SOME/TALK : LEON EMANUEL BLANCK
Push up the fader. Bang. Aligned with the seasonal pilgrimage or design harvest, if you will, the antipodes truly reign. They desire. They never need. They simply create. Theirs is a profound moment of suspense amidst a choir of followers. What would be left, if it were not for them. Silent observers always resonate the loudest, as listeners always anticipate best. Let us not forget, but forgive.
Garment constructor, Leon Emanuel Blanck is the embodiment of such selflessness. A calm wader, without pretext or unnecessary decor. Observant, composed and meticulous in his individual appraisal of contemporary tailoring. A lone wolf, perhaps, but one with an open heart. His poetic work exists as a calm reflection of self, a series of controlled experiments, conducted at the whims of our bodily anatomy. Leon might be the truest of long-lost proverbial design punks. Over a series of encounters, the following dialogue was developed.
Ponder. Leon, let us begin by touching upon the follies of youth. Were you curious as a youngster?
Well, to be honest, I cannot really remember much of my childhood. Other than a few incidents, I hardly think about the past. There are certainly a few situations that I remember, like burning down a trash dumpster, trying to run from the police and eventually getting escorted home. Or an instance, when I drove down a small hill with my bicycle only to come to a full stop by smashing my mouth against the garage door-handle. I guess I was a kid with a rather ‘head through the wall’ mentality. This still very much paves the way I go about life, if I actually give it some thought. Speaking of being curious, probably I was more or less an adventure than the other kids my age back then. I do not really have a comparison here. However, I do remember I was genuinely interested in numerics, dinosaurs, space travel and obviously burning things.
Perfecting. All those years later, what steered your inner self, towards creation?
For me this was a natural process. I simply knew that I had found and created something very unique. I felt that if people would find out and know about it, they would at least respect the concept if not the entire project all together. For me the manner of construction was a first. The way I would go about crafting my patterns, did not come from schooling, inspiration or copy/past forms. It was something very deep inside of me. I clearly remember the first trials by making patterns and drawing them directly on humans. It means a lot to me and shaped the creations I choose to present. By deeply knowing this, and by keeping my mind on future endeavors, I could really only stay true to this path and follow it instinctively, all along the way.
Time Capsule. As a patient creator, it took you time to finally present your work. Do we merely note this as silence before the storm?
In fact, I did not take as much time as I would have loved to - although having spent two years on the first eight pieces, I was never fully happy with the result. Perhaps, I am not even now…whenever I finalize something, I quickly find things that simply need to be improved. It even went as far as me being finished with a delivery for a client and then ending up redoing or even re-draping a shoulder on some pieces….I am quite diligent and meticulous in my work process, but this also connects to my hands-on and direct manner of patterning and constructing the pieces.
If I look backwards, it is always interesting to look at pictures of the first sculptures and pieces, I made. When observing this, I often think to myself that this was the best I have ever come up with. From now on its downhill - the method I have developed is a once in a lifetime creation… will I ever be able to create something that to me very personally feels true and more groundbreaking than this? Unfortunately, I often sense, that it would have been better for my minds sake, if I had presented some easier works at first and finally came up with my concept of ANFRACTUOUS DISTORTION at a later stage of my development. I am fascinated by the relationship of muscles, bones and the brain - ANFRACTUOUS DISTORTION is not only a design theorem, but also a research project of how bodily movement relates to rigid fabric and leather.
Ambition. How did these years of reflection assist you in the first designs you realized?
Well, the years of reflection are not over.. it is a constant back and forth kind of thinking. Even though, I am now contradicting myself when it comes to your first question, but I often compare my early works with the new releases, recurrently thinking that my old creations were rougher, more intense, visually more challenging. These designs are for me part of a sense of straight rebellion and the anarchy of my mind. Now I have an audience to cater to, I have a business to run. So every now and then I catch myself romanticizing about my previous releases. Simply because they were so raw, less refined and developed. This process is a bit of a constant mind-fuck, which is one of the reasons why I am currently quite opposed to over-thinking things.
Form. Pattern 1.0. Draping 2.0. Could you describe your technical process?
The form is the most crucial element of my work. Without form, there is nothing. I work through 3d imaging - on a visual-emotional level, nothing speaks to me more than a body. The way the interplay of body and movement give birth to an incomprehensible expressive body-cast often feels overwhelming. To summarize it a little:
Form is day 1
Draping is day 2
Sculpture is day 3
Pattern is day 4
Construction is day 5
Presentation is day 6
Wearing an item is day 7
Passively designing, like in a wind-canal, to me creates the highest form of design, consequently I diminish the concept of ‘put on’ design, the worst design possible. (think of standard dress pattern, preferably red, with a golden plastic flower positioned put on the chest, a reproduction without a soul).
To me the wind-canal design is exactly what my method enforces. As I start off by choosing the form that will be used and form a cast around a moving body or person with one large piece of fabric. Due to the interaction of the moving body with the forming fabric, seams, widths and fit are solely designed by this interconnection in combination with me subconsciously designing. The forming process takes place in many different phases of posture, and leads to the creation of a body-cast that is form fitting but due to the numerous positions it is formed in, also quite effortless to move in.
When this shaping procedure is done, the body-cast is either cut open on all prior created seams to obtain a prototype pattern, or to be altered with different types of resins to create a sculpture as a finished form. Logically. the next step would be to cut the prototype pattern from toile and finish it. Important to know is that due to my nature, I do not consider the body to be symmetrical, that is why I form the whole body and not just half of it, making my patterns even more complex. Obviously, these stages are extremely time consuming and it usually takes me numerous runs of recutting and refitting to have a finished pattern in one single size.
