Nice to meet you – In conversation with Yael Shmueli-Goetz of plainHjem studio

Styling by plainHjem

 

It¬īs especially nice to meet new faces especially when the pandemic makes face-to-face opportunities so difficult at the moment.¬† Yael Shmueli-Goetz and I “met” online when she requested samples from our merino throw collection.

As an ex-curator of contemporary craft and design myself (in the UK in the 1990s) I am particularly drawn to Yael¬īs sensitivity for selecting and displaying unique – often hand-made objects in her styling work.¬† Our love of natural tactile, high quality design is another thing we have in common.

Although the heavy paperwork and additional costs of the (ha ha) “frictionless borders” have prevented us from collaborating at the moment I do hope we can work together in future.

Yael of plainHjem studio

I hope you enjoy our conversation..

  1. Tell us about your work with plainHjem studio.

I formed plainHjem studio about a year ago….¬† I have always had a great love of design … it took some courage and conviction to take the plunge and make it into a career. As I was never¬†particularly¬†keen on social media, my first task was to engage with Instagram (plainhjem.design) and I must say it has given me great joy as I effectively use it as my scrap book, a place to tag my own designs as well as the wonderful and varied creative work of others’.

Establishing oneself in this new field is challenging enough in ‘normal’ times so setting up a new studio during a pandemic is optimistic and a little crazy! Alongside taking on residential projects as plainHjem I also freelance for another studio and that has been great as I love working with people and collaborating on creative projects.

  1. If you could choose a piece of furniture for your home right now what would it be and why?

It has to be a mid-century Danish furniture piece as I have a deep passion and admiration for Scandinavian design of the era. So many of the pieces are timeless, iconic and masterfully designed and built. I spent some of my childhood in Copenhagen, Denmark and I think that is where I developed an appreciation of Scandinavian design. I have a particular weakness¬†for chairs and daybeds and my all time favourite chair is the Seal (Salen) chair by Ib Kofod Larsen. It’s the curved arms and the incline that is so beautiful as well as the wonderful teak wood frame.

 

  1. How is Brexit affecting the interior design sector in the UK?

It is hard to fully appreciate but there is no doubt that Brexit is and will continue to have an impact on the sector. I have always sourced beautiful objects, furniture¬†and textiles¬†from smaller, perhaps¬†less established, designers and makers without any consideration to their geographical origin as long as it was within¬†the EU. This is no longer the case as there are various extra charges and tedious paperwork¬†that make these transactions much more complicated and costly. I am very hopeful that with time, a better and fairer system can be established so that both makers and designers can work together collaboratively without ‘borders’. Only time will tell…

  1. Do you think the Covid-19 pandemic is changing or enhancing certain design trends?

There is absolutely no doubt that the pandemic is impacting design though again, we are still very much ‘in it’ and some time away from it, to reflect and evaluate, may bring new insights. For instance, the need to have a dedicated space to work from home means that people are keen to carve out an office space, sit/stand desks are in high demand, and maybe we are moving back to slightly less ‘open plan’ and more¬†‘broken’ spaces that confer greater flexibility.

  1. Anna Champeney Studio (like other British-trained designers such as Eleanor Pritchard and Margot Selby) retains a strong crafts-based philosophy, testing out designs by hand-weaving prototypes in-house and even weaving some smaller products on hand-looms.  What do you and your clients value most about this approach?

I think this is a highly commendable approach and both designers and clients appreciate¬†the time and thought taken to develop new designs and ‘feel the love’, the dedication and the craftsmanship that goes into making beautiful and unique¬†textiles. It is an important process that cannot be hurried or done away with. I think most clients value this though not all have an understanding of the process and it is therefore the role of the designer to ‘educate’ clients on the merits of this approach.

  1. How did you come across Anna¬īs work?¬† Which of the throws is your current favourite?

I can’t quite recall when I came across Anna’s work as it was many years ago but possibly through a crafts fair in London. I definitely made a mental note to remember¬†Anna’s work as I immediately looked her up when an interior project came along and I felt that her pieces are right for the project and the space.

