After spending some time in Barcelona during the late 1980s, Anna Charlesworth came back to Melbourne feeling endlessly inspired.
‘I thought the modernist buildings and metalwork were so beautiful and fearless,’ Anna says. ‘The various Gaudi buildings there are just extraordinary in their detail. It’s hard to believe they were built around the early 1900s.’
It was a formative trip to say the least, because before long Anna started experimenting with metal and glass art herself, under the guidance of local artist Mark Douglass who introduced her to a ‘world of incredibly creative people’ — most of whom were also working with metal in some shape or form.
‘Metal is a very forgiving medium to work with and can look fantastic whether you have made something very simple in form or forged within an inch of its life,’ Anna says.
Her own metal creations are a mix of old and new, channelling vintage finds she spots on antique resale websites like 1st Dibs and the imperfect light pieces of Swiss sculptor Diego Giacommetti.
‘I took photos of Giacommeti’s light fittings in the Picasso Museum in Paris long before I ended up doing metalwork. His graceful sensibility is timeless,’ she adds.
Texture is another integral part of Anna’s custom lighting, iron doors, fences, screens, and furniture, which is all made from a Williamstown metalworks factory. There’s something about the tactile, plaster finish of her light fixtures that makes them look at home in a diverse range of spaces, from converted churches, to contemporary houses, or the hotel foyers and lobbies in the Hyatt Centric Melbourne.
‘We have even made light fittings designed by Studio McQualter for various Zimmermann stores overseas,’ Anna says. ‘It always feels a bit glamorous seeing them in these beautiful stores on the other side of the world.’
Her manufacturing process has a bit of a formula behind it, starting with cutting the steel, preparing it, welding it, and forming each unique component by hand. And whist Anna says she tries not to ‘reinvent the wheel’ every time she has a commission, each piece remains unique thanks to her signature handcrafted touch.
‘Wiring it and putting the final finish on often takes longer than making the initial framework’ Anna explains. Fortunately, she says it’s the most finicky pieces that are also the most rewarding!