ONCE DISMISSED AS ‘TOO CREATIVE’, THIS MELBOURNE-BASED TEXTILE ARTIST HAS FOUND HER SILVER LINING AT LAST.
IT MAY BE A NAME that preordains a career in the kitchen, but Elise Cakebread has left that business to her sister. “She is the gifted baker,” says the Melbourne craft practitioner who is mixing it up in a different medium — textile design — “but we both have practical skills and love the ‘making’.” Nesting in a small former bedroom at the front of a suburban house, where a magpie’s sensibility has spun lairy threads and a little plant matter into a cosy studio, Cakebread admits to acquiring those skills in a very circuitous way. “After majoring in art history and theatre studies at the University of Melbourne, I had all the critical thinking but no career path,” she says. “So I spent a lot of time travelling, dabbling in retail and slowly developing an interest in traditional crafts, particularly the art of leather glove-making.” She found her way to Millau, a small town in southern France that once supplied the Empress Joséphine with up to 1000 pairs of lambskin gloves per year. “There were three ateliers in a remote area that was almost unreachable until a viaduct bridge was built in recent years,” Cakebread says. “I had made it my mission to become an intern, but an insurance issue prevented that option.” Cakebread remembers getting ready to hitchhike out of town and having last-minute thoughts about a return home to study. “I was sitting in this horrible McDonald’s on my laptop and suddenly enrolling in textile design at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology,” she says. “It was the best decision I ever made and as soon as I started [the course], I knew it was right. Why the hell hadn’t I done it years ago?” Fast-tracking to the end of that degree and the subsequent encounters with potential employers, Cakebread recalls the oft-repeated critique of her work as being ‘ too creative’. “So I just started doing my own thing.” Her wild and woolly reimagining of soft furnishings into sculptural colour fields soon got her noticed. Hotel Hotel, the cool Canberra establishment that both incubates local talent and accommodates tourists, got it, commissioning Cakebread to furnish its foyer with her ‘Pile High Club’ cushions. And Dulux spotted a star on the ascent, briefing the artist to fashion her galactic ‘Soft Hemispheres’ in the bold colours of their Infinite Worlds palette. Soon to launch a new collection of Silver Linings soft furnishings at the 2016 Melbourne design trade event, Denfair, Cakebread predicts a broodier palette for design. “The ‘place’ we are in right now makes us subliminally attracted to darker things,” she says of world disorder. “We want to cosy in and protect ourselves.”
clockwise from right: Elise Cakebread in her Melbourne studio, surrounded by her plush, playful creations and inspirational mood board.