I LOVE the Optic pattern as I am generally¬†not a pattern¬†person but do love stripes. Moreover, the colour combination in Anna’s weaves speak to my love of the Scandinavian palette, and some do feel very mid-century inspired and very pleasing to me.

Optic Stripe – Aquamar – Anna Champeney

Celebrating 20 years of Anna Champeney Studio – looking back & moving forward

20 years of Anna Champeney craft textiles in the Ribeira Sacra, Galicia, Spain 

In this special post we look back over the two decades since we came to Galicia in September 2000.

We also look forward and invite you to read our exciting 20th anniversary announcement about our future plans.

A change in vision?

In 2000 our original idea was to merge Galician textile techniques with contemporary design, use hand-spun local sheeps¬ī wool and develop “creative tourism” in the area by offering residential weave courses in the heart of the little-known Ribeira Sacra region.

We approached all of this with a somewhat utopian vision combined with a certain naievety; all essential Рin our case Рto generate the energy and momentum to initiate the project in  the Ribeira Sacra, Ourense, far from urban centres and our birth regions/countries.

2 decades on and the studio is known for its clean, original, modern style and the way it has helped to shape a new concept of what “handwoven” and “hand-designed” craft looks like in Spain and how and where it is presented.

Traditional Galician techniques no longer define the studio conceptually or stylistically but they have helped to shape the studio¬īs delight in pattern and meaning.¬† The studio is now present at events such as London Design week, Made London and Festivalet, Barcelona – testimony to how far we have come since 2000.

Despite the changes the studio actually remains true to its essence.¬† Because what has not changed is a commitment to projects, research, experimentation and exploration at the centre of everything it does.¬† This has always been the studio¬īs DNA, always lain at the heart of the studio¬īs products and also its teaching philosophy.

Originally it was our aim to be a production studio first and foremost.  But gradually we discovered we wanted every collection to go one step further than the previous one.  Although we fought this for a number of years, in time we have learned to embrace our curiosity and passion for exploration as our deepest core value.  We continue to create original collections sold under our own label but they are often outcomes of research projects and collaborations.

Focus on Textile Education

The research-based approach has also spilled over into the textile weaving and designing education services offered at the studio at www.textilesnaturales.com.

But the format of the studio¬īs educational work has also changed over the past 20 years.

Nadine Wilde, Loughborough University undegraduate and Nanae Kumaya, interned at Anna Champeney in 2019

Originally the studio collaborated more closely with tourism, opening to the public in the summer and offering residential “creative tourism” in the Ribeira Sacra through intensive residential courses.

However, over time this changed as Anna sought to encourage a new generation of weavers with a higher degree of technical and design skills.  After two years as a lecturer in the University of Vigo, teaching fashion students Anna started to offer internships to university weave design undergraduates, mainly from Loughborough University in the UK.

At roughly the same time we expanded the range and level of courses offered privately at the studio to include a design component.

We continue our links with further education and craft and fashion organisations through Anna¬īs work as conference speaker, most recently, the Ourense Rural Summit (2019), the Craft Jornadas in Menorca (2019) and this autumn with CEARCAL and Burgos Art School (November 2020).

In these numerous ways, over the past two decades, literally hundreds of people have benefittted from the studio¬īs teaching and expertise – from children right up to those who work in further education and research bodies and in fashion.

The studio also offered private courses until lockdown in March 2020.  Its students included industrial textile designers, doctors and nurses and entrepreneurs in other fields.  Whilst some came from Spain others travelled from Japan, Hungary, Portugal, Chile and Venezuela to the rural studio in Galicia.

The next 10 years:  Announcement

Above:¬† Anna Champeney is re-locating to Catalunya, Lluis¬ī native region.

The first 20 years in Galicia have been amazing.  What will the next decade bring?

On our 20th anniversary we are excited to announce that¬†we are re-locating the studio to Catalunya, Anna¬īs partner, Lluis¬ī native region.

