Where you live: The District
What is the one piece of equipment you use that you can’t live without? “I work with music. I would be really sad if I couldn’t put music on.”
“When I’m not making stuff, I’m . . .”: “I love baking. I also started to do pottery. That’s something I really love. And cooking and having drinks with my friends.”
Inspiration usually strikes, Eva Calonder has discovered, when she’s on vacation.
“I’m a slow drawer,” Calonder said with a melodic French accent. “I need a lot of time. Vacation is when I can get my drawing done.”
Calonder later turns those drawings into a line of printed bags, home accessories and stationery. Dubbed Printed Wild, the items are made by hand in Calonder’s Adams Morgan home — the patterns are hand-printed with a silk-screen, and the bags and pillows are hand-sewn.
Calonder grew up in Provence but moved to Washington four years ago with her fiance when he accepted a job at the World Bank. Calonder studied illustration at the Emile Cohl School of Drawing (L’École Émile-Cohl) in Lyon and, after graduating, worked as a graphic designer. Drawing has always been her first love, she said, but the desire to go beyond illustration and into crafts came when she moved to the United States.
“Right now I am mixing it up, but it’s all visual art,” Calonder said. “I love drawing. I love pattern. I was trying to find a way to combine all of it. It combines home decor, fashion, drawing, graphic design. Everything I love.”
Calonder dove right in, buying materials and creating silk-screens, learning basic sewing-machine skills from a friend and taking screen printing courses at the Corcoran College of Art and Design. She also spent a weekend in New York City at the Textile Arts Center learning to dye fabric.
The first item she made was a card, just to see how the pattern would turn out.
“I sent it to a friend,” Calonder said. “I think my friends were really nice to me in the beginning, because they pretended it looked great.”
Her process starts with her drawn patterns, often inspired by nature, that then become silk-screens she reuses on different materials. For a fabric piece such as a bag or pillowcase, she will wash the fabric, cut it, iron it, print it, iron it again and then sew it together. It’s labor-intensive work taht she loves, but admits can be overwhelming.
“I sometimes have help with the sewing, especially when I really have too much to do,” Calonder said. “But as long as it is locally made, that is what I really want and care about.”
If Calonder cannot find the products she likes in Washington (canvas fabric for a bag, or the right crafting paper for stationery), she will order it online. She just began printing on glass (small, square glass vases to start) and said that although she is always striving to improve her skills and product, many of her pieces have an unrefined look that she likes.
“I always kind of like when the print is not perfect,” she said. “It’s like a signature that it was made by hand.”
For any aspiring artisan, Calonder said, it’s important to go for it and enjoy it, even if you are afraid of failure or criticism.
“At first, a lot of people don’t believe it is real work or a real job, but at some point it does work, if you work hard. American people are very passionate about things,” Calonder said. “Even at the beginning, I got a lot of support. People wouldn’t be so amazed or supportive at first in France.”
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