Charles-Antoine Chappuis

Focusing primarily on the research, development of textiles and soft materials, Charles-Antoine creates multi-functional living sculptures. He uses domestic machinery and discarded materials, such as glass or textile fibres, to create pieces which reference the archetypal form of vases.

Today we live in a society that mass produces everything we use, from our clothes to our furniture. Charles-Antoine moves away from this method of creating and opts for ancient and slow processes such as weaving and natural dying. The artist deconstructs shapes to end up with organic forms that can be moulded and wrapped around the body, creating works that vary from vases to chromatic and shape abstractions, constituting a repertoire of truly surprising interweaves.

Charles-Antoine’s fabric works have a tactile presence that gives them a decidedly sculptural dimension. This confluence with the textile and hand-sewn elements brings to the fore the spectre of touch and the realm of the domestic.

1. How did your work in art begin?
I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint how it started and how I got into this mess (haha), I do things very intuitively. I’m very much into the materiality of things, textiles especially, and when you let the materials lead your research without trying to restraint it to any set up ideas, you end up in various categories of art and design, sometimes kind of in between all of them, in very unexpected ways. And maybe that’s how my work in art begins, through experimentations gone wrong while designing and my interest to include my work into a broader experience than just its functionality.

My work in art is really just beginning, I finally have the guts to throw it out there with the confidence that is where it needs to be, to start conversations I want to have.

2. When you start a new design do you set out with a particular idea or what it might look like? Or does it form as you go?
The latter. My work usually forms out of an open-ended and materially-rooted process. I’m always doing a lot of random things in my studio and sometimes things get mixed by accident, and that’s what I usually find the most exciting.

The human brain works in very predictable ways so I’m always looking for a way out of my own head, and that is possible in my case by doing a lot and a lot of it going wrong. 

3. How would you define your aesthetic?
Maybe I would use the word « wobbly ». But in its best way (hopefully), because I give so much space to the material, the final work can look quite raw and untamed. I also have a soft spot for things that look out of balance. 

4. Do you consider yourself a multidisciplinary artist? When it comes to affirming yourself as an artist, what discipline has been most definitive for you? 
I’m not sure how I fit that category as my work usually finds its roots in textile, but textile is such a versatile material that you indeed end up crossing and linking a broad variety of disciplines. There are so many techniques, from ancestral to extremely new and technological. I love the idea of one day developing textiles for NASA or for medical use, and i’m naive enough to believe that this transition could be possible because it’s all about structures and fibers in the end and once you understood the basics of it, it can go anywhere.

Right now I’m happy experimenting in a space with no rules or regulations and just push things the furthest I can on my own, sometimes even creating my own little machines and tools, broadening my horizon of possibilities. 

5. Do you think that the moment we live now encourages the existence of multidisciplinary artists?
Yes, I think in art education already many barriers have been lifted in that direction, especially in the Netherlands. Unfortunately a lot of fundings and competitions still use very strict categories. 

6. Regarding your series of handmade vases. Which materials do you use to make them?
The vases and planters are made of glass and textile fibers. Most of it comes from industry left overs, materials that would usually be discarded.

I use different types of fibers but I’ve mostly been experimenting with linen lately, I sometime dye the yarn myself through a natural process, using flowers I find in Amsterdam or through my travels. The base of this project is to make the most out of the resources surrounding me, letting these elements influence the way I design and create.

7. You made a collaboration early this year with Hedwig Vervoort. Is it your first collaboration? How the idea came to life?
Hedwig was already starting to get established as a fashion artist with her nude collection - a societal research questioning the status of the garment in relation to genders and how you define yourself within a certain group. She became interested in my ideas of the handmade and how i investigate forms through textiles. She first asked me to join her on an assignment for the dutch artist Bea de Visser - a short film for which we developed textile installations.  I introduced Hedwig to various knitting techniques that we used for these installations. That was our first work together and the starting point for our collaborative project called SpeedyHarmonyCollectorThings.

I have been and I am collaborating with many friends on small  projects but this one is definitely the most set in concrete. We have just photographed our first samples, we are really at the beginning of this project. 

8. Is it your first contact with fashion? Which was your role in the project?
I take care of the knitwear which I developed by repetitively knitting the same simple shapes and assembling them in different ways, playing with the fact that slits in the structure of the garment then becomes rounded holes once stretched on the body. The idea behind it is to deconstruct the garment to facilitate the production since we are making everything by hand, and by deconstructing it so much you end up with a weird form that you can wrap around your body in different ways, this process really opens up new ideas of how to think of a garment and the whole act of dressing up, or maybe takes it back to a more simple and intuitive state.

I have many friends who are fashion designers, so it’s quite natural as someone that creates textiles to collaborate with them from time to time. In the past I had already developed and produced fashion pieces for Rayana Heemskerk or Marie Adam-Leenaerdt. And I have now just developed knitwear for Camiel Fortgens, which was shown at Paris Fashion Week.

So far I’m enjoying working with fashion at a small scale but I am very careful not to get sucked into a broader system full of (quite terrible) flaws.

9. Any future ideas or projects?
Yes besides the vases and the knitwear that keep evolving, I am now working on different projects based on raw natural materials to create sculptural objects. One is based on coconut shells which are left over from the different juice bars of Amsterdam. In another project I want to include a small community of women from Brazil weaving dried palm leaves - I’m half brazilian myself and I’ve met them when I go there to visit my family - I want to see where these materials can lead, what new forms or objects can emerge from natural and handmade processes. Wether these objects will fall within the category of art or design i don’t know and I don’t mind but I think there’s always a certain aura that shines from the objects you make by hand with the right intentions, and that’s what I want for people to see and feel in my work. 

Knitted tops, Collaboration project with Hedwig Vervoort