A FEW WORDS ABOUT
Anna and Sven
Artists, Lovers, Photographers, Fabric Designers, and Socially Responsible Entrepreneurs.
Artist, Photographer, co-Founder of Hardy+Christensen
Anna Hardy’s story is extraordinary. At the age of sixteen, she left home and travelled to Paris, painting and taking photos along the way. Having returned to her hometown of Walthamstow, London, Anna runs Hardy and Christensen alongside her Partner Sven Christensen – A unique photography and watercolour art business specialising in fabric products and wall art. Anna’s journey is an inspirational one that shows us that anything is possible!
Anna Hardy’s Background
Anna Hardy was born in Whipps Cross Hospital, London and lived her early years in Walthamstow. She grew up with a passion for photography and art, and developed her skills at a young age. Having left school at 15, she took night classes at College, where she studied photography and graphic design, in between working shifts in a local bakery.
Even in her early teens, Anna showed promise as both a Watercolourist and Photographer in equal measure. Anna was surprised to find that the interest in her work was high enough to generate a small income, a fact which would serve her well in her later adventures. Saving every penny that she could, Anna would buy art supplies and the film to feed the second hand camera she picked up at a Church Jumble Sale, and to pay for the development of the film.
In 2011, a chance meeting at the Louvre Gallery in Paris with friend, and now fiancé and Partner, Sven Christensen, was to change the direction of both their lives forever. During their childhood, Anna and Sven had been pen-pals, frequently exchanging letters across the world, and later in life became close friends. At that chance meeting in rainy Paris, Sven was finishing up a Street Photography shoot, when he recognised Anna in the seething mass of Parisians. Seeing Anna’s, soaking wet hair and face, he whisked her out of the rain into a warm café, where they talked about their Art and their dreams.
Anna’s Journey – Growing Up and Leaving Home
Anna Hardy has always been creative. She was always drawn to the arts, and once she found photography and understood the merit that others found in her paintings, she knew that pursuing the arts would always be her passion.
Growing up in Walthamstow, in a blue-collar family, Anna was lucky to have the support of her parents in her artistic endeavours, and although money was often tight, somehow they always found money for Watercolour papers and supplies. By chance, while helping out at a local Church Jumble Sale, Anna came across an old SLR camera in a box of assorted junk. Having paid the princely sum of 75 pence for the camera, after the first film of pictures were developed at the local chemist, she was hooked!
Anna’s early teens were a difficult time for her at home, and once she had finished school she dreamed of travelling and of making art and photography her life. Spurred on by the acclaim she received for her watercolours and portrait photography, Anna worked to improve her skills and to widen her subject choices to encompass landscapes, abstract and even the occasional seascape when she could travel to the East Coast of England. On reaching sixteen, Anna left home one cold morning, and set out on an adventure which would ultimately bring her to form Hardy and Christensen with the love of her life.
Anna’s great adventure
Having left home in London at sixteen, Anna worked her way to Paris, painting watercolours of houses and taking portrait photographs for the wealthy. Working her way through Southern England and Northern France, she travelled light, often with only a camera and a small case which doubled as an easel, containing her art supplies and film. Staying mostly in hostels, family homes and occasionally hedges, she painted and photographed her way to the bright lights of Paris.
Each day was an adventure as she explored France and ultimately Paris with her camera. She documented her travels in her journals, carefully detailing each encounter or moment that inspired or moved her. From bicycle rides down winding roads in Normandy, to quaint villages nestled in the French countryside, Anna learnt how to capture beauty in a way which only her eyes could see.
Arriving in Paris at last, Anna was overcome by the hustle and bustle, the sights and smells of the city. Anna found a job as an assistant to a French photographer, who taught her the in’s and out’s of the industry. She quickly made friends with other passionate photographers, occasionally putting on gallery shows around the city. Still a passionate Watercolourist, Anna would spend hours painting the Paris that no-one ever sees, often seeking out quiet streets or busy markets and interesting people to capture.
Working as a Photographer to French Fashion Houses, Anna enjoyed unrivalled access to beautiful people, clothing and furnishings and readily developed a passion for fabrics. Her love of fabrics persists to this day, and is one of the reasons that she loves being a part of Hardy and Christensen.
Running a Business with Her Partner
Anna Hardy is an artist and photographer who, along with her partner, owns and operates Hardy and Christensen. The business is a creative studio that specialises in Art and Soft Furnishings.
