TEA AND A CHAT
The French-born textile designer, who now lives and works in London, gives us an insight into her creative, colourful world
We natter to French-born textile designer, Claire de Quénetain
There’s something changing in the world of textiles. Exciting new names are enriching our interiors with their fresh approach and artistic flair for fabric design. Using both traditional processes and cutting-edge techniques, it’s about creating desirable one-o s, unique custom-dyes and, for talented RCA graduate Claire de Quénetain, it’s about telling a story.
Growing up in France, Claire had the kind of childhood most of us dream of. Surrounded by farmland, she helped her parents raise hundreds of deer that roamed the fields around their country home. At the age of 10 the family moved to Paris, and, missing the familiar landscape of her native Normandy, Claire began painting natural scenes using fluid movements.
Having found her passion, she went on to study Fine Art in Switzerland, before moving to London in 2012. Claire still lives in London today, with her husband and their 11-month-old daughter, Victoria. We visited her home studio to find out more about how she creates her vivid watercolour designs. How did you start working with fabric? It all began when I did a Masters at the Royal College of Art in Printed Textiles. During this time, I began to imagine my paintings as textiles for interiors. I wanted to bring nature indoors, so I started to paint designs onto fabrics. Describe your typical working day. No two days are the same for me, but I’m usually based at my home studio in London. Each September, I start working on a new collection, which involves visiting private gardens and taking pictures of plants and flowers as part of my research process. From there, I create a story. I draw sketches, then paint in a very free way onto paper. Nothing I do is predetermined. Tell us about your creative process. I study colours, shapes and floral compositions in the gardens I visit and then create new patterns, working as sincerely as possible. I use digital printing and screen printing techniques, but I always hand-paint one or two fabrics or cushions per collection. Working from home, how do you juggle your work and your family life? I tend to work when my daughter, Victoria, is taking her naps. My husband, Mads, is a graphic designer and has his own studio,
so he’s flexible and shares the childcare. My daughter loves watching me cut fabrics and pack orders – she is very curious and is always trying to ‘help’! I think she’s drawn to my fabrics as they’re so colourful. What was the hardest part of getting your business started? Gaining visibility for my work was di cult at first, but I found Instagram was a great tool for sharing images of my designs. Social media was essential in getting collaborations with other brands, and from there I also got featured in magazines. The commercial side is a big challenge for me – being a creative person, I’m not so interested in that part! Can you tell us about some of your previous collaborations? Heal’s was my first. In July 2014, at the end of my Masters, we had a graduation show where we presented our work. Heal’s came along and saw my designs, and proposed a collaboration. I met them at the beginning of September and they showed me the
‘I draw sketches, then paint in a free way onto paper. Nothing I do is predetermined.’
moodboards and colour palette of the collection they wanted me to work on. I put forward a few paintings and they selected ‘Le Jardin d’Été’ – a bright, summery design made up of blue, pink and turquoise flowers. This was then printed onto fabric by the metre, and cushions, tea towels and ceramics launched in March 2015.
More recently, I’ve been working with French fabric house Maison Thevenon on a collection of printed textiles that will be launched in September at interiors trade event Decorex, in London. Are there any more upcoming projects or collaborations you can share? I’m planning a collaboration with an interior designer from New York and a textile house in London. I’m also working on my next collection of printed textiles. Was there a specific plant or flower that inspired your new collections? For this latest collection, it was flowers such as hydrangeas, hortensia and lupins. Some of the designs show floral compositions, drawn from pictures that I took in public gardens – they feature rich colours, subtle details and a variety of shapes and movements. Some of the designs have been inspired by the structure of flowers themselves – close-ups of their
‘Some of the designs have been inspired by the structure of f lowers themselves.’
individual compositions. The following collection will be a continuation of this, more close-ups of a variety of plants and flowers. I’d like them to be screen-printed onto soft linen and sold as fabric by the metre, with cushions too. Do you have a dream project? I’d love to design a whole room from scratch in a private house or hotel. I’d create a complete set design using fabric, furniture and wall paintings – a big installation, or ‘roomscape’. This Subscribe at expression was coined by the Italian interior designer Lorenzo Mongiardino, who has been a huge inspiration for me. What’s the most important business lesson you’ve learnt? I’ve learnt to always have a clear vision for the project that I’m working on and the steps that I need to take to see it through to fruition. And, I’ve learnt to be confident that things will happen as they’re meant to – I believe that if I’m on the right road, everything will come together.
Claire de Quénetain designs colourful fabrics and homeware inspired by floral gardens, using fluid painting techniques that have drawn comparisons with impressionist artist Matisse. Follow her on Instagram @ claire deque net ai nor see more of her textiles and paintings by visiting her website. www.clairedequenetain.com
Finding your niche with...
01 In her living room Claire contrasts the colourful wall painting with black and white cushions. 02 A sneak peek at the colour palette for her new textile collection. 03 Fabrics are created through digital and screen printing, although Claire hand-paints a few items too.
01 A unique, hand-painted piece of silk organza. 02 You’ll find Claire’s designs on homeware collections too, like these ‘Sabine’ napkins and painted plate. 03 All of Claire’s designs are inspired by nature.
01 Claire’s home studio is a riot of colour – you can see the transition from swatch to painting, through to the finished product. 02 It was just two years ago that Claire started selling her first own fabric accessories. 03 All designs start with a sketch.