Words and Interview by Jess Hemenway/Photo by Will Foster
Eloise Corr Danch is a Brooklyn based artist with a focus on creating paper flower sculptures. Her work has graced the pages of Vogue, Nylon, W Magazine and more... Oh, and did we mention Martha Stewart is a fan?! The intricate details of each flower and installation is absolutely mind blowing and we were lucky enough to visit her and learn more about the process.
Tell us a little about yourself
I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago (go Blackhawks!). My mom enrolled me in a lot of art classes. I got my BFA at the University of Montana in Missoula, which is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Then I went back to Chicago and had a brief stint in the music industry, which solidified the fact that I was an artist. Next, I moved to Paris for a year to live with my mom, and went to fashion school there. After France, I came back to Chicago and enrolled in the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I took as many fashion illustration, design and draping classes as I could, with the hopes of becoming a working fashion illustratora goal I have not yet given up on.
What led you to become a paper sculptor?
I came to it through the back door. I actually am trained as a 2D artist. I studied drawing, painting and printmaking as an undergrad. I came to New York to become a fashion illustrator and got my asters degree at F.I.T. in illustration. I had been working for a few fashion brands in different capacities while I was in grad school and that led to my first opportunity to work with paper when I was asked to make a historical costume paper dress for the fashion label Ruffian. I loved it so much that I then sought out an opportunity to make another paper dress, this time for Anthropologie. After that exposure came Macys Flower Show in 2009, and Ive been winging it ever since.
Youve worked with a lot of amazing clients. Your DVF and Macys window installations were breathtaking--do you have a favorite?
Thanks so much! There are works in my portfolio that Im very proud of, but my favorite is usually the next project where I make something that Ive never created before. I get to push myself and am often really surprised by the results. Ive had the opportunity to work with some truly talented photographers who have done really creative technical things with my artwork. For example, I recently worked with Horacio Salinas, a brilliant still life photographer, for a shoot for Bergdorf Goodman. He used effects - incorporating shadows, layering silhouettes, shooting through the papers - and the results were incredible. I also recently worked on a music video shoot where I created plastic flowers and cut silhouette screens, and the photographers aimed lights through these elements to get a shadow and highlight effect that created this ethereal atmosphere. The finished product was magical.
How long do these projects of great magnitude take to complete? Can you tell us about the process?
Every project varies. It just depends on how much time I have between when the concept is finalized and the deadline. Often with an editorial or advertising project, there is a lot of back and forth before everyone agrees on the final idea, which can create time pressure. Larger-scale projects, like a window project for a major retailer like Macys (because they are awesome!), usually give you a little more lead time. Of course you always wish you had another day.
What are some of the challenges you've encountered during your career?
Time and budget are usually the biggest challenges. Time is something yo can't control. In fashion and editorial, concepts are changing all the time and things really get pushed to the last minute, so I often get called in with very little time before a shoot, which can be very stressful. Creative freedom can be a challenge too. Some clients are very specific about what they want me to create for them, and it needs to fit with their branding. Other clients are very forward thinking and want me to push creatively. On fashion shoots, I always try to bring more than the client asked for, or bring different options related to what they requested. It gives the stylist and the photographer more options to develop a deeper story. Its always better to have more options than too few. Often those extra items get used in the shoot too, or instead of what they originally thought they wanted. Budget sometimes is an issue. I do all types of projects though, some with large budgets where I hire a staff at a good day rate, and others with tight budgets that I do myself because for whatever reason, its an appealing project.
Much of your sculpting is of flowers; do you see a definite relationship between nature and your work?
Yes, of course! My dad has always had gardens back in Chicago where I grew up, both floral and vegetable. I would help every summer and got to watch things slowly grow and change, fruit or bloom and then decay. Its the most beautiful cycle. And I always liked helping my Dad weed, water and care for the plants. I took pride in it, even though I guess it was technically part of my chores.
Flowers also embody some of my priorities as an artist: theyre all about silhouette, color and the idea of beauty. I also love that plants are asymmetrical. Even classically balanced flowers like roses and daisies still have asymmetry. Theyre not perfect. One petal may be larger or smaller or bend to the left, based on sunlight or rainfall. Those details are incredible to me. I try to put that whimsy and organic feel into my flowers. I like when a petal may be a little irregularnot sloppyjust more like life and nature.
What keeps you motivated?
Well, my personal mantra is if you can see it, you can be it. Honestly, Im motivated by the idea that I can always do better, but at the same time being proud of what Ive created before. I have several lists of goals. I have a daily list, a weekly list and a 3-6 month out calendar too. Yoga helps too. I practice 5-6 times a week. I just need it! Yoga balances my mind and helps me prioritize what is necessary and what isnt, especially when Im doing more than one project at a time, or Im under a lot of stress because of one particular job. Im also motivated to keep money coming into my household and Im motivated to achieve personal goals I set for myself and my career. You only live once, so youve got to go get what you want!
What artists inspire you?
There are so many living and dead artists that inspire meI could write a thesis. Not to mention places, objects, movements etc. Something that I find really inspiring right now are artists who at some point had success and for whatever reason, kind of fell out of vogue, but stayed with it, believed in their work, and regained success. I think its a really good lesson for artists and entrepreneurs of any kind. Some examples are the designers Christian Lacroix and Diane Von Furstenberg and the brilliant songwriter Paul Simon. Lacroix was one of the most important high fashion designers of the 1980s, and some of his silhouettes defined the decade, but in the 90s he fell out of favor and then by 2009 it got so bad that he lost his company and had to sell his name. It must have been a nightmare for him, but he stayed busy doing creative direction and costume design for major ballets and operas, and other private commissions for luxury hotels. And now this year hes back in full force as the first artistic director to re-launch the Elsa Schiaparelli line.
I think people who commit to being career artists have to be prepared for the highs and lowsthe times youre really busy and crave a day off, and the times when its slow, and you need to stay actively looking for opportunities and making new workbecause there will be both.
What's been your most gratifying career moment to date?
Thats a really hard question, and Im sorry I dont have an answer. But I know that my nieces and nephews think Im pretty cool, so Ive got that goin for me.
What are your plans/dreams/goals for the next five to 10 years?
Professionally: Im trying to explore new things like stop motion animation. I have a list of clients, brands, artists, photographers, stylists that I have yet to work with. Its always a goal to make and show work in another country.
Personally: I would like to be a mom. There are many countries I need to go to. I want to learn to scuba dive, zip line through a jungle, and backpack on Mt Fuji in Japan to the hot springs where the monkeys hang out.
Drink of choice?
My favorites right now are Ricard as an aperitif (the taste of the South of France in July), Champagne with Campari (its the most beautiful color), Moose Drool Brown Ale from BigSky Brewery in Montana and you can never go wrong with a nice ($$) Cote Du Rhone.
Whos your girl crush?
Emilie Floge. She was Gustav Klimts mistress, muse and companion for the greater part of his life. She had amazing, wild hair and created the most beautiful dresses that were very modern for the fashion of the time. He left half of his estate to her, the other half to his wife and childrendoesnt that speak volumes! Id also have to say Georgia Hubley of Yo La Tengo and the Japanese designer Tsumori Chisato.
All images courtesy Eloise. Check out more of her work here.