Skall letter No. 25

Helene Blanche - textiles and colours aging with beauty

Dear friends,

One of the five principles of Skall Studio is “Sustainable fashion is made from natural materials”. We have always loved textile materials, and our passion for the unique natural fibers goes back as long as we remember. During several years, we have admired the creative soul behind the beautiful prints and textiles at Tapet Café, and in her own name, textile designer Helene Blanche. One autumn day in October, we meet the woman who has always been attracted to working with colours and textiles.

“From an early age, around 5 years old, I found peace of mind when drawing and painting, and from the age of 10 I became almost obsessed by knitting. I knitted long and continuous rows of knitwear. It was not intended to be anything specific. It just gave me so much peace of mind, doing the handwork. 

During the years at the gymnasium, I attended a night course at Tilskæringsakademiet in Bredgade. I wanted to be able to make beautiful dresses, like the ones I saw in the French Vogue. I was so excited about the craft that I wanted to try other lines, so after my graduation I went to Holbæk Kunsthøjskole where I took classes in sculpture and textile design. That year turned out to be very important to me as I became aware of my creative skills, and how to develop a craft. A new door opened. At this time, I also felt a longing to go abroad and I decided to move to London where I was accepted at the textile line at The Central Saint Martins, from where I graduated as textile designer, specialized in knitwear. It was a complete wild and wonderful time.

I was still obsessed with knitting, now on machines where I was able to develop the most fantastic creation. Besides school, I did some work for designers, for 5 punds per hour. I did everything, from stitching 10.000 pcs of felt on a showpiece for Alexander McQueen, to make the most delicate handmade laces for Sophia Kokosalaki’s first collection. I was deeply obsessed by the handicraft and has been ever since.” 

“When I moved back home from London, I immediately bought a knitting machine, the same type as I had used in London. And then arrived the 300 kg heavy machine and was placed in the middle of our living room, in me and Jannik’s small city apartment in Hoberggade. I made a couple of exclusive collections that I sold in Lot29, and for a short period of time I was employed as knitwear designer at Day Birger Et Mikkelsen. But after only one year back in Denmark I could feel that my passion was not for fashion and apparel, but for textiles. For prints and woven patterns. My husband Jannik and I shared the passion for colours and textile, and the idea of starting something of our own, so in 2003 I started working in his family’s company Tapet-Café. The many hours spent at the knitting machine was now instead spent on creating sketches for home textiles and wallpaper that was printed in a small place in Sweden.”

The design processes are essential to our work and we love it every time we start a new design process. We work with inspiration from around the world, and from the many artists and musicians that we admire. Helene is telling us about her design process which we recognize as our creative souls have similar mindsets and ways of working.

“To me, the passion lies in the tactile materials, the profundity, the colour shades, the patterns. My most important tool has always been my intuition, combined with my continuous awareness of different styles and materials as found in tactile and decorative materials. I want to create a timeless and classic style in my collections, with references to history and art, and I want to help creating a new print idiom. Textiles and colours is a fascinating, universal, expressive and dynamic language that decorates, dress, creates atmosphere and tells stories about our time. And it is a privileged to be part of that creation. 

I will always be fascinated by the American artist couple Christo and Jean-Claude and their wild installations of wrapped up objects, buildings and transformation of landscape. They point out that their art makes the world a more beautiful place or gives people an opportunity to watch an old scenery in a new way. I would have loved to see Pont Neuf wrapped in textile in 1985 in Paris. I am also enthusiastic about the Danish art group A-kassen and their avant-garde and conceptual pieces of art, and the playfulness of their modernistic installations. Their works are fascinating with its ponderous and abstract expression.”

Our talk takes us towards the digital world. When we were kids and when we decided to study design, the internet as we know it today, did not exist. And we did not meet the world to the same extend as we do today. This is why we find inspiration and peace, living for the present, be present where we are. Books are an important source of inspiration, but we are of course also using the internet a lot. We find answers and we receive feeds of information, and it takes us places where we never thought we should go. We ask Helene what her attitude is to all the possibilities we have today, and how it influences her.

“I believe there are positive elements in the fact that we do have access to everything. I love to do research and collect knowledge about, for instance styles and a special artistic era, and right now with limitations on travels, I am still able to  visit the latest art exhibitions and to get access to art collections that interests me, for instance at V & A, thanks to the internet and social medias. But there are also negative elements in the fact that all opinions are shared. There is a risk of creative directions being more streamlined, which is unfortunate for the artistic development. In my work, my collections always become stronger when my starting point is zero, and when I use quite simple elements in my creation, like ink and paper and dare to make mistakes. This is where beauty is born.”

Family ties

As a family run (mother run) company we value the strong ties we have as sisters. And without being together, we may not have had the courage to believe that we were able to create Skall Studio, and to give women around the world the possibility to buy trendy, yet timeless and sustainable clothes. We ask Helene how a family of 4 girls has helped her believe in her own creativity. 

“We grew up in a home where our mother made our clothes, and we shared a joy for the tactile material. Our decadent and glamorous grandmother had a closet full of beautiful old evening dresses from a bygone era, and she made the most delicately embroidered purses. They were so beautiful and exotic. My sisters and I have always taken great pleasure in materials, no matter whether they were inherited, or we helped creating them. As adults, we use each other for sparring. I find it very important to have a free space where you can have an honest talk, give honest critics and help each other.”

Helene and her husband Jannik Martensen-Larsen live in a warm and creative home in Hellerup, which is forming a confident and beautiful space for their three children, Barbara Vera, Silvia Blanche, Johan and the dog Madonna. With parents that are creative and interested in art, we finally ask Helene what she is hoping that her children will learn from her creativity. 

“It is my hope that they will understand how much you are in fact able to create yourself, and the gift of mastering a handicraft. That you are able to go really far, if you are passionate and dare to believe in something. It is important to have dreams and to dare dreaming. It has also been important to me to show them how great it is to create something together. It can be a rather basic things, like in the kitchen, when making apple juice in a large juice extractor from apples coming from our own garden, or when building something. It is all about creating something and making it work.

I must admit that our kids are much more independent than Jannik and I were, where we were kids, and I think it is partly due to the fact that we as parents talk more with our children, and share our creative life with them, for better and for worse. I am always surprised when they come up with ideas, and they already have decided how to do it and make sure that it would work well. They are so brave.”

Helene, thank you for your openness and beauty.

Julie & Marie