Sew in Demand
Brooklyn-based textile designer Elodie Blanchard shares her whimsical work with Urban Agenda Magazine.
By Sarah Emily Gilbert
Grenoble, France native and innovative designer Elodie Blanchard found her artistic niche in New York City thanks to young love, a visionary eye, and well…curtains.
With a degree in fashion and sculpture, Blanchard began in the Paris fashion industry designing clothes and organizing runway shows. Merely 23, Blanchard won the prestigious young designer prize at the International Arts Festival of Hyeres, which allowed her the opportunity to sell a clothing line at the popular French mail order company, La Redoute. In 2000, Blanchard received a grant to study at California Institute of the Arts, and her focus shifted towards large-scale installation products, performance art, and a boyfriend who urged her to move with him from California to NYC. Wanting to break from the fashion industry and begin a career that complemented her carefree attitude, Blanchard agreed to relocate to the Big Apple. With limited English and small funds, Blanchard had to put her artistic performance work on hold in order to make a living, but little did she know that her living would heavily depend on curtains.
Blanchard decided to jumpstart her career by designing textiles for large corporations like the Work Architecture Company (Work AC). After her work for one of their projects received substantial press, Blanchard unexpectedly became known for her curtain designs. As a result, she began doing custom work and curtain installations for respected architects and interior designers.
The widespread appeal of Blanchard’s curtains largely stems from their unconventional look and whimsicality. Blanchard mixes unusual textiles like outdoor material, mesh, and felt to create graphic curtains with hidden surprises. Grommets and punched holes in her “Raw Edge Accordion” curtains look like a constellation of stars when light pours through, and her “Always Kiss Me Good Night” curtains feature adorable oversized animals that meet, or “kiss” when they’re closed at night.
When she’s not draping curtains, Blanchard works in a more conceptual role as a designer for HBF Textiles and constructs products for her personal line of soft goods and home accessories. It’s because of this combination of work that Blanchard says she is able to consistently produce new work, as “every activity feeds the other.”
“I will make a textile installation for an architect in their office. From there, I’ll find an idea that I use to make the upholstery fabric for an engineer’s textile, which might lead to me making a pillow with a butterfly on it because I made a huge butterfly installation for a client. It all varies, but at the same time, it is very much related.” A constant thread in Blanchard’s projects is the use of her personal aesthetic, which she describes as, “modern and colorful, with some humor in it.” Arguably, it’s Blanchard’s small, quirky products from her Etsy shop, Elastic Co., that best represent her artistic eye. With playful items like rubber band vases and poodle-shaped pillows, it is Blanchard’s hand-embroidered butterflies that first caught the attention of Urban Agenda’s Editor in Chief, Lynn Smith. Featured in Urban Agenda Magazine’s April/May 2015 issue. Blanchard’s textile butterflies possess a breathtakingly airy quality.
In order to create the unconventional wall decorations, Blanchard prints a large-scale coloring page of a butterfly, places a piece of paper on the canvas, pins it, and sews it to the side of the template. Then she removes the paper so that she can “draw with her sewing machine.” Blanchard fills in the butterfly like she’s coloring a picture, frequently changing the thread type and color, alternating the designs, and adding in lines. The result is a series of arbitrary thread patterns that somehow mesh into a perfectly symmetrical butterfly.
Although the detail in her textiles can take hours to complete, Blanchard’s continued success proves they’re worth the effort. In 2014, she developed a line of upholstery fabric for HBF Textiles that won the esteemed NeoCon gold award.
Blanchard’s Winter 2016 Collection for HBF, inspired by American Industrial Designer Russell Wright’s organic modern architecture, is equally impressive. The six patterns and 43 colorways in the collection celebrate elements of the natural world like clouds, beetles, pebbled seashores, and Blanchard’s beloved butterflies.
Blanchard’s work has been featured in the New York Times, New York Magazine, DWELL, and ELLE Décor, and she has been invited to teach at Parsons and the New School for Design. Despite her impressive list of accomplishments, the ever modest Blanchard is just beginning to feel the rush of “making it.”
“For the first time in my life I feel like, yeah, maybe I’m on my way.”
To see or purchase the Elodie Blanchard collection for HBF Textiles, visit hbftextiles.com.