When I was kid it was my task to set the table for dinner each night. It's a ritual that I've come to love so whenever I stumble across really beautiful table linens, like Shilo Engelbrecht's Alv Interiors collection, my heart skips a beat. Shilo currently lives in Cambridge but has recently popped home to Australia + was kind enough to take some time out to answer a few questions.
Tell us a little bit about the path that led to the creation of Alv - was it something you always knew you wanted to do + worked towards or was it more organic?
Yes! In retrospect I have always incorporated textiles into my work, even at school. For me, it's an exciting medium + has so much potential.
Where does a path begin + stop? I could say it started growing up in South Africa but that is a long story! This is the shorter version: I studied Fine Arts + Fashion at QUT + then got a job doing Art Therapy. I moved to Europe to live a year in Holland + the last three years in the UK. This has been full of adventures, travel, challenges +, most importantly, meeting interesting people. It was whilst I was living in Glasgow + working at The Centre of Advanced Textiles that I started my research into historical ideas about interior design + began to experiment with digital printing.
Can you describe the process of creating your first Alv Interiors collection - what was the inspiration behind the beautiful imagery, how do you go about creating the original artwork + then transforming it into a finished piece ready for the table?
I was in Cambridge for summertime after spending seven months in Glasgow. I had so much energy to paint so every day I sat in our glass greenhouse with my easel. After some weeks I had many paintings that connected together with a story that made sense to me + reflected the ideas I was having in Glasgow. I thought it would be great to see these printed on a flexible surface.
I sent the paintings to The Centre of Advanced Textiles to digitally print for me on textural linens + heavy cottons which formed my range of textiles for interiors. The fabrics are not intended solely for the table, there are many ways they can be enjoyed.
What is your studio like - do you prefer to work alone or share a space with other artists?
I work from a studio in an very English garden in Cambridge: apple trees, hedgehogs + blossoms that come out of the ground in spring. I only moved there this summer + it has such a great feeling. It's a more isolated working environment compared to what I had before but I think that feels right. The energy there is really conducive for thinking + creating without any distraction - exactly the space I need!
What is your idea of the perfect meal for an Alv Interior table setting - where would it be, what would be on the menu, who would you be with?
Oh that's a tough one. We spend a lot of time in Sweden + Australia but perhaps I would choose Australia! It would have to be outside at a big table at Mum + Dad's lychee farm in Northern New South Wales with friends + family. The menu would be local, homegrown + include fresh mackerel that Dad would catch. Heaven!
What's next for you and for Alv?
My second collection + a collaboration with a Cambridge physicist.
Finally, which other creatives do you think are doing amazing things right now?
Mostly I look at historical references for ideas about art + creativity however for current and inspiring 'problem solving' design I enjoy reading about finalists from Danish awards group INDEX: Design to Improve Life.
I also think my mate David Prior is doing super work as a travel + food writer. Actually, he does so much more than just that but his talent helps us travel and connect with a place in such a unique way.
Shilo is travelling the East Coast over the next month or so peddling her wares; if you'd like to see here work in the flesh do get in contact with her via her website.