Instead of being born from whimsical illustrations or landscape photography, each of Paige Russell’s scarf designs from her brand Eloi started out as a collage of construction paper cutouts. On silk, the stiff, two-dimensional artworks become fluid, breathing life into Russell’s fictional technicolor forms and creating an alluring tension.
The Detroit-born, Austin-based graphic designer founded Eloi scarves as a creative way of showcasing her paper cutouts. The name comes from the sci-fi novel “The Time Machine” by HG Wells (she’s a major fan of the 1960 film adaptation); the Eloi people were a beautiful, post-human race that were herded around as cattle. There’s definitely a sci-fi element to her works, which merge strangeness and beauty.
Taking inspiration from her mother, who collected Hermès scarves and framed them on the walls, Russell says, “I always [wore scarves] as little halter tops. I grew up going to estate sales, and I really liked collecting the patterns,” she says. “So I thought [turning them into scarves] was a better way of reproducing my stuff.”
Russell doesn’t do any sketching, and immediately starts with scissors and construction paper (which she’s always on the hunt for to find different shades, from NYC’s premium Paper Presentation to “shitty craft stores”) which become as much of a therapeutic as it is creative process—sometimes even covering the same canvas 10 or 15 times over until it’s perfect. “I kind of noticed a pattern of my neuroses and my anxiety having a lot to do with the things I was creating,” says Russell. “Before I even started the scarves, I started doing a series of marble patterns; I made of ton of different ones and it really helps my anxiety to do all the cutting and pasting. It gets into this crazy repetitive rhythm. When I started moving into more representational subject matter, it ended up being based around weird things I was thinking about—super mundane things.”
One great example is Eloi’s trippy Deep Web design. “My ex-boyfriend taught me what the ‘Deep Web’ was; basically, we only access 5% of the internet—and I’m definitely a conspiracy theorist—so I freaked out,” she says. “It was all I could think about and we were trying to get on the Deep Web.” But the surprising part is how well the ominous mood of the scarf transforms into a pretty upscale accessory when tied around the head, as her instructional videos show. It’s just one of the many sides of each versatile scarf.
“A lot of them are actually based off of songs,” Russell says of her designs, jokingly comparing it to synesthesia. “A lot of them are exercises with my mind; turning sounds into imagery—kind of like what Kandinsky did.” Her “Velvet Morning” piece is based on the Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra duet “Some Velvet Morning,” a dreamy haze of a song that matches Eloi’s psychedelic aesthetic. Russell’s newest design for Eloi, “In a Silent Way,” is similarly inspired by the music of Miles Davis, and releases today 16 March 2015.
While scarves have become a more popular medium as of late for independent designers and artists to showcase their work, Russell’s pieces stick out due to their accessible price. She says, “Scarves in general are either super cheap or $500; so I wanted to find a niche where I could slip in and be in between where it’s not insane to invest in, but you’re paying for an art print.” Whether framed around your shoulders or on the wall, the scarves spark conversations as well as some introspective meditation—like good artwork should.
Eloi scarves are available online for $120.
Images courtesy of Eloi