Anna has always had a passion for art and photography, and she loved the idea of being able to work with her partner on something they were both so passionate about. She says that one of the best things about running the business together is that they are constantly learning from each other and pushing each other to be better.
The biggest challenge they face is finding a balance between work and life. It can be difficult to shut off after a long day of work when there’s always more to be done. But Anna says it’s important to make time for themselves and their relationship outside of work as well.
Overall, Anna says running Hardy and Christensen with her partner has been an incredibly rewarding experience. They are able to support each other through the ups and downs of business ownership, and they wouldn’t want to do it any other way.
“The opportunities and challenges which moving the business from Paris to England presents, make it an interesting and exciting time,” she says, “it’s a chance to start over, but also a chance to build on what we have, and that is a very unique situation which we both feel blessed to have.”.
Recent adventures for Anna Hardy
Recently, Anna’s life has been more challenging than ever. A diagnosis in 2019 of a heart murmur has since resulted in two open-heart surgeries to replace three of the four valves and a highly experimental Cardio-Intervention to preserve her life between surgeries.
Whilst her heart is recovering well from the latest surgery in June 2022, she remains symptomatic and still struggles with some of the things that others may take for granted. The care and support of her Cardiologist, his Team and other Specialists has been both exceptional and unwavering, without them her days would have been limited, but now every day is a chance to improve.
Anna is remarkably upbeat about it all, and often spends more time cheering up others than anything else. Her friends and family have been amazing, particularly through the trials and tribulations of the pandemic, they, alongside Sven, have been a rock onto which she has gratefully held fast.
What Advice She has to Share with Young People
Anna Hardy, artist, photographer and co-owner at Hardy and Christensen, shares some advice for young people who are thinking about pursuing a career in the arts.
“First of all, don’t be discouraged if you don’t have any natural talent,” she says. “It’s not necessary. What’s more important is having a passion for the arts and being willing to work hard.”
She also recommends finding a good mentor who can give you guidance and advice. “There’s no substitute for experience,” she says. “Having someone who’s been there before and can show you the ropes is invaluable.”
Finally, Anna stresses the importance of networking. “Get to know other artists and art professionals,” she says. “You never know when one of those connections might come in handy.”
Anna Hardy is a multi-talented artist whose work has brought joy and inspiration to many. She uses her photography and artistry as a medium for expression that delights, informs, and awakens the senses. By weaving together elements of surprise with her unique perspective, Anna creates magical experiences that draw people in from near and far. With great vision and even more passion, Anna Hardy continues to collaborate on projects within the Hardy & Christensen team while also pushing herself to stay creative within an ever-changing artistic landscape.
Artist, Tailor, Photographer, co-Founder of Hardy+Christensen
What happens when creativity, vision and adversity come together? Artist Sven Christensen is a true testament of resilience as he strives to make his dreams come true despite the odds. Born in Kristiansand, Norway, to a mother who worked as a seamstress and tailor for affluent society, and alcoholic father, this is Sven’s astonishing journey in art and business.
Introduction to Sven Christensen and his Background
Sven Christensen is a world renowned artist and the co-owner of Hardy and Christensen, a unique soft-furnishings and art creator and a niche platform for emerging Artists. Sven was born and raised in Norway, where he went to University, specialising in Photography. After graduation, Sven moved to Paris to improve and promote his Street Photography and to pursue his dream of becoming a full-time artist, where he met Anna during a rainy street photography shoot near the Louvre. This chance meeting was to have a profound effect on the direction of Sven’s career and personal life.
Initially reluctant to share his art with others, fearing that it was inferior, Sven continued to rely on his photography to pay the bills up until 2011, when during a chance meeting with Anna, a long term friend, she took a keen interest in the unique geometric and bold style of Sven’s work, encouraging him to share it with the world and to pursue Art as his ‘true calling’. Much of Sven’s artwork is attributed to the nom de plume’s which he adopted during his early career, partly to shield himself from criticism but mostly because he remains a shy, humble and reserved artist.
Since 2011, Sven has achieved great success as an artist. His work has been featured in many prestigious galleries and museums around the world, and select online platforms. Whilst he rarely acknowledges or speaks of them, he has also won many prestigious awards from his contemporaries and from leading figures in the Art world. In addition to his successful career as an artist, Sven remains a very talented Street Photographer, overcoming his natural shyness to put his subjects at ease.
