Elodie Blanchard is an artist working at the intersection of fiber art, performance, and design. Known for her textile designs, large-scale fiber sculptures and installations, and costume-driven performances, Blanchard uses humor and joy in complex and surprising ways, inviting the viewer to participate in a serious kind of play.
Through material exploration, repurposing, and a near meditative process of repetition, she transforms the discarded and the commonplace into fantastical objects and playful environments that encourage us to explore our ambiguous relationship to nature, to others, and to ourselves.
We caught up with Elodie to chat about her broad range of work and her use of sustainable and recycled materials to tell stories and engage with her audiences throughout her career.
Tell us a little about your background as a designer!
I always loved textiles and making. I studied sculpture at l’Ecole Supérieure des Beaux Arts, fashion at l’Ecole des Arts Appliqués Duperré in Paris where I explored textile and worked for fashion companies. A four-month residency in LA collaborating with musicians and dancers lead me to stay in the US. Moving to NYC, I started working for designers prototyping products, decorating parties, designing and producing all textile components for residential, commercial and institutional architectural projects.
In between these activities, I always found some time to continue creating my own work and explore new ideas. I love the problemsolving aspects of the job and the contact with the clients, contractors and architects. A few years ago, I started designing textiles for contract companies which is exiting because you have access to large scale production, and most of all I love visiting mills and learning something new.
Where do you look for inspiration when starting a new project?
I love to tell stories and start with a general idea… a forest of trees growing out of scraps, a hundred feelings looking at you, a fabric that feels like water. I will research other artists and designers interested in the same subject or survey what similar companies make and look at history. For “Masked Feelings,” I looked up masks in different countries and what they were used for.
What inspired your mask series specifically? How did these come into being?
In 2018-2019, I was in residency at the Museum of Arts and Design. The visitors can walk through your studio which is great but harder to focus. I used this time to draw emojis and organic shapes with intricate lines using emotion color wheels for inspiration. These drawings were the basis for “Masked Feelings,” a series of stitched caricatures encouraging interaction, self-reflection, and self-discovery. Which mask can you relate to? Anxious, sad, depressed, joyful, quiet… It gives us permission to explore our ambiguous relationship to others, and to ourselves.
“I love to tell stories and start with a general idea… a forest of trees growing out of scraps, a hundred feelings looking at you, a fabric that feels like water. I will research other artists and designers interested in the same subject or survey what similar companies make and look at history.“
What makes felt a good fit for these masks in a way that other materials simply wouldn’t?
As a non-woven textile, felt doesn’t fray, the edges are clean and you can easily create a bold, rigid and soft shape which is perfect for this project. Working with felt is similar to working with a sheet of thick paper or a piece of thin metal in that 3D shapes can stand on their own. I can fold, pleat, punch holes, fasten, weave or braid. It’s a warm material with a nice texture and the contrast with the colorful thin polyester thread works really well.
When you approach a new project, where do you start? (sketching, working directly with the material, digital rendering, etc)
Most of the time working directly with the material. For the “Masked Feelings” series, through felt exploration, and a near meditative process of repetitive stitching, I transform the discarded felt until it becomes something I am satisfied with. For custom work, it starts with a conversation. I have a portfolio and the clients can pick their own colors, layout, etc.… each project ends up unique. I propose a computer rendering that they have to approve before production. For design companies, I think about what they need and write my own brief. Often, I use my artwork as inspiration.
What does a typical day in your studio look like?
It really depends what project we have. If I am designing for a company, sitting in front of a computer, if custom, a lot of site visits, meetings, contractors and managing production, if working on my artwork a giant mess by myself. A few rituals don’t change. Every morning I write a list of what needs to be done while drinking my coffee. During the day, I often listen to books on tape. “Educated” right now and just finished “Passing” that I loved. The boring part, emailing, sending estimates, ordering is always there too.
“I used to draw emojis and organic shapes with intricate lines using emotion color wheels for inspiration. These drawings were the basis for “Masked Feelings,” a series of stitched caricatures encouraging interaction, selfreflection, and self-discovery. Which mask can you relate to? Anxious, sad, depressed, joyful, quiet… It gives us permission to explore our ambiguous relationship to others, and to ourselves.”
What projects are you working on that have you excited for the year ahead? Can you share any sneak peeks of what’s to come?
I just moved my studio to a storefront in Park Slope, Brooklyn and want to be a more active part of the neighborhood. Teaching, hosting events, exhibitions, sharing my love of making and repurposing. Thinking smaller scale and more collectively. I am working on a new catalog of my felt drapes. I am also creating larger giant felt goddesses.
About Elodie Blanchard
Born in 1976 in Grenoble, France, Blanchard studied sculpture at l’École Supérieure des Beaux Arts de Paris, fashion at l’École des Arts Appliqués Duperré (where she explored the material intelligence of textiles), and performance at CalArts (where she collaborated with musicians and dancers).
She established her design studio in 2005, and over the course of her career, has collaborated with numerous architects, designers, and brands, developing textile collections and working on large-scale works for public spaces, institutions, residences, offices, and hotels, in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Houston, and abroad. She was most recently an artist in residence at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York.
Part of the MillerKnoll collective