Elise Cakebread is a Wonder Woman.
Founding Cakebread Studio in 2013, Elise has emphatically followed her personal aesthetic to produce the uniquely tactile installations and furnishings that has bought her the attention of Melbourne’s textile and design community.
However, to arrive at this point Elise has not followed the route expected of such a tenacious and self-assured personality. Trekking the intrepid and somewhat directionless path that so many of us take upon graduating with an Arts degree, Elise travelled; pursued the art of leather-glove making in France and worked in retail before returning to school and gaining a degree in Textile Design at RMIT. It was then that she finally found her feet (after a brief stunt in commercial design) with the discovery of her flair (and passion) for bringing traditional textile practices into the contemporary sphere.
Like so many of the wonder women in our life, we discovered Elise when she wandered into our Therry St Pop Up Shop. Discussing her installation work Soft Hemispheres, it was utterly serendipitous that we happened to be considering the addition of an installation in our new Melbourne Central Pop Up. Even more so when the soft pastels and vibrant splashes of colour in her work seemed to so seamlessly compliment the current Radical Yes palette!
Following Elise to her studio, we asked her a few questions about her creative process and the inspiration behind the Soft Hemispheres collection hanging in our Melbourne Central pop-up.
Story & Interview by Alex Birch. Photography by Agnieszka Chabros.
Your colourfully chaotic work seems to come from a place of unruliness and considered disarray. What inspires you in the design of pieces like this?
My inspiration comes from experimentation within traditional textile processes and techniques. I like to focus on the tensions created by the unusual or unexpected contrasts that emerge between materials, forms, colours, textures and scale. Through these methods I explore ideas of materiality, tactility, craft, disposability and the ornamental. I like to create work that is characterful, surreal and invites you to touch it.
Tell us about the development of your unearthly, shag-pile-esque Soft Hemispheres collection hanging in-store at Radical Yes! Melbourne Central.
This series was originally inspired by visions of another world, a series of planets or creatures poised ready for intergalactic takeoff or plunging the ocean depths.
Each piece was painstakingly constructed, utilising a combination of knitting, knotting, tufting, binding and yarn wrangling techniques, Jupiter himself took over 50 hours to construct. They are each made from a combination of cotton, mohair, linen, wool, lurex and silk fibres, enclosing a robust steely interior.
This is the first time that all of these pieces have been hung together in the one space, so it’s great to see how they interact with each other as a constellation!
What aspects of the design and creation process most excites you? Do you have any routines or practices that you tend to follow?
Dreaming up ideas and then following the process of experimentation, research, more experimentation and then refinement is the most exciting part of the design process for me. I don’t have any particular routines that I follow but my starting point usually tends to be a technique or material that I want to push the boundaries of and see where it takes me, both aesthetically and conceptually.
You consciously moved away from the commercial design sector. What prompted you to do so and what do you enjoy most about working independently?
To be honest I just felt that I didn’t really fit into the commercial design world. Spending hours at a computer re-hashing trends was just not very inspiring to me and was not what I spent years at uni studying for. Meanwhile my own work seemed to be growing legs and running – so I just kept running along with it. When it came to officially making a decision to pursue my own work full time, it just seemed like the next logical step rather than a leap.
My favourite thing about working independently is that if I want to make something I can, and I can make it the best it possibly can be – no compromises!
What are three things you always say ‘yes’ to?
Green Tea Kit-Kats.
Flights to Japan!
What does being radical mean to you?
Not being scared to do, make, or say, the unconventional, the unimaginable or the unexpected.
See Elise's installation Soft Hemispheres throughout December at the Radical Yes Pop Up Shop at Melbourne Central (Level 2, corner Swanston & Latrobe Street).