Frédérique Morrel


Written by Rebecca Fulleylove
Photos and illustrations by Phillipe Cluzeau
18 Monday 18th July 2011

Tapestries and needlework, haven’t always had the coolest rep but recently they've had a bit of a revival. One of the best examples of this comes from designer Frédérique Morrel who, with husband Aaron Levin, has created beautiful animal sculptures and pieces of furniture by recycling vintage tapestries. Troubled by the fact that her grandmother’s needlework was discarded when she passed away, Frederique has since been obsessed with the idea of making them come back to life and re-injecting value into these lost artifacts. We decided to have a chat with Frédérique about taxidermy and whether design has been affected by mass-production.   

Main image: The Dreaming Collection, {Visitors}

The Dreaming Collection
, {Passe-Murailles}

What’s the process of making one of your sculptures? Do you work on every stage of the piece? 

Before anything I have to go tapestry hunting since I use only vintage material. But the next step is to think about the story that the subject is going to tell us. Then I work on its expression, its personal details like the antlers, after that I choose the tapestries so that they tell a story, but like a painter I use the tapestries like different colours of paint. To me, you could also say that a tapestry is like a virtual picture: one stitch is like one pixel. When I’ve decided all this, now the subject can be fully reborn.

In the part of your Dreaming series entitled {Passe-Murailles} did you purposely choose animals that are traditionally used in normal taxidermy processes, for instance deer? Are there any other animals you would like to work on? 

In the beginning, my inspiration was to take animals that were represented in the tapestries. The most common one is the deer. Most animals say something symbolically that is meaningful for humans. The deer for example is a symbol of regeneration, the possibility to pass from one world to another in a single bound. But I do lots of other animals, rabbits, foxes, wild boar, horses, wolves etc.

The Dreaming Collection, {Visitors}

In the same collection, you have your G{Hosts} which are life-sized human tapestry sculptures, were these based on anyone you know?

In a sense, I could say it’s Adam and Eve! No, seriously, it is also a representation of the couple I form with my husband and partner, Aaron Levin.

There’s an air of nostalgia to your work, reminding us of a forgotten craft with undertones of the natural world what with the various animals, is this partnership something you see going hand-in-hand?

It's not really nostalgia, it's just a way of reminding us of something that we have forgotten, like popular beliefs, or the control we can have on our craft when things are done by hand.

The Dreaming Collection, G{Hosts}

Apart from the connection to your Grandmother, what is it you enjoy about working with needlework and tapestry as a medium? Is the story behind them something that attracts you?

It's made with thread so it is a metaphor for a link with the past, the thread that permits us to find our way in the labyrinth. In the stories they tell, there is a sort of idealized vision of happiness and domestic bliss.

With each piece you make being unique, is this individuality and preciousness an important aspect of your work?

Yes. I try to know where the piece will go, who the owner will be and adapt to that. I want each piece to have its own personality.

The Dreaming Collection, {Passe-Murailles}

Did you consciously set out to re-establish the link between art and the hand-made with your creations?

Yes, it's one of the questions that I am really interested in. How the different disciplines of art, craft and design rub against each other, interact, overlap. I feel close to the Arts and Crafts movement, in that I try to give value to something that has been made with the intelligence of the hand.

Frédérique Morrel

What are your thoughts on mass-production? Has it been design’s downfall?

Well, if you consider an individual to be just part of a mass, then yes, it is the death of the individual identity. So the problem is not the death of design, but the death of the individual. Popular tapestries were a mass product, with popular themes that are cliché. But each woman puts something of herself into it, and invests her love and craftsmanship into it. So in a sense it's a good mixture between mass production and individualisation.


The Living Collection- Tower of Poufs

With your Living collection, the pieces have more functionality to them, for instance there’s cushions and footstools. Do you feel art or design always has to have a purpose, or can it be done just for fun?

Everything has a function, but it is not necessarily a practical one. If you consider my work as design, then it’s ‘idea design’. It is useful to one's life to have an emotion or stimulate creativity. If it's art, then the function is to be contemplated and to convey an aesthetic emotion. Art is more sensitive, design is more conceptual (in spite of conceptual art!)

What future projects do you have in store?

My future project? Re-creation! Have fun while creating again.

Frédérique Morrel and Aaron Levin with family

To see more of Frédérique's work visit her website here.

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