The ability to move and articulate while wearing my finished garments are the key elements that define the fit and the sutures within one piece. Furthermore, the articulation of the body through the constant patterning, defines the proper fit and ability of movement. In a sense, garments are sequential and therefore ultimately connected. This is a truly anatomical way of working, and the way I choose to craft each individual final piece.
Forlorn. Perhaps we forgot to embrace the necessity found in design, many years ago. How would you depict this phenomenon yourself?
To me this a multileveled question. It seems as if the vast majority of people are not actively embracing design, neither thinking for themselves what good design means. This larger part of our society is highly influenced by mass media and big conglomerates. Therefore they might have a rather narrow and streamlined idea of design, consequently not embracing design, but rather being embraced by design... which can be good or bad. From an outside position, quite clearly this is more a form of running the gauntlet than genuinely enjoying design. Lastly, this sadly making peoples lives seemingly harder, rather than providing a clear benefit.
Irreverent. Leon, as time and space seem suspended in your universe: creation flows cannot be dictated. How do you observe our contemporary instant-society?
It is general phenomenon, that people think creation and expression can be put in excel tables or spreadsheets. It is probably the wrath of non-creators to have forced this vile timeframe upon us. I have not delved into it too far, but social media is like any mass media - apart from celebrities, where the the most naked, most brutal and most shocking get the most attention. This is of course quite understandable, as such pictures have the biggest impact on our brain. When I catch myself scrolling through social media, I come to realize that it is comparable to a car crash, one should not look, but one really cannot look away.
Giants. Let us return to more profound visual instigators. From Giger to Colani and the realm of Dystopia. What drew you to their narratives?
Well, I can not really tell when I first watched ALIEN, I must have been 12 or 13 years old. Back then, I encountered this feeling of the completely unknown, that absolutely overwhelmed me. Over the years, I have watched this movie over and over again trying to get my hands on anything that was Giger or Giger-related. This was the first time I had any contact with dystopian materials It simply fascinated and at first puzzled me why one would dream up such a dystopian world. Colani on the other hand, I had only started to notice when I was a little older. Perhaps this all collided just around the time I had started to really research about design. Colani is a master of biomorphic and wind canal design, everything seems to be conducted in an organic manner. What makes both him and Giger so special, is the unique world they each built. You can directly say ‘this is Giger’ or ‘this is Colani’. When you do so, you can be absolutely sure, because both of them have a extremely strong handwriting. These two conductors have successfully created a whole universe of their work. It inspires me a lot. As this is the path I am pursuing at this point, and not merely on a aesthetic level.
Downwards. Emotions tell us a lot, yet they also guide us. How do you choose to reflect and engage the world?
When it comes to my work I am completely driven by emotions. Every line, every cut and every angle simply has to feel right. By right, I do not mean it has to be the most pleasant line. When it comes to the construction, I like to think of a rather a ‘Ying and Yang’ conjunction of pleasant and unpleasant that does it for me. When all the lines are perfect, it makes the items almost boring to me. I like imperfections. On people as I do on objects. There is nothing worse than someone with a streamlined character; too one dimensional and easily predictable. You could say that I do not enjoy standard patterns. Neither on clothing, items or people. Normally, I may end up liking an item quite fast, however when I have to think about whether I like something or not, this means something has to be changed.
Brazen. This idea of nonconformism. What does this mean to you?
Questioning things is ultimately important for any intelligent human being. Unluckily this is something we are not initially taught or supposed to do. Openly questioning public opinion or general aesthetics is considered an attack on our norms. Although, I am not a big supporter of generic anti-action without thought, this behavior obviously rises from a cause. Even if that cause is only boredom, this really still is better than no rebellion at all.
Concerning my personal work, nonconformism is expressed through my use of my own technique when it comes to making patterns or finishing garments. I was told how to finish the garments and how to pursue with my patterns many times, but I never listened, for good reasons: finding your own way of creating and making things is the most rewarding feeling there is. We tend to listen to the spokesmen of our society too often, due to unneeded conformism and understandable monetary fears. This ultimately means that many of our rules and regulations are made so people stop to think for themselves.
Widen. To add onto your work will mean careful extensions and solemn garment additions. In what manner would you like to further enhance your work further in the future?
At this point I am working towards extending ANFRACTUOUS DISTORTION in a sensible way. Currently, this means adding additional footwear pieces, as part of a deeper collaboration with DIMISSIANOS & MILLER. Next to this, I am also trying to find some time to engage on a furniture project I have been dreaming about. Due to the specific nature of my very own technique, it is possible to design any object one could think of, ultimately giving me the chance to build freely and without restraints, thus augmenting my own universe. This sensory way of working, feels most natural to me.
Discourse. To counterbalance the intensity of creation, we need to reflect at times. Leon, where do you head for moments of unperturbed safety and silence?
This is definitely something, I have never consciously thought about. It took me a while to realize that I have this beautiful thick fluffy carpet in my living room. Probably it is the most relaxing place on earth, to find the time to dream and think. Sadly I rarely spent time on it...
Special thanks to Leon and Laura
Photography by Laura Mahlberg
Text by Marlo Saalmink | S/TUDIO [www.marlosaalmink.com]