Aureum Design’s Nicole Levenberg released her Tanglewood Collection of textiles and wallpapers a few weeks ago. The collaboration with fabric house T&Co and digital printing specialists Lemon was a labour of love and its lush, botanical scenes are intoxicating. “The idea was to create romanticised, secret botanical worlds that offer an idyllic escape from our immediate reality.”
We love the Tanglewood collection for its hand-drawn quality and escapist nature, from Tanglewood Forest’s fecund foliage and Walking Trail’s dry landscape to the otherworldly feeling of Forest Floor. We chatted to the designer about bringing this collection to life.
What “tools” do you use to draw your illustrations before they get scanned? I’m a big fan of mixed media. I use pens predominantly to achieve my detailed line work and a combination of acrylic paint and watercolour pencils to create the basic colour. Fabriano paper is a firm favourite. I can’t imagine the days when everything was painted by hand, including the repeat layouts… if you made a mistake you had to start again!
Translating your illustrations onto wallpaper and textiles... what’s that process like? The designs usually define the process. For example, with Tanglewood Forest, I compiled a full layout design in Photoshop from millions of plant photographs (taken while exploring Kew Gardens in London) and then hand painted that collage onto paper. I scanned the painting, creating a repeat layout in Photoshop - taking into account scale for end use.
I did a few rounds of printouts to check the repeat, layout and scale and then I digitally painted in the colour layers over the design to create new colourways. Last, I test printed onto fabric and wallpaper to achieve the right colouring and scale.
Tanglewood Forest has stolen the show as the headline act of the collection... how did this design materialise? This design has been sitting in the depths of my mind for a long time. I wanted to create a stand-out, “wow” design that encompassed everything people loved in all the jungle designs I’ve previously done. Working on the Ardmore Zambezi fabric range and closely working with Cole & Son for their accompanying Ardmore wallpaper range catalysed the desire for an intensely lush, incredibly detailed, multicoloured design.
Are the designs set anywhere specific? Not really. Tanglewood Forest has a more Amazonian, lush, tropical jungle feel, while Walking Trail has a distinctly Highveld aesthetic that wouldn't be uncommon at the bottom of a lush Johannesburg or Durban garden. Mossy Pond and Forest Floor are more universal, so they appeal anywhere in the world.
Does living in an apartment that looks onto a thicket of foliage have anything to do with it? Definitely. I love the escape and allure that tropical greenery offers. It allows me to dream of exotic worlds and undiscovered places, far away from the noise and chaos of city life.
How did you come to work with T&Co and Lemon? I met T&Co’s Tanya (Sturgeon) when I first returned from my studies in London and she planted the seed for a collaboration back then. I love the small boutique nature of T&Co. It feels beautifully curated and selective, allowing a local fabric range to shine amidst incredible imports. I started working with Lemon a while back as their first artist collaboration range under Lemon x Aureum. Tanglewood completes the existing range. As a designer, Lemon offers an amazingly collaborative space where large-scale and professional quality can be achieved locally.
What are you working on right now behind the scenes? An exciting new collaborative venture... Silk, embellishments, accessories - need I say more?