The online textile store will still be open for business as usual.  But some of the other activities offered by the studio will temporarily cease whilst the studio moves and the new building is re-furbished and we prepare some new initiatives.

Our future textiles and teaching activities will continue to be based on our passion for learning and textiles.

It has been an incredible journey over the past 20 years and we hope you will accompany us on the next stage of our journey.

The dance of the handloom

Patience brings its own rewards

Slowly the cloth builds up, row by row

The shuttle rattles across the loom

The weaver takes the measure of the cloth

and rolls the yarn onto the cloth beam of the loom

Patience brings its own rewards

Slowly the cloth builds up row by row

 

 

 

 

 

Unique colour for a unique project

Spain¬īs bid for UNESCO recognition of the Ribeira Sacra as a World Heritage Site calls for a special textile collection with unique designs, materials… and colours.

As such, my collection of bespoke handwoven scarves commissioned by the Dept. of Heritage will feature colour highlights with yarns dyed specially with natural dyes, extracted using artisanal methods at the studio itself.

 

Design Play

Designing for a new handwoven textile collection is the best kind of play that exists for grown-ups in our view.

Photography, doodles, collage and playing with CAD (computer-assisted) design tools.

Blissful Tuesday.

Life in a Spanish hamlet during lockdown

View from near the Anna Champeney Textile studio in northwest Spain

Living and managing my small independent woven textile studio in a Spanish hamlet for the past 20 years has been a wonderful experience but not easy in some ways.   But during the past 2 months of lockdown in Spain many of the inconviences have paled into insignificance.

Although it¬īs not been widely reported on in the media, the experience of living through COVID-19 in Spanish cities or small rural Spanish villages been very different, and in general, a lot easier in sparsely populated places.

And in this particular case, it¬īs not so much a case of difference in wealth or salary but life choices you make and where you were born; few of our elderly neighbours are especially prosperous, and most live in the countryside simply because they were born there.¬† Most local people are not particularly prosperous.¬† But the last two months have made us all feel incredibly priveleged.

Whilst the rest of Spain has to wear masks, on public transport and in built-up public areas, in the countryside, as everyone had gardens and vegetable plots we were free to go outside.¬† Although juggling home-working with home-schooling young children is never easy, and the separation from school friends is exactly the same, children have more freedom here and don¬īt feel the sensation of being closed-in.¬† And in our case our 6 year old is not clamouring for screen time;¬† she¬īs entranced by finding a shrew or an injured bird, or (very useful and lucky¬† for us) picking potato bugs of the potato plants.

Although the atmosphere was strange at first (early guidelines about staying at home Рdirected at city dwellers were initially incorrectly applied by over-zealous local police in the countryside) political common sense prevailed enabling locals to continue to go out to sow their potato plot or tend to their vines in the village).  And as such, the atmosphere in small villages such as ours is pretty much the same as normal.

The Spanish have been so fixated on the benefits of city living in the past 50 years Рand leaving behind their rural roots Рthat they have forgotten the up-side of rural living.  Perhaps COVID-19 will have at least one indirect positive result Рperhaps, in Spain as in the UK, some people will consider swapping their urban flat for a modestly-priced house with a garden in one of the many small hamlets and villages that are well within commuting distance of cities such as Ourense and are crying out for inhabitants.   A 30-minute drive seems a small price to pay, especially when tele-working has suddenly seemed so much more possible for many, in the past couple of months.  

 

C√≥mo ya sab√©is, el estudio textil est√° ubicado en una peque√Īa aldea de Ourense – no muy lejos de la zona donde se filmaron a el primer joven oso pardo en 150 a√Īos, hace unas semanas.¬† ¬†Desde el peque√Īo estudio textil en la aldea dise√Īo los tejidos y elaboro las colecciones textiles artesanales, a mano, en telares manuales.

