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Interview: Shanan Campanaro of Eskayel

Categories: Exclusive Interviews

We’re so excited to announce another great designer to 2Modern, this time Brooklyn-based artist and designer Shanan Campanaro of the home goods brand Eskayel. To say Shanan is good with pattern is a major understatement. We’re melting over these stunning designs that blend organic shapes with geometric and digital designs to create really one-of-a-kind patterns that look killer on wallpaper, fabrics, pillows and more.

A relatively new company, the design world (and ourselves included) have embraced Shanan’s keen eye for composition and color. Her paintings feature animals prominently, and for her home decor lines she takes elements from her art, plays around with their layout, size and composition, until she creates patterns that look perfect on walls, on fabric, on baskets and more. We got to ask her where the name Eskayel comes from (we think you’ll be surprised), how she found herself in the home decor business after being an artist so long and what else she plans on putting her patterns on (items you’ll no doubt love, we promise!):

You know awaits you below: a transcript for your reading pleasure! And of course, be sure to check out the whole range of what 2Modern will be offering from Eskayel, 2Modern: Eskayel.

2Modern: We are talking with Shanan Campanaro today. She is the founder of Eskayel, a truly unique company offering home accessories with really stunning patterns. Thanks for talking with me today.
Shanan Campanaro: Thank you for talking to me today.

2M: So what about the name of your company, where did that come from?
SC: I just kind of wanted to make up a name that sounded like a name, because I didn’t want to use my own name. I didn’t want to use Shanan Campanaro. So I made it.

2M: I like that. It’s got a good sound to it. It sounds kind of fancy but also sort of comforting.
SC: Yeah I wanted it to basically not mean anything. I kind of liked the way osprey sounded; I just kind of put together different letters until I turned it into a sound.

2M: Well let’s just get right into your inspiration for your art and later how you take that art and create home goods from it.
SC: Most of my paintings are of animals, and I have a side organization that does exhibitions. The exhibitions are always of animals and then we give the proceeds to different organizations and charities. So yeah we’ve done stuff for elephant orphanages in Africa so I’ve painted African animals and rhinos and stuff. Lately we did a farm sanctuary and I painted cows and other farm animals. So I just do my paintings for those shows. And when I’m gonna create a home goods collection. Usually I make a ton of patterns out of all my paintings; I just take small pieces of the paintings and flip them around and turn them into patterns.

And once I see a theme…like if I’m inspired by my travels. The last collection I did was the Era Collection and it was really inspired by colors I saw in my travels to Italy on the Amalfi Coast. Like bricks, like the worn bricks and earth tones and black marbles and stuff like that. I kind of take inspiration from my travels to give the collection a theme, and the color the patterns I’ve made to make it fit that theme. I always have a lot more patterns than I put out. I try to pull patterns from what I have to create collections that seem cohesive. And then you know, different patterns are good for different items. Some patterns are good for wallpaper, some better for fabric.

2M: And what got you started in manipulating your paintings in the first place? I think I read in your bio you were just looking for some paper for your home you were designing?
SC: I’ve lived in the same place for 8 years. About 4 or 5 years ago I just wanted to change everything. I think it’s cause I moved in here right when I got out of college and it was time to not have IKEA furniture anymore and kind of make my apartment more of an adult apartment. And I have this painting that has these two stripes through it—decorative stripes—and I just thought that if it was repeated over and over again it would make really cool wallpaper. Just did some research on if I could print wallpaper. I found a printer who had that and so I just made it and put it up in my house to see what it would look like. Because I have this accent wall that sticks out kind of like a fireplace wall but there’s no fireplace. And I put it on there. And I really liked it. I still have it up. And then I started doing kind of crazy wallpaper prints to put up in exhibitions behind the paintings. And then one exhibition was in this gallery in the back and there was a clothing shop in the front. And the owner asked if she could put some wallpaper up in the shop and she really liked it her shop and I just slowly kind of thought it might be cool to try to do a wallpaper line.

2M: So it was kind of like a snowball effect or was there an actual moment when you thought “hey, I can do this.”
SC: Oh, well I found out about Brooklyn Design, which is a trade show for Brooklyn-based designers, which is supposed to be like a juried show where only 40 different companies get in every year. So I decided to do a collection and submit it to Brooklyn Designs and I thought if I got in then I’d have a wallpaper company and if not then maybe they weren’t so good. And I got in. So yeah then basically I had to be a wallpaper company to show at the trade show. And we got a good response.

2M: What year was that?
SC: That was 2009.

2M: Is that someone in the background there?
SC: Yeah that’s my boyfriend and my partner Nick.

2M: Hi!
Nick: Hi!
SC: He does like a lot of the business side of things and helps a lot with trade shows and stuff.

2M: So it’s a fairly small operation, you and your boyfriend Nick?
SC: Me and my boyfriend Nick and several interns and many freelancers.

2M: How have you shaped a successful company? How have you…
SC: It’s a combination of an insane amount of work…I mean I had a full-time job that paid me really well up until about a year ago. So I invested a huge amount of my own money into the company, which I think was really important. And then I worked every night at home until like two in the morning and on weekends. And I made my boyfriend work. I think the first two years were really hard. And really insane. And I think beyond that when you’re doing something you really love and staying true to your own creative vision it’s not hard to produce. It just comes out of you naturally.

And I think I’ve just been really lucky; the design world has been really good to me. I’ve been an artist for a long time and the art world is really competitive and hard and conceptual and I didn’t always have…we do these charity exhibitions and they’re really great but I didn’t have a ton of critical acclaim in the art world. But as soon as I started designing product the design world really embraced me and it’s been really good to me. And I’ve gotten a lot of press, which I think has really helped. And then I think our business model has been really helpful, too. We make everything to order so we don’t carry any stock. I think that’s been a good model for me to be able to carry on. I think a lot of small businesses if they start out making a certain amount of stock and it doesn’t sell then they get stuck with a kind of liability. So I think there’s some smart things about our business model that have helped us start small and then get bigger without getting into too much debt.

2M: Do you have any business in your background or in your schooling because you sound pretty smart about it all?
SC: Well my parents have their own company; it’s a fitness company. And I’ve worked in their company probably in every single department growing up. They made me work in the company; I think at 11 I was stuffing mailer packets. I’ve worked in the back room I’ve worked in the sales department the customer service department.

2M: What’s on the horizon? Are you going to be doing more patterns, expanding into new lines…what’s up your sleeve?
SC: We have some reeeeaaally exciting stuff up our sleeve. One thing I’m doing for fall is gift items, is like these welcome mats that are really really bright and saturated, something I could never really do for wallpaper or fabric because it’s really crazy but I think it might look really cut on welcome mats. And then I have rugs coming out through a licensing partnership in November. And I’m working on getting a bedding partner and a ceramics partner.

2M: Be sure to visit eskayel.com. You’ve been listening to a 2Modern designer interview. For more fun podcasts, design posts and inspiring design advice, check out the blog at 2Modern.com.

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