She Sells Seashells

WORDS Martin Jacobs PHOTO Karl Rogers

Cara Saven Wall Design recently collaborated with artist Lucie De Moyencourt on Shellegance, a striking new wallpaper collection. The result, sixteen dynamic designs, is nothing short of a ‘shore’ thing.

On an autumn morning in April, when design-focused businesswoman Cara Saven, founder of Cara Saven Wall Design, and artist and illustrator Lucie De Moyencourt, each wrapped in seashell-patterned wallpaper, waded into the Atlantic Ocean, it was more than into a numbingly cold sea that they walked. It was into a tradition, one that stretches back to ancient times, of seashell-inspired art and decorating. For the seashell, with its abundance of shapes and forms, its subtleties of colour, and its intricate patterns, has lent its attributes to Greek and Roman antiquity, to Renaissance paintings, to Rococo furniture and to Art Deco motifs. In recent years, there’s been a renewed interest in the seashell, and it’s become part of an evolving trend dubbed ‘crustaceancore’.

The reason for Saven and De Moyencourt’s adventurous morning swim was twofold. In part, it was a form of quality control (more on that later); of greater importance, it signified the launch of a collaborative new project between the two creatives. One that marries seashell imagery from De Moyencourt’s popular Shellegance (a collection which began as a series of two-dimensional decorative ceramics and sconces) with Cara Saven Wall Design’s commitment to developing wallpaper ranges with local artists, under the banner of CS&CO. Titled Shellegance, the collection is the striking result of this collaboration, but it’s not the studio’s first with De Moyencourt. “Lucie was one of three CS&CO launch artists I approached early in the Covid-19 pandemic, primarily because I liked her art,” explains Saven. “But also, because she lived within 10 kilometres of me, at a time when we had no choice but to appreciate our own neighbourhood.”

“I love working with Lucie because, like me, she trusts the process,” Saven continues. “We both have super high standards, and also this weird thing where we don’t control too much but nonetheless make it work, only moving forward if the process is working.” A year in the making, the Shellegance wallcovering collection was not without challenges, primarily one centering around how many shells were needed for each design. De Moyencourt meticulously photographed and recorded numerous ceramic seashells, before working closely with Cara Saven Wall Design’s creative team to group, size and, finally, position them. “The result is a collection of 16 gorgeously coloured seashell wallpapers. And while these can be adjusted in scale and background colour, Lucie’s palette is so perfect.” The various designs, set against backgrounds of coral and aquamarine – and some against more neutral tones – appear illustrative; it can take a moment to comprehend that the shells reproduced are of De Moyencourt’s ceramics, and not hand drawn.

The project has been equally rewarding for De Moyencourt, who not only enjoys collaborating with Saven, but is also excited to see how the collection is incorporated both into commercial and private spaces. “As a former set designer, I love that first my illustrations and now my shells can be used on large surfaces at architectural scale,” she says. “These designs can be used at various sizes, from classic small patterns to a more contemporary oversized scale. It is so fun seeing what Cara’s creative studio can do; I can’t wait to start seeing these applied to walls everywhere!”

The launch of Shellegance coincides with another release from Cara Saven Wall Design, one that’s equally been a long time in the planning. After a period of research and development, the studio has proudly unveiled its Linen Seamless wallcovering, a surface that is not only richly textured, but hardy too. One that is both seamless and scratch-proof, like the studio’s existing substrates, making it equally suitable for hospitality and restaurant projects. And it was to quality check this substrate that Saven and De Moyencourt, clad in Shellegance-printed wallpapers, waded into the salty Atlantic. “Traditional wallpapers cannot go near water. Wanting to test the durability – and washability – of our new Linen Seamless substrate, we decided to print designs from the Shellegance collection on to this, and to take her for a swim,” explains Saven. “We immersed her in the ocean, pulled her out, immersed her once again. And she emerged looking like she’d stepped out of a salon, perfect!” |

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