Camille Brabant

Camille Brabant is a designer living and working in France. She works mainly with hemp and other plant-based resources to create her sustainable materials and objects. The interests for a social, cultural and scientific approach to design keep on influencing  her artistic practice with plants.

If you had access to all the powers, how would you improve the world?
I would have conversations with plants and rocks. I think they bear a lot of wisdom and I would be so interested to learn from their perspectives. I bet their teachings would help us to act more smartly as a species.

What are the biggest sustainability challenges in your work and how are you addressing them?
My main goal is to value hemp, and to set up a viable hemp textile chain in France. For now, I am growing some in my own garden and extracting the fibers the good old way. It is quite a challenge to make some time to do so and experiment with all the possibilities the fibers offer, but it is quite fun.

Which conscious lifestyle choices are you making, and are you considering any new ones?
I decided to live in a village in a very rural place, I have hens and a garden full of veggies. I am completing my food supply doing my groceries at the market where only local producers sell stuff. I use a desert fridge which I made myself, it is a low tech fridge made out of terra cotta pots and sand. I haven’t taken a plane for years. I cycle and walk whenever I can to avoid the car. So maybe a new choice that would be a bit more sustainable for my inner ecology would be to let go of things and to be more light and spontaneous.

What have you rebelled against in the past, and what are you rebelling against now?
For my work choices, they are generally rooted in my difficulty to understand the tendency we humans have to think ourselves superior to all other beings, and to want to have everything at our disposal. I think that’s a real tragedy, and that it is urgent to break out of this way of thinking, and learn to relate to everything around us. That’s why I’m committed to working exclusively with natural materials, and hemp in particular.

Do you need to be a rebel to enjoy your work?
Well I don’t really know what being a rebel actually means. For sure, I continuously dig for my inner values, checking if what I am doing is in tune with it. I guess curiosity is another trait that nourishes this. After all I think this is what artists and any kind of creatives are here to do, is it not?

Do you use your own work?
I do, especially the textile pieces. Some of them are of daily use and I often keep a prototype myself. However, some more conceptual or unique pieces are being kept safe for exhibitions and sales.

Do you think tableware can still be improved? If yes, in what way?
I paradoxically think the less the better. I love eating with my fingers and sharing plates with others. It is really not embedded in western culture, but I discovered that I love it. I also love the idea of having edible single-use cutlery and dishware. I also heard that in some parts of India it is common to make plates or cups out of raw clay, that can simply go back to the earth once we do not need it anymore. I think it is a beautiful addition to the cooking and eating rituals, and it also contributes to the food being healthy. On the other hand, I love having objects that serve as a ritualistic part of the meal, that have less of a practical meaning but more of a symbolic and energetic one, and I think cutlery could be a bit much more expressive.

What was the inspiration for your Steinbeisser pieces?
I wanted to work on the basics of food, which are also bearers of strong meanings and powerful rituals: bread and water. Bread is like flesh, it embodies the farmer and the bakers’ strength, gestures and sweat, and nourishes others in return. Water is the element that makes it take shape and come to life. The rye weavings came out very naturally as we had sown some at home as a green manure.

Describe your work in 3 words!
Animist. Patient. Autonomous.

What kind of materials do you use and where do you get them from?
The rye came from my garden in the Pyrénées mountains. I also love working with wild ressources, like I do for my research around vegetal fibers, or as for the clay I collect here and there. Otherwise, I usually grow the fibers I use for sampling, and I buy the hemp fibers I use for production from a local cooperative working on rebuilding a hemp textile industry in the Southwest of France.

What has been your favourite dinner experience?
Amongst others, I have a warm memory of the night I got spontaneously invited to share a couscous on the night of Achoura, when I was living in Casablanca. This was on a Friday evening and I was walking along a shanty house area. After a friendly chat with some ladies there, they invited me to their grandmother’s little house, where the couscous was ready for being shared as the Friday tradition dictates. I learned to make semolina balls for eating directly from my hands, the whole house eating on the same plate. I definitely felt like a newbie but it was fun, warm, and I loved that the only thing I could do was letting go of all the conventions and etiquette I am used to.

What excites you about tomorrow?
The idea of giving shape to the countless projects I have in mind. Seeing what the world will look like in the next decades, as worrisome as it could be, that excites me much more than it frightens me. I am optimistic afterall. Seeing hemp fields, hemp clothes and hemp houses all around.