We asked Jessica a few questions about the creation of Eric and Eloise, and here’s what she had to say.
Can you tell us a little bit about creating Eric and Eloise?
When I make things, what I’m trying to do is make a kinder, more habitable world. To me, that’s who Eric and Eloise and their friends are – this gaggle of totally different animals that can sit down at a table together and be different and be friends. I think, in our world, we sure need that. We need to be able to sit down at a table together with people who are different from us and laugh, listen, be kind and play. I hope the world of Eric and Eloise encourages us to imagine together, laugh together, respect each other, and honor friendship and all our differences.
In all my work for Accent Decor I try to imagine the world I think we all want to live in, and I see my job as doing my small part in imagining it and bringing it to life for us. When I make things for Accent Decor (from showrooms to product development) I begin with wonder and love – and I try to end with wonder and love too! In between, of course, there are logistical details and sometimes some hair pulling. Sometimes even a LOT of hair pulling 🙂
Share how you go about coming up with ideas for products?
First, I brainstorm. I just let whatever pops into my head land on the page. Then I present rough concepts to our design team. They start to cull. I ask them what they like, what stands out. Sarah (our creative director) is amazing at seeing diamonds in the rough – edging me in one direction or another, articulating what she likes, being both creative and pragmatic. It’s wonderful to work with someone who gives me creative liberty and direction at the same time.
Where did the idea for Eric & Eloise come from?
I grew up in the forest with foxes and hares and snow in winter. You know that moon in the book, and those stars flung across the sky? That’s the view from my little bedroom window as a wonder-filled kid. I’m also a cross country skier. I brought my childhood winters to life through drawings and then Accent Decor brought that little story to life for our customers. And now our customers can bring it to life for their customers!
Did the concept of characters come first or the story? (The chicken or the egg?)
Eric and Eloise as characters arrived fully formed! I started with the forest of my childhood and then thought about who lived there – and I made a story for them… a totally impossible story – because, uh, we know what would happen in the real world with a fox and a hare 🙂 Another little secret is that, if you look at the dedication in the book you’ll see it says “for Sarah, of course.” Sarah is the Eloise to my Eric. I’m the awkward Eric. Sarah is the graceful Eloise. It really is all about friendship, isn’t it? Yes! Everything I make for Accent Décor is improved through friendships – friendships with our factories and friendships with each other. Friendship, in all its forms, makes life sweet and our designs strong. I like thinking of what we do at Accent Decor as acts of friendship. In my mind that’s what it is to be a responsible company – we don’t use each other, instead, trade is a kind of friendly collaboration. When it’s good, it’s good for everyone!
Can you share a bit more about collaboration?
I love thinking about all the hands that touch what we make along the way. It’s my hope that in some way Eric & Eloise bring each person who touches them delight. They aren’t mine – they belong to each person who is part of making them come to life – from our customers who sell them to our customers’ customers, to the craftspeople in Nepal and China and India who make them.
So, there’s more to the story than just Eric & Eloise. Can you tell us a bit more about the “framily”
Well! There are eight other characters, as you know, who join Eric and Eloise at their dinner parties. They are a fun, motley crew, including a porcupine from Zambia, a divorced puffin, a pretentious photographer mouse and a Marten (who everyone thinks is a cat!) If our customers love our crew, we’ll keep putting love and energy into new designs.
Well, that begs the question: will there be another book / story?
I’ve already written the next story! It’s pretty fun! We’re waiting to see how much our customers like the “framily”, and if they love them, we’ve got a fun sequel to be printed in Nepal! I would be ecstatic to be able to bring this sequel to life for us 🙂 So stay tuned!