions going well?

January was hectic! I've been busy in the studio and preparing work for forthcoming exhibitions. Resolutions are out the window. Maybe I'll get out on the bike in February.


Your work uses organic forms in such a beautifully transient way, are nature and her cycles important to you?

Thank you, nature is incredibly important to what I do. My current work is concerned with how we try to replace nature in our lives with patterns and embellishments. Maybe it isn't a conscious thing, but I think there’s part of us that is damaged by being separated from nature. Our pace of life means we rarely take time to appreciate the natural world around us. I’m more than guilty of this.  

I pay attention to lunar cycles too, I believe they have a link to creativity. Perhaps I overanalyse things, but often, in the five days before a full moon, work in the studio flows really freely. I don’t know why, but there’s definitely a pattern. You talk about these things though and people think you are mad.

There are some unusual materials in your drawing kit: tea, even vodka. How did that happen?

Accidents, like much of my work. I try to involve chance, allowing the work to take its own path. The use of tea followed an accidental application of brandy to a painting. I became interested in how different unconventional liquids affect drawing ink, but tea’s cheaper than brandy and it offers a whole new palette of colours.


Are the elegant women in your work models or products of your imagination? 

They are mainly models, although I use their portraiture only as a reference. It’s the starting point for a piece of work, the beginning of a journey. I prefer images that contain a strong sense of light and shade as well as an ethereal quality that sparks scenarios from within the piece.

Was it difficult growing up in Liverpool as a boy that was into art?

Not at all, Liverpool is a creative city. There will always be someone who tries to bring you down, but if you believe in yourself and have the backing of family and friends you can rise above their words.  

The Miracle

You worked as a gold wire embroidery designer for twelve years, how did you get into that?

I started as an apprentice with the company who later took me on. I learnt from the head draftsman, Ken Miles, who had been with the company for over 50 years. He taught me the basics and then I made the job my own. In between ordering and project management, I got to draw every day and I learnt a little about business too.  

I worked there for twelve years, starting as a junior draftsman and working my way up to creative director. Some of the projects were incredible, it was nice to see your designs appearing on film or the stage.


Have you ever watched The Last King of Scotland with friends so you could casually show-off?

There's little to show off about, I was such a small part of the process. But it was what convinced me to try a career as an artist, I wanted to be in control of the whole creative project. You can do that as a fine artist; you're the marketing, publicity and production department. You have complete control of your vision and that’s really exciting.

You're a new father to twins as well as regularly exhibiting your work, you must be exhausted? 

I'm lucky to be back in the studio, but its hard being away from my children. I'm a bit of a workaholic and love what I do so to put it on hold is just not an option for me. My wife is amazing and somehow manages with both of them. I had two brief experiences of looking after them and it’s tough - she's a hero.


If your work were a place, where would it be?

It would be a clearing right in the middle of the forest, somewhere away from distraction. A place you’d stumble across and stare at in awe, a frozen moment in time.

Carne's got a few exhibitions coming up including the Ashdown Gallery, East Sussex, Trailblaizers in Hong Kong and a charity auction in Shoreditch. You can find out more about him on his website

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