If you are looking for a world-class artist with a passion for helping others, look no further than Sven Christensen. He believes that art should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their background or education.
Challenges Faced on the Journey
Sven Christensen started out as a self-taught hobby photographer and artist, before going on to study at University.
Armed only with a basic second hand SLR camera, bought in a charity shop just outside Oslo, Sven’s fascination with the lives, challenges and resilience of people led him to start photographing people going about their lives in his home-town. Always striving to capture the essence and character of the subject and not just their likeness, the technical challenges of using a very basic film based camera and developing the pictures himself in the room under the stairs, taught him the importance of composition and careful planning. Skills which he says are as important today as they ever were.
Growing up in a poor family, often driven to scavenge for discarded or imperfect fruit and vegetables after the local market had closed, Sven learned the value of the simple things, and the importance of charity.
He has faced many challenges along the way, including financial struggles and rejection from galleries. But he has persevered, and is now an established artist with a strong body of work. His advice to other artists is to never give up on your dreams, no matter how hard it gets.
Progression of Sven’s Career in Art and Photography
Sven Christensen’s professional photography career began in the early 1990s when he collaborated with other Norwegian Artists in a ground-breaking out-reach programme using Street Photography to raise awareness of, and funds to alleviate, poverty in key European cities. His work focuses on capturing real people in their ‘natural habitat’ through his lens.
Christensen’s work has been featured in numerous publications and on many online art platforms. In addition to his photography career, Christensen is also an accomplished artist, working in Oils, Acrylics and most recently in Computer Generated (CG) hybrid constructs. His paintings have been exhibited in galleries around the world and a good proportion of his work is held in private collections.
Christensen’s social conscience has often prompted him to create social commentary pieces, however these are almost never shared outside of his immediate circle of friends and confidants. With that said, the burden and feeling of responsibility instilled by that social conscience can be readily seen in the extensive use of organic, sustainable and responsibly sourced materials used by Hardy and Christensen.
Never forgetting the difficulties in launching a career in Art, Sven has also worked to help many aspiring artists get their start in the Art World by mentoring them and promoting their work to galleries and independent Curators and more recently by presenting their works at Hardy and Christensen.
Taking on Co-ownership at Hardy and Christensen
Sven Christensen is now an artist and co-owner at Hardy and Christensen, a company that produces limited edition and exclusive artworks which adorn a range of soft-furnishings, functional items and Wall Art, almost exclusively produced in high quality organic fabrics. He has been with the company for over 10 years and has seen it grow from a small startup to a thriving business.
Starting in a humble Gallery and ‘sewing shed’ in the Parisian suburbs, as Sven and Anna’s love grew stronger, so did their business. Their shared social values and ethics coupled with their love of beauty in its myriad forms has seen them grow from a startup to a life-style business and beyond. Sven is often surprised by how far they have come. “We’re doing some really exciting things right now,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Hardy and Christensen.” Reflecting further on the contribution of Hardy and Christensen to wider society, Sven muses that “The intention has never been to create a Million Euro business, and we haven’t, but our success has given us some unique opportunities to support our ‘passion projects’ and charities which align with our own ideals.”
Hardy and Christensen is currently moving its operations from Mainland Europe to England, and Christensen is excited to be part of the transition. “Anna has long harboured a desire to return home, and with access to such exquisite art, fabric and a rich social tapestry, moving to England was a simple choice to make.” he said. “Although in some ways we feel like we are back at square one, as we decided to go for a hard-reset, it is an exciting opportunity to do it all again, only better, and with even more focus on supporting others.”
Creative Inspirations & Methodology
As an artist, Sven Christensen is constantly looking for new sources of inspiration. He often finds inspiration in the work of other artists, as well as in science, mathematics, technology and the world around him. Taking inspiration from Mondrian and other leading geometric artists, Sven has sought to drive this discipline into the present and beyond. When it comes to his methodology, Christensen is always experimenting and trying new things. He believes that art should be a challenge, both for the artist and for the viewer.
“To have the opportunity to rebuild Hardy and Christensen in England is a daunting, yet exciting challenge which Anna and I are both looking forward to. The up’s and down’s of Anna’s health situation have introduced an addditional layer of complexity for sure, but we are up for the challenge, and are so fortunate to have the support of our friends, family, colleagues and clients.”