Last week I came across Grau Wal and some how it triggered me, it opened my eyes for some kind of culture and history of braids. I was pleased to do a short interview with Eve Cahill & Anna Rybakov, the two friends behind Grau Wal to find out more about their inspirations and future plans.
You started Grau Wal kind of accidentally after you both finished textile and apparel design at Cornell University. What was the main inspiration for that moment?
The things that initially brought us together as friends and artists was our shared interest in experimenting with different mediums, researching obscure topics, and the sheer sensual fulfillment that comes from making things with your hands. After university, we wanted to continue learning and playing with materials but that is not always a lucrative pursuit in the “real