Tales of textile meaning & making

Shilo Engelbrecht

Shilo Engelbrecht

As with most of the textiles I have discovered online, it was a pure delight to finally experienceShilo Engelbrecht’s in the flesh. South African born, Brisbane bred and now based in Stockholm, Shilo is home for the summer and sharing her wares at a pop up shop on Latrobe Terrace, Paddington until Christmas.

A fashion and fine art graduate from QUT (Queensland University of Technology), Shilo transfers her vivid oil paintings onto linen, transforming them into a range of upholstery fabric, plump cushions, panels for use as wall hangings or bed throws,  pure silk scarves, tote bags and small keepsakes like fabric purses and gorgeous fabric story books.

The abstract paintings are an exciting fusion of vivid colour and brush strokes full of feeling. The large scale of these marks capture so much depth and texture; bold blocks of colour provide both contrast and an overall sense of harmony.

It is easy to see why Anthropologie, who cites art and creativity as the centre of its brand, recently hosted the first showing of Shilo’s paintings at their King’s Road gallery in London.

Shilo first developed this multidisciplinary approach during her tertiary studies, describing herself as "fortunate to have some wonderful teachers and lecturers who supported my experimentation even when it went out of the boundaries of the curriculum.”

“John Honeywill from Somerville House was my art teacher throughout my school life and continues to offer me wonderful support and encouragement in my work. Suzi Vaughan at QUT allowed me great freedom of expression and helped build my confidence and strengths, with a focus on textiles … so did David Hawke in Fine Arts, who encouraged the rebel in me in the fine arts department,” Shilo said.

Keen to broaden this horizon upon graduation, Shilo set Europe in her sights, arriving in Glasgow in 2007. When asked of any defining moments during her creative development, Shilo describes this time as it, saying “This was the ‘jumping in the deep end’ part that I needed to my find voice and confidence.”

Earning her stripes with the Centre for Advanced Textiles, who also print work for modern print trailblazers Timorous Beasties, she spent eight months gleaning first-hand experience of the digital printing process. In her down time, she researched Scottish architects and historical concepts of interior design.

A move to Cambridge in 2012 found her expanding her interest in the Bloomsbury Group, which had originated in the area, to her by now bubbling brew of study, skill and exploration.

An intense two month period of painting in a tiny greenhouse followed, culminating in her inaugural series, titled ALV (pronounced ‘elv’). Swedish for River, it represented Shilo finally finding her 'flow', hence the title. Years of discovery promptly paid off when ALV was promoted by the likes of Vogue, Kit Kemp of London’s Ham Yard Hotel and Australia’s Koskela.

You can now see these fabrics, along with Shilo’s current range, Andamento, inspired by the UNESCO world heritage site on the Greek Island of Delos. Her thoughtfully curated collection of objects provide such an interesting story in their union; together they tell her story.

After spending an afternoon in the store, I found myself becoming more and more immersed in the colour and feeling in her artwork, a sure sign that these pieces have enough depth and expression to be lived with long term. Her colours just 'work', so I kept going back for more. Stormy and pure shades sit in contrast beside each other, somehow offering an invitation to combine them with still more colour.

“It's hard to express in words how I feel about colour," Shilo said. "I'm very affected by it and I recently became aware of how I study and absorb colour combinations when I'm in nature or even walking around in the city.  When painting, I lie out on the floor all my tubes of oil paint. I begin by considering the colours and will isolate a few tubes together in groups so I can see them and how they will work.”

“I think you can create a calm and serene interior and still apply colour.  Australian climate and architecture allows for colour as we often have open and semi outdoor living spaces,” she said.

Looking forward, this lovely lady has covered every surface of her new studio in fabric, ready for her next collection of large scale works, certain to continue a very personal story about Shilo’s European journey and her natural surrounds.

If you’re in Brisbane, don’t miss the chance to see how lovely these linen pieces really are. Her pop up is open for a few more weeks, check out Shilo's facebook page for details. You can also find her range at Douglas and BecAP Design HouseSpence & Lyda and Koskela.

Shilo's bed throws will also be in good company as part of the 2014 The Design Files Open House, opening next Thursday in Collingwood and running until 7 December.

Images by Threadbound

Yolanda Zarins

Yolanda Zarins

Ink & Spindle

Ink & Spindle