WONDER WOMAN // Bianca Vallentine of The Vallentine Project
Meet Bianca Vallentine, the textile mastermind and colour conjurer of The Vallentine Project. Bianca’s keen eye for minimal pattern and soothing fabric combinations is what first drew us to her. She creates the perfect mood for languid bedroom textiles with her impressive range of hand made linens.
We sent Yes! Journal Features Editor Hayley McKee on a mission to find out more about her meticulous creative process.
Bianca, all products in The Vallentine Project are meticulously hand-made. Tell us a bit about the processes you've deployed, and why they're important to you.
For me, hand making products for the home is a very practical way of incorporating pieces of art into a space. The duvets and pillowcases that I make are often snapped up as wedding gifts, as each one is unique - a sentiment which always spurs me on to make more. By making custom pieces, I also feel I’m able to reduce the amount of waste that textiles make.
Sometimes I think of myself as completely mad when I look a what I'm doing, I mean who has time to hand embroider or hand paint?! I started embroidering when I got back from a big trip to America and needed an excuse to watch back-to-back series’ of Madmen and True Detective. I'm never capable of just sitting still so this was a good way for me to keep my hands busy while letting my brain and liver re-energise.
The particular design that seemed to evolve from this high amount of couch time, was a hand stitched gold mountain setting consisting of appliqued fabrics and embroidery. When I ran out of the acid wash cloth, used as a base textile, I thought “oh well, I'll just make my own”. This small idea suddenly launched me into testing out splatter paint techniques and hand painting, and now I have a whole range of techniques I lean on, to create a style I truly love. My two favourites, which have really come out in the new range, are embroidery and hand painting.
Describe your approach to developing the patterns and colour swatches in your newest collection, Welcome to the Daydream.
I came up with Welcome to the Daydream while I was dreaming about the kind of space and colours I'd love to read a book amongst. This daydreaming led me to softer colours in muted peaches, off-whites and naturals because I really found these to be the most relaxing.
I looked to modernist architecture when I was thinking about some of my shapes, choosing softer, more organic lines to keep the process of hand painting really evident on the linen fabric.
I've spent a lot of time thinking about this collection and road testing it. Does it pass the sleep test? Does it feel right? Is it too busy? Does it make me want to fall asleep? This planning, all comes down to my own experience with restless nights. I've always had a bit too much energy and have been known to sleep walk. The sleep walking ended when I had a child, but that in itself, as all parents know, brings a raft of sleepless nights. I spend a lot of time thinking about sleep ...
Describe a regular day and the tools or routines you have in place, to help you be your best.
There isn't a regular day for me as I break up my tasks quite a lot - you have to when you have a little kid! When I'm in the studio, I spend the first hour of my day responding to emails, orders, etc. I like to get these things out the way early so I can touch base with people later in the day. I then set up to get painting.
I work out of the Pop and Scott workshop and share the tables with woodworkers - which is handy because I don't need to worry too much about paint splashes. I cover the large tables with my boards so I have my own clean space, I lay the fabric on these boards and paint up the designs using locally made paint. I leave the duvets and pillows on the boards to dry and if I've got enough room I'll paint more products otherwise I'll spend a bit of time updating my website.
Because the duvets and pillowcases are hung for 24 hours to air dry, I end up breaking up my week quite a bit. One day will be allocated to painting, another to embroidery and another to heat set, launder and press. It's an extensive process but I feel it's true to the kinds of products I'm creating - handmade, sustainable and locally produced - I even make the laundry powder!
What are your must-have fashion pieces to take you from the workshop to social outings?
Being a bowerbird textile fanatic, I'm inclined to cover up my soiled clothes with a printed oversized jacket. It’s the perfect disguise from toddler stains, paint splatters, dust and other embarrassing textile moments.
Another decoy I've found to be effective has been red lipstick, preferably applied to the lips and not the teeth (although the latter has occurred) and some kind of interesting bag that will distract the observer from your workshop attire.
We’ve just launched our first Radical Yes shop! Each month a new theme will be celebrated, with some exciting workshops and activities happening in store. February's theme is LOVE. How does the idea of love run through your business?
As my surname might suggest, I’m all about love! With any creative pursuit, you've got to love what you do as there is always a shortage of something - be it time, money or sleep. If you’ve truly found something you love doing, it won't matter, you'll make it work.
Most of all, you've got to love and appreciate the people who support you. I know for me I'm fortunate to have some great people cheering me on from the sidelines, be it the conversations in the studio or the kicks up the backside when they can see I'm lagging.
Lastly, with love in the air on February 14th, which items from your latest collection are the most suited to a long breakfast in bed this Valentine's Day?
Oh, breakfast in bed!!! That's too much! Your version of breakfast in bed sounds saucy; my reality is more likely vegemite on toast smeared across my sheets.
If you’re inclined to have a more romantic liaison, I would highly recommend the Scattered Hearts pillowcases accompanied by the Good Vibes duvet cover. These items go hand in hand, and I dare say, you might even get lucky.