Scrolling through my Instagram feed, I stumbled across some of the most beautiful and earthy African inspired prints. A feeling of calm and tranquility flowed over me as I scrolled through more of the artist’s posts. I then made it a mission to find out who is the artist behind these eye-pleasing creations.
Hailing from Forest Gate in East London; a melting pot of cultures with over 50% of the population from either an African, or Asian, or Caribbean background. The widely acclaimed award-winning artist of Italian and Jamaican heritage has executed her talents creatively and passionately. Without compromising any of her values – meet the beautifully spirited and virtuous, Antonietta Torsiello.
From winning the Oxford House Gallery People’s Choice award in 2010, Antonietta has gone from strength to strength. She now runs her own textile business, artwork shops, and has founded the community driven project, Forest Gate Arts Trail. Her hard work ethic is recognised by many, and her beautiful pieces have been purchased by people from all walks of life.
From a young age, while visiting her friends’ houses, Antonietta became accustomed to seeing things which were not her norm. “When I visited my Asian friend’s house, I saw sewing machines and fine materials with colorful embroidery, whereas, at my Nigerian friends’ house, I saw Ankara for the first time and thought, how could someone not want to wear colourful clothing?”
Antonietta grew an attraction towards the foods, spices and clothing of these various cultures, not knowing the effect this will have on her work. Antonietta found that she flourished in art class in secondary school, she openly spoke about having dyslexia, “I struggled with various subjects, but art became my outlet.” One of the things that made art enjoyable for Antonietta was her teacher’s enthusiasm to nurture his pupils’ talents and awaken the creative that laid hidden. “Through art, I realised that if you’re passionate and enjoy what you do; you can overcome any obstacle.”
“I studied fashion & textiles in college, but I realised that I didn’t have an interest in making clothes, but I loved creating designs for prints and fashion illustration.” The seeds for Antonietta’s textile business were sewn. “I did an intensive course in Art and design in Waltham Forest. I learned so much in that year, even more than studying for four years at university.” The course gave Antonietta the freedom to explore and use different techniques as long as it fit the brief. “I have fond memories of the course; I remember we went into the hills in a countryside, and I met a sculptor who used mother nature as materials to express her art”.
Antonietta has been doing exhibitions since 2010 and has sold a vast amount of pieces of her work. Finding her style as an artist was difficult during her time at university. She discovered that her tutors would question her creations and limit her creativity to fashion industry guidelines, which she felt she didn’t have to adhere to. As she recalls her ‘first’ fashion internship which lasted roughly ten minutes, “I walked through the door and before I even had a chance to take off my jacket, I was told to go and make tea. No-one asked me what my name was. I politely said ‘no’ and left – I knew my worth.” Antonietta knew her essence didn’t reside in the fashion industry, but she was not one to quit. In 2012, she successfully attained her degree in Fashion by adapting to fit guidelines without hindering her values and ethics.
Antonietta is very passionate about using environmentally friendly materials, and her style of art is attuned with nature, “I’ve always had a connection to materials that are natural, and that involves little technology – from the inks I use and to the materials I print on.” In Antonietta’s early artwork she always found multi-purposes for natural materials from pumpkin seeds, lentils to soil.
Her strong attachment with the environment makes it easy to understand why she is deeply involved in community projects. For the past three years, she has been running art workshops and has recently started the Forest Gate Art Trails – a community project that encourages local people in the Newham borough to engage with their creativity whilst also giving them a platform to showcase their work. The inspiration behind the Forest Gart Art Trails has it roots in how Antonietta felt in school. “The feeling of someone believing and supporting me had a positive impact. If you have a skill, there is no point of keeping it to yourself. For things to grow and have a long duration, you have to share your talents.”
Antonietta wasn’t in art for the money, but it got to a stage when she realised that she could do this as a business. She has worked in retail and offices but found that she needed to operate in her way, “I was nervous leaving full-time employment and financial stability, but on the other hand I was tired of saying no to countless opportunities because I had work commitments.” Antonietta realised the power was in her hands and went full steam ahead with her art business. “If you have an idea you have to follow it through or someone else will.”
As her business grows, so too does her aspiration – one of her primary goals is to exhibit her work on an international level and collaborate with artists from abroad. The more I spoke with Antonietta, the more I realised – ‘if you accept who you are and don’t compromise your value; you can achieve what your heart desires.’
“Art expresses what I don’t vocalise. My art gives me a stronger voice and shouts for me.”
To find out more where you can find Antonietta Torsiello exhibits and view her work, visit www.torsiellolondon.com
Also, follow her on Instagram – instagram.com/torsielloartist and Facebook – www.facebook.com/torsielloart
Subject – Antonietta Torsiello, artist and textile designer
Writer & Photographer – @Kofi Dwaah