Shilo Engelbrecht

posted on: Friday, 13 December 2013

Art to dine for!

The lovely Shilo Engelbrecht

Alv Textiles on display at Koskela in Sydney

Stunning table setting

When I met Shilo Engelbrecht, I knew she was a true artist for two reasons. Firstly, every piece of her clothing was more interesting than the next. Her fabulous fluoro pink knit was paired with a tiered metallic full-length skirt, bone caramel glasses, and intricate yellow and silver jewelled sandals. Tres fab. Secondly, she subconsciously touched every single item on our cafe table, feeling the surface of the straws, sugar, cups, bottle, and water jug! 

According to a fashion-focused family member of mine, the best part of eating is setting the table and Shilo's brand Alv Textiles has brought art off the walls and onto the dining table.  Launched less than a year ago, she has gone from studying in Brisbane, to creating her collection in Cambridge, to exhibiting in Sydney and Melbourne, and is in the process of moving to Stockholm. Not to mention she has caught the attention of everyone from Vogue to Kit Kemp. Phew.

Back in Brisbane for a short break to catch her breath and to hang out with family, she is hoping to get to a studio on a lychee farm in Murwillumbah to paint a whole new collection before heading back to Europe. Below is an extract from our chat. So fabulous to meet you Shilo! xx


Do you do a lot of research when starting a collection?
Yes that is how it all begins. It's fairly unstructured research which involves many different sources. I let my interest lead me instinctively. In retrospect, I see patterns emerge in the way I research and what inspires me to experiment. This first collection of textiles was born from the combined interest in historical interior design and explored through textiles as a medium. I found the holistic arts practice of architects' and artists' houses in England and Scotland very inspiring. Generally I think some interiors can be a little bit uninspiring and homogenised, but these artists in the 1900s were resourceful and their homes became extensions of their studios and creative practice.

Did this inspire you? What is your own home like?
My partner is a scientist and I think there is a beautiful and interesting relationship and connection between science and art. They are similar in many ways. He works creatively: it's just with photons while I work with fibres. We had a wonderful house in a small village in Cambridge that we shared with another scientist-artist couple, which was so much fun. It had a beautiful garden with apple trees, hedgehogs and a really good pub around the corner! Phil, our flat mate is a very talented painter and ceramicist so the house was full of his work, our books and my odd collection of things. 

What made you focus on art for the dining table?
I started out wanting to do an interior 'set'. I was going to design everything for a house including print fabrics for the wall like a tapestry, covering chairs, bed linen, but only got as far as the table settings!

You're being exhibited in Koskela in Sydney and Ganim's Store in Melbourne. How did that come about?
I met with both companies earlier in the year and everything seemed to be a perfect fit. They are both such great Australian stores and their ethos and philosophies I admire. I decided early on that I didn't want to engage in a lot of retail representation because as a tiny business only in their first year I wanted to control the quality and make sure that everything I was delivering was to a super high standard which I was happy with. Everything I do is on a very small scale; from the painting process, to the digital printing and then the sewing. It feels good to support other small businesses in the UK and Australia along the way and avoid any sweatshop related production. 

How has it been adding the business side to being an artist?
I've learned a lot. There's a lot to look after beyond the creative side. There's filling orders and business meetings and admin and media. I've found you need to find a balance and keep your eyes on what you really want to be doing. All of the admin takes up so much of my time and I would rather be painting! All I can do for now is complete one thing at a time. I learned that from my little sister! If you step back and look at all that needs to be done you can go mad. My partner Jonas and I work closely together to manage it.

Are you  surprised by the success that you've had?
I've been really lucky. It's not quite a year since I launched my collection. It all started from one lady finding my work. She shared it with her network in London and then it snowballed from there. It's amazing to get emails from magazines and interior design companies in the UK and Europe who are interested in what I'm making. I pinch myself all the time. 

What's next for you?
Is it December?! I'm meant to be painting in December! And in January I'm starting a new digitial project.

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