Y ha sido aqui, en una aldea con apenas 30 vecinos, donde he pasado los √ļltimos dos meses sin apenas salir, con la familia, entre Marzo y mayo.¬† Salimos juntos de la aldea por primera vez ayer.¬† Y tom√© el primer cortado de un cafeter√≠a con peque√Īa terraza, y comimos ca√Īas reci√©n hechas.¬† Qu√© buen sabor.¬† Hoy en d√≠a, las peque√Īas experiencias ¬∑”normales” parecen peque√Īos milagros.¬† Las aprecias mucho m√°s.

No obstante, la experiencia de la doble cuarentena en los peque√Īos pueblos y aldeas de Galicia este verano ha sido totalmente diferente a la experiencia urbana.¬† No salen nuestras historias ni experiencias en los medios de comunicaci√≥n.

La verdad es que la cuarentena rural es un privilegio y una bendición, y lo sentimos todos los vecinos de la aldea.   Se siente bastante seguro, con poco riesgo de contagio, y lo vives con humildad y agradecimiento, porque sabes que para muchos amigos familiares, la experiencia ha sido mucho más difícil y hay poco que puedes hacer para aliviarlo.   Ha sido difícil para los vecinos mayores estar separados de la familia.  Pero seguramente para los hijos, ha sido un consuelo saber que sus padres están en un lugar bastante seguro.

En momentos como estos, no pasa ni un d√≠a sin dar las gracias por vivir en el campo.¬† Y espero que, como tambi√©n est√° pasando en el Reino Unido, habr√° m√°s personas aqu√≠¬†en Espa√Īa pensando en mudarse a un pueblo o una aldea, fuera de la ciudad.

Porque de repente, no parece tan molesta la idea de dedicar un poco m√°s tiempo cada d√≠a para conducir al lugar del trabajo y a las tiendas en vez de ir en transporte p√ļblico (con mascarilla).¬† Ahora, por lo menos, para algunos, es cada vez m√°s posible, el tele-trabajo – comparado con hace s√≥lo unos meses.¬† La idea de vivir en a una casa con jard√≠n, con huerto, rodeado con la naturaleza importa m√°s que vivir en una calle central en la ciudad.

Aqu√≠ est√°s m√°s consciente del cambio de las estaciones porque el paso del tiempo se registra con cada paseo que das en el campo.¬† Aqu√≠ puedes salir con una libertad por las ma√Īanas, (somos tan pocos vecinos aqui, entre huertos, bosques y vi√Īas) que el distanciamiento social no es problema.¬† As√≠ que puedes salir sin mascarilla, y tienes la sensaci√≥n as√≠ que aqu√≠, por lo menos, la vida es m√°s normal.

No es decir que la vida es un para√≠so, ni mucho menos; Jugamos con varias pelotas en el aire, y como cualquier otra familia en este momento, nos enfrontamos con la incertidumbre econ√≥mico, y la b√ļsqueda de un equilibrio dif√≠cil entre la “escuela en casa” y el mundo del trabajo.¬† Todo pide m√°s energ√≠a y no hay horas suficientes en el d√≠a.¬† A veces se sientes desorientada y parece ser que no avanzas en todo el d√≠a.¬† Pero aun as√≠….

Pero siempre encuentras alg√ļn momento para estar en el huerto, para comer o cenar fuera en el jard√≠n, o pasear por las ma√Īanas por el bosque frondoso, escuchando a las t√≥rtolas y los cucos.¬† Disfrutas unos pocos momentos de soledad y silencio fuera de casa en plena naturaleza.¬† Y durante un momento te sientes plenamente presente en el momento, inmersa en un mundo de sensaciones.¬† Y te das cuenta en este momento es posible experimentar un momento de paz, de felicidad y bienestar, a pesar de que casi todo el mundo est√° en crisis.

Saludas, de lejos, a los vecinos trabajando en las vi√Īas, en los huertos.¬† Y te sientes contenta al verles.

Y ves una ni√Īa corriendo, saltando, aprendiendo y explorando el mundo natural con todos los sentidos.

Y te alegra el corazón.