Eleanor Grace Pratt is inspired by a style that adds depth to the ordinary. She is a Woven Fabric Designer and Illustrator who loves developing her drawings into textile, all of which she freestyles.With nothing less than a colourful history to explore, GloTIME’s Design Expert Emma Michelle caught up with Eleanor.
When Eleanor sets up a loom and chooses her yarn, an expression of focus flashes across her face. “I’m determining how much depth I can add to my design with colour and feel, kind of like my drawings,” she explains. Eleanor’s aim is to master the manufacturing of woven fabrics, particularly in places like India and Belgium. “I love adding contrast and movement with every single pen and ink I can get hold of, although weaving is also about creating an understanding of the loom I’m using at that time.” While she’s in the UK, the textile designer is starting by looking out for a second hand floor loom – and a space to put it.
She also seems partial to perhaps an unexpected interest: Trains. “The project theme of locomotives seemed appropriate as I love seeing them chug past! They occasionally go through at the end of my garden and it’s just a really lovely sound. I wanted to express an appreciation towards the amazing bit of engineering steam engines were, as well as touch on the relationship they share with the development of textile manufacturing.” Well, what exactly does she use? “I have experimented with cable and wire for conceptual designs – I really like using fine wire, it’s a strong contrast when placed next to other yarn.” We can’t help but ask whether she’s ever thought of using human hair though. “Well why not? You might be onto something there. There are designers who create beautiful fabrics with horse hair. That’s partly what I really enjoy, how vast the possibilities are when it comes to yarn, although I am yet to give weaving with something out of the ordinary a go!”
When asked what exactly fuels Eleanor’s love for weaving, it is no surprise that studying a Foundation at the Wimbledon School of Art in 2009 was exactly where her passions grew. “I started just after I’d watched Mastercrafts on the BBC and saw the potential it had. My class were presented with a tapestry weave-based project, and we were to use basic frame, just like the loom. Our tutor then showed us the amazing potential this piece of equipment had. I saw weaving as another form of painting – the textures and tones you could create from raw material were simply phenomenal. I knew then that there was much to discover, and I wanted to make it my ambition to explore this medium as much as I could.” And explore she did. Eleanor lived in Brussels for a while, absorbing her surroundings. “I think I particularly took an interest in style when I was living in Brussels. A lot of Belgians I met seemed to have a natural eye for good design (and beer!). I noticed their attentiveness to style and composition and before I knew it, my environment had an aspirational value. In hindsight, I can see now that there is a touch of elegance in my designs.”
As for painting, Eleanor’s love for colour translates through her recent Suburban Collection – an exploration of both colour and drawing technique that GloTIME simply loves. The series sees Eleanor illustrate places she has visited, which she then uses as a basis of inspiration before transforming key elements of the drawings into intricately woven pieces. “Illustration is my passion, and being commissioned for bespoke work allows me to really apply my ability and personal touch. I love using felt tips, water-soluble pens and inks as well as watercolour paints to create a drawing. I then use a mixture of 0.2 black fine-liners and biro to define the detail. In Suburban, it was all about the masking fluid! Liquid latex smells awful but is so useful for adding depth to drawings. In fact, I recently illustrated a shellfish-inspired piece for a client, and her reaction was so rewarding. It’s the best feeling getting kudos for painting considering I’m not ten years old!”
Eleanor isn’t afraid to go back to basics though. She is a strong believer in working simply, so as to not limit herself by over-complicating her designs. Her aim is clear: create designs for the love of colour and texture. She encourages any emerging artists to explore their potential and continuously draw. “Once you’re at that stage, you can pick out what you like about a particular drawing style and apply it to your designs. Build on the designs – it’s purely instinctive and if you stick to an organic feeling, you’ll find enjoyment in the development process. As for weaving, really look for the right environment to learn in and try as many different looms as you can. Some are more technical than others, and you need to know what works for you and your designs. It’s all about you.”
In her bid to take over the world one weave at a time, Eleanor wants to create an even bigger awareness of how influential fabric is in our lifestyles and the industry behind it. “The appreciation of fabric quality and origin is just as important as aesthetics,” she says, as she brings her interest back to fabrics made in the UK. That being said, there is still a global industry to sink her teeth into. “I am lucky to have visited Japan and experience a part of this already, but I’ve barely scratched the surface of understanding.” In the long run, working alongside a group of other weavers and creating samples for a design house is a picture of the future she mentally paints. We can’t wait to see what’s next.
For commissions and more information, visit Eleanor’s website at: http://eleanorgracepratt.co.uk/