LEATHER SCULPTRESS: GENEVIEVE BENNETT







This is so long overdue; I am almost ashamed to be covering this topic only today. Better late than never I suppose. 

What could look like shameful procrastination is actually, in my defence, the technical problems I somehow encountered with retrieving some photos on my laptop. Hopefully, this won’t have detracted from the importance of today’s matter.




 Back in December last year, A-Gent of Style went to meet Genevieve Bennett in her studio in Islington. A few weeks before my visit, I had come across a small feature in a design magazine about the British designer’s work which triggered off my curiosity. Later, when I looked at her website, I was mesmerised by the beauty, novelty and imaginative approach of her art – leather for interiors – and immediately tried to arrange a meeting.





Genevieve Bennett creates bespoke three-dimensional leather pieces that are either embossed, debossed, etched, engraved, inlaid, layered or sculpted into wall panels, tiles and coverings which can be used on walls, floors, and bespoke furniture such as cupboards, headboards, folding screens, cabinets, bar fronts, doors or even individual wall-mounted art work.

As always, it was particularly exciting to go inside an artist’s studio and to see, feel and touch what constitutes their microcosm – in Bennett’s case: sketches, drawings, swatches and scraps of leather, inspirational and mood boards, product samples, instruments, utensils, books and other personal paraphernalia.

The charming Bennett told met she uses full grain, aniline-dyed leather with an aqueous based water-repellent, which she sources in America from Spinneybeck, a supplier of fine Italian leather. Since leather is a beautiful, natural, tactile material, her pieces will age gracefully and acquire, I imagine, a ‘lived-in’ look and antique patina over the years.



Bennett got an MA from the Royal College of Art in mixed media and textiles which led her to explore leather later on. She credits different influences to her work: 
17th C master craftsman Grinling Gibbons, 18th C Spitalfields silk designs, striking patterns, Moorish lusterware and antique plaster and stone work. I was not surprised to hear she originally trained in textiles as she seems to approach her projects as if she were designing with fabrics and making embroidery. I was even more impressed by her considering leather is a much more robust and less malleable material to work with than fabrics.

Her work is also redolent to me of children’s pop-up books, or the work of the British paper cutter artist Rob Ryan and also of the dazzling structure made mainly from laser-cut wood that was created by architectural firm WWA for the Polish pavilion at the Shanghai 2010 World Expo.




I am particularly smitten with the strong patterns and graphics of her products – floral or geometric, small or big, thin or deep, in contrasting or tonal combinations – and also their textured quality and surface relief. Like most modern crafts people, Bennett brilliantly manages to mix traditional, artisanal techniques and processes with modern technology which give her work a contemporary, innovative and intricate twist. She uses a laser machine for engraved designs but painstakingly cuts and scores sculpted panels by hand. The range of her products are available in many beautiful colours and in any size desirable.



Since graduation and before establishing her bespoke leather business in 2008, Bennett has worked extensively as a freelance design consultant for companies such as Habitat, Tom Dixon, Neisha Crosland and Wedgwood.

Working with leather is a high-skilled process and commissions can take months to realise and are aimed for the high-end market and its discerning clientèle.

As the photos below will perfectly illustrate, the beautiful and luxurious finish of Bennett’s surface decoration never fails to have the wow factor and will undoubtedly embellish any interior.











 


















Bennett has now started working with felt. I look forward to seeing her new creations very soon. No doubt they will be ravishing again.







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