Had you visited eskayel.com back in 2004, when Shanan Campanaro was still an art student at Central Saint Martins in London, you would have seen a very different site from the one posted at that address today. That’s because the whimsical high-end wallpaper and fabric company Campanaro now runs out of her studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, was once a homespun t-shirt label she started with a college friend, featuring the booze- and boyfriend-related escapades of a comic-book character she’d invented. “My tutors at Saint Martins encouraged me to get really honest,” she explains of the project. “It was right when all the YBAs were coming out and Tracey Emin won a Turner Prize making personal quilts — that’s what everyone was into.” For her, the original Eskayel was like one entry in a diary that’s seen the San Diego native reinvent herself several times over the years, from her childhood as the science-obsessed daughter of the bodybuilder who founded Total Gym, to her switch from physics to fine art while studying abroad in Italy, to her time as a graphic designer for the shopping-mall staple Express. In Campanaro’s case, it’s turned out to be more about the destination than the journey.
One crucial turning point was her internship with noted fashion illustrator Tobie Giddio, which she landed when she first arrived in New York upon graduating from Saint Martins. While bartending, working on her own art, and unsuccessfully attempting to transform the Eskayel t-shirt label into a full-fledged New York streetwear brand — “I was really into sneakers and graffiti at the time,” she recalls — she spent her days helping Giddio organize and run her studio. In return, says Campanaro, “Tobie was helping me develop my paintings away from line-art cartoons and into watercolors, the kind of prettier work I do now. She pulled me out of the edgy streetwear stuff and into things that are beautiful, whereas before I was convinced that everything had to be somehow dark.” It was during a subsequent job working for Express that Campanaro accidentally turned that new approach towards what would become the current iteration of Eskayel: After a breakup with a live-in boyfriend prompted her to empty their apartment of all its furnishings, she decided, on a whim, to liven it up by transforming one of her paintings into her wallpaper. “Everyone liked it,” she says — so much so that she applied to exhibit at the tradeshow Bklyn Designs. “I decided that if I got in, I’d start a wallpaper company.” Since the day she was accepted three and a half years ago, it’s been her singular focus.
Unlike her career trajectory, her current practice is more about the journey than the destination — her kaleidoscopic wallpapers and fabrics start their lives as paintings that can take months to complete, whereas the task of digitally reinventing small sections of those works into Eskayel designs occupies only a fraction of her time. But in keeping with the problem-solving, science-loving side of her personality that’s never really gone away, she almost always follows the same steps throughout her process. We visited Campanaro in her studio this winter to document that approach, presented in the slideshow here.
Los Angeles designer Tanya Aguiñiga already had two studios when she took up a third this summer: the first in the backyard of the Atwater Village bungalow she shares with her husband and two sisters, and the second six blocks away, in a converted industrial-park-turned-artists’-community near the train tracks. But in early July, Aguiñiga picked up and moved her shop 2,000 miles south to the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, for a five-week residency — the first in a project she calls Artists Helping Artisans. “I had gone to Oaxaca and Chiapas in 2007, and there was so much amazing stuff being produced by the women there,” she says. “People aren’t aware of it because the skills aren’t being passed down anymore and because people are scared to travel within Mexico. There’s isn’t enough tourism or income to sustain these crafts.”
It's always seemed to me that being Donna Wilson is indeed as much fun as it looks. From her Aladdin’s cave of a studio in London’s Bethnal Green to her colorful, vintage fashion sense, Wilson actually does live and breathe her work. On the rainy November afternoon I visited her studio, which is filled floor-to-ceiling with bits and bobs of yarn, I asked what she might do if she had any spare time. She pondered: “I think I’d like to travel to Scandinavia and probably get a dog.” Which led into a discussion about the possibilities for a range of Scandinavian-style dog sweaters, as everything usually comes back to the knitting. Of course, though Wilson made her name creating woven poufs and rugs inspired by the Fair Isle sweaters of her youth in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, it’s not actually just about the knitting anymore but also about bone china, linens, melamine trays, totes, piggy banks, ceramic Staffordshire dogs, biscuits, packaging, furniture and more. At this point, there isn’t much that Wilson hasn’t turned her hand to.
As I walked the Tendence gift fair in Frankfurt this summer, Iris Maschek appeared to me like an oasis of glam in a desert of practicality. There she was, surrounded by clocks and soaps and clever ceramic jugs with customizable chalkboard labels, dressed all in black and perched in a cool mid-century rattan chair against this gorgeously baroque Rorschach-like backdrop: A specimen from her very first wallpaper collection.