Our buyers are an experienced group, bringing in exciting new items to the Food52 Shop on a regular basis. They’ve nailed our aesthetic to a T, so it’s quite often that you’ll hear the rest of the team swooning over their incredible finds. Such was the case when they introduced us to Brooklyn-based Doucement's downright irresistible pillows (now available in our Shop!).
One of us may or may not have squeed when “Henry” was introduced. Yes, Henry is a pillow. But that didn’t stop the buying team from anthropomorphizing the shaggy sphere of love on the spot. I mean, look at it:
But this fun sensibility extends beyond just Henry. Monica Hofstadter’s nature-inspired Doucement line includes extremely inviting, tactile pieces that exude personality, whether it’s the mixed media pillow meant to evoke a furry snow landscape, or the super chunky, luxe knit blanket just begging to be your nap companion. In fact, I can’t help but think that the Doucement founder herself refers to them as living objects when we recently spoke about her creative process. “I like to sit with things for a while before letting them off into the world,” Hofstadter explained, “to give them some time to find a personality.”
Read on to find out more about what animals inspires Hofstadter, as well as the unexpected manufactured materials she likes to use in her works.
HANA ASBRINK: Tell us about your path to becoming a textile artist.
MONICA HOFSTADTER: I grew up moving around a lot; I was born in Indiana, lived in the Bay Area, and Northern Italy. My mother’s heritage is Italian, so we spoke Italian at home and still do. Being exposed to such diverse natural landscapes and built environments made me very interested in cultural materiality. I was always looking at simple things that changed depending on where we were living, like what colors, fonts, materials, packaging, and patterns were being used in daily life and how that differed place to place. So I would say there has always been an intuitive interest in materiality and patterns, which naturally lead to textile art and design.
HA: How would you describe your aesthetic and how did you decide on calling your label Doucement?
MH: The name Doucement is a French word that can have a few meanings: It can mean slowly, sweetly, and softly. The name is connected to how things are made (slowly!), but also to a sense of calmness, quiet, and sensuality.
HA: How do you conceptualize an idea, and how long does it usually take to see it to fruition in a product?
MH: Usually, I’ll start with a beautiful yarn or material and think of ways to use it, or will have found a texture I’d love to recreate. There are lots of little swatches and tests in the first phase to see how things look and feel, which helps to determine what type of object to make. Experiencing the sense of touch is super important! Most of the time, inspiration hits very quickly so I try to act on it before it gets stale, so it’s a process of a few days to make a new textile. I like to sit with things for a while before letting them off into the world, to give them some time to find a personality.
HA: What are your favorite creations so far?
MH: The phoebe pillow is one of my favorites! It’s a snowball of very soft baby alpaca, half crochet and half knit in shaggy loops. Other favorites are the birkir blanket, a heavyweight cotton and mohair blanket, and the aurora vessel, a chunky iridescent cellophane basket.
HA: How do most of your clients find you, and where are they from?
MH: I’m not always sure how people find me but I’m glad they do! A lot come through my DMs on Instagram, word of mouth, and from various events where the work is shown.
HA: Where do you draw your inspiration from? How do you choose your assortment of materials, especially the unexpected ones (i.e.: cellophane!)?
MH: Inspiration comes from Arctic animals and landscapes, 1960s design, and directly from materials themselves. Inspiration for the natural materials comes from the beauty of the animals and plants that create them, from merino wool and baby alpaca to pima cotton and palm raffia. Most of the natural materials used are undyed and left in their natural color, which defines the palette of the collection. The idea to use plastics, such as Mylar and cellophane, comes from a perspective of 1960s design when plastic was being experimented with for disposables but also as a luxury material. I love the idea of using plastic as a valuable and rare material, because it can be very beautiful; we just can’t see the beauty clearly as it’s often ending up in the trash! There needs to be a radical paradigm shift to diminish the enormous manufacture of disposable plastics.
HA: Has social media impacted your art and the way you introduce it to people?
MH: Definitely! In the past, I shared things quite freely, but I got the sense that it was making me feel rushed to produce more content faster. Now I’m trying to have some rhythms and rituals as to how I share new things. New pieces are being released in tune with the lunar cycle: Some on the new moon, some on the full moon, depending on their personality. It’s important to have lots of space between things, to keep things close for a little while before they are in the world.
HA: What artists inspire you?
HA: What artisans would you like to read more about on Food52?
MH: Hannah Goff, a print designer and textile artist making soft mobile sculptures based in Brooklyn; Clement Bottier, a textile designer from Paris who is specialized in natural dyeing; Liz Robb, a textile artist working in Los Angeles who makes woven sculptures; and Olivia Wendel, a Brooklyn-based textile artist and painter who makes hand drawn and painted fabrics.
HA: Do you have a favorite Food52 story and/or recipe?
MH: This book seems interesting and has beautiful photographs. I love the idea of learning about a new country through a cookbook.
The wild rice veggie sliders are so good! Wild rice is delicious with a unique earthy flavor and paired with the herbed ricotta, this is perfection.