Robert and I have had the great pleasure of collaborating with the amazing Stephen Eichhorn, a Chicago-based artist. Stephen’s work is exceptional in that it is primarily collage, using pages from books and magazines – all entirely hand cut with precision. Looking at his works in person one can hardly believe they are not paintings or photographs; they are entirely rich, layered in complexity and perfect in composition.
We regard Stephen’s work so highly we purchased one of his smaller pieces at first sight from a solo show at Ebersmoore Gallery in 2011. We loved the piece so much we thought to ask Stephen about a collaboration, with the challenge to translate one of his collage works into a textile for Unison.
Before we get into the making of Aerial we asked Stephen to give his perspective on the collaboration and learn what’s next from this amazing artist.
My understanding is that Aerial is based on an original artwork of a collage of canyons. Where did you originally find the canyon image and what initially drew you it?
I source my imagery from a variety of plant and nature based books. While I don’t recall the exact publication, I made the piece in a collage workshop I led during Columbia College’s Digital Print Lab Residency in 2010.
Are you usually taken in by nature or nature-inspired imagery? If so, what is it about it that grabs you?
I do tend to gravitate toward nature and plant based imagery. Through the gathering of collage components I’ve been able to hone in on different mythology, rituals and histories surround the types of flora or foliage.
Would you say there is a “signature” of your work — an aesthetic that surfaces time and time again, or perhaps a theme?
When using found imagery or objects I manipulate the individual components. My hand and craft is present in the work and is a form of “signature”.
You are known for showing your multimedia art in galleries and even runway settings. This Unison project is a different sort of animal. What was this design process like for you? Tell us a bit about if and how your creative process shifted (both technically and creatively) for this particular collaboration.
This collaboration with Unison started with a series of inspiring conversations with Alicia and Robert about our shared interests and aesthetics. Typically my collage and sculptural work is created by hand with no digital mediation. One of the interesting things about a collaboration is seeing your work through another lens and allowing it to be placed in a new context. Through those conversations with Alicia and Robert, I was able to see elements to my existing collage work translate into printed matter.
Can you talk a bit about your overall creative process? Do things happen fast and furiously, or are you more methodical.
It is a mix of making quicker moves and being more methodical in the studio. I start by collecting source material and identifying individual images I want to use. I can spend 8-10 hours a day cutting imagery out; I do everything by hand with an exacto knife. The assembly of the individual cut components is typically the more intuitive and quick process. It’s hard to quantify each object since I’m pulling from a collection of collage components that may or may not have been sitting in the studio for a while. In terms of sculpture, it’s the same issue of components/layering/dipping/finishing…I’ve worked on one small piece for over a year before it was “ready”.
Seeing as the Unison products you’re working on are table linens, tell us, just for fun: Are you a big home entertainer? Any good holiday parties or plans at your house coming up?
We’re minimal entertainers but my wife and I are in the process of renovating a 1890’s grey stone. We have a mix of vintage and modern furnishing and are excited to use Unison products like pillows and linens are pops of color and pattern in the house.
How long have you been working as an artist?
As long as I can remember but I’ve been a working studio artist (self-employed) for seven years.
Did you study formally anywhere?
I have a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago
What are some other exciting recent projects?
October through December I have a series of large scale prints on view at the CTA Damen Blue Line stop here in Chicago.
In February we started the process of selecting a artwork, knowing that producing one of his designs as a textile would take some time since we had not tried halftone screen making yet. Although much of Stephen’s work features flowers, I wanted to try something different since it would launch towards the end of autumn and land closer to the holiday season. A small collage, simply called Aerial, was selected.
It was an interesting process to develop the design into halftone screens, then select colors and finally the printing on fabric. The end result is a pure case in screen printed textiles, the wonder of ink on cotton, the transformation from two-dimensional design to moving fabric.
Here is a selection of photos taken by Debbie Carlos of the entire process, from development at our studio, to the mill where the Aerial pattern was printed, to our local cut and sew with Robert working on the placement.
The Aerial fabric appears marbled, etched, rugged, elegant and illuminated all at the same time. As a tablecloth it was the perfect fit in our collection as we had also selected pieces from Fort Standard’s line of granite and marble trivets and candle holders. Aerial tablecloths are also available in putty and in pillows, in black and in patina which features overprinting.