Grace Atkinson grew up in the South Island before moving to Sydney, then London, then Paris, then New York before returning to Paris (where she has been for the last 10 years). It was her upbringing that inspired in her a passion for interior practices. “I’m really interested in how the objects we surround ourselves with inform how we live, rest, feel and interact,” Atkinson says below, “I love exploring form, texture and space.” A few months ago, she launched her brand Decima with a series of exquisite, one-off mohair and wool blankets, each in distinctive colours and patterns, created in collaboration with craftspeople from around the world. The brand has been steadily growing ever since, and recently, Atkinson’s creations were part of a group exhibition at Jacqueline Sullivan Gallery in New York. We recently talked to the up-and-coming creative to uncover what drives her unique vision. With a number of plans for the future, Atkinson is certainly one to watch, and her exquisite textiles are the perfect addition to any well-designed space.
Tell me about your background. What took you from New Zealand to living in Paris?
I come from Timaru, but spent much of my childhood in Wanaka, which is now my beloved home base when I visit New Zealand. The immensely beautiful nature and isolation of New Zealand is part of what makes it so special, but as a teenager, I felt a pull towards big cities and everything they could offer in terms of culture, diversity and opportunities. Entering into the world of fashion, I did a stint in Sydney, before moving to London and then to Paris around ten years ago. Within that time there were a few years of constant travel to New York, Milan and other parts of Europe for shoots and consulting work. I spent a year living in New York, coinciding with a shift into art and design. Paris is absolutely my adopted home, but as a New Zealander, I don’t think I will ever take for granted the ease of travel to other countries due to being in such close proximity. It would be hard to give that up!
Where did the idea for Decima start? Why textiles?
Textiles are in my DNA, my Great Grandmother and Grandmother were costume designers and seamstresses and my Mother opened one of the first vintage stores in New Zealand called ‘Collage’ in the early 80s, specialising in pre-20th century pieces. Growing up, my parents had a flooring business so I was surrounded by rugs, carpets and hand-painted tiles from Italy. I have always had a strong interest in interiors and I wanted to engage in a practice where I could explore different ways of composing a home, through texture, form and space. I’m really interested in how the objects we surround ourselves with inform how we live, rest, feel and interact. With Decima I aim to create beautiful pieces that inspire a tender, nurturing and connected home.
“Through Decima, I work with artisans around the world with the aim of preserving traditional techniques that are unfortunately in the process of being lost.”
Tell me about your creative process. What inspires your designs?
I try to remain curious and open everywhere I go, whether I am in the countryside or walking the streets of Paris. A beautiful colour palette will often show itself to me when I least expect it. My design process usually starts with drawing sessions where I will immerse myself in music and just let myself loose with no limitations. From there I do a lot of editing, and then refining, exploring possibilities in colour and scale. Decima is still a relatively new project so I try to leave a lot of space for my voice to evolve, which at this stage means my approach is quite intuitive and emotional. I only want to make things that excite me.
Where are your Decima pieces made?
Through Decima, I work with artisans around the world with the aim of preserving traditional techniques that are unfortunately in the process of being lost. I am currently working with artisans in Ukraine, employing techniques developed in the 14th Century. It is such an honour working with these gifted women that continue forward with absolute strength despite the devastation they are currently facing. I am also working with a family-owned textile factory that was founded in Spain in the 1930s whose artisanal processes and techniques of this region date back to the 15th Century.
Who are some creatives you look up to?
I recently designed some unique pieces for the debut show at Jacqueline Sullivan Gallery in Tribeca, New York. It was an absolute honour to have my work shown with such talented designers and artists as Isabella Toledo, Kristin Dickson-Okuda, Jordan McDonald, Valentina Cameranesi Sgroi, Natalie Weinberger and Christian + Jade. Also to work with such brilliant creatives that are dedicated to a singular vision, Jacqueline Sullivan, Ruby Woodhouse and Abel Sloane.
Looking to the future, what can we expect from Decima next?
Through Decima, I will continue to explore textural possibilites for the home, with many more blankets, rugs, throws and giant floor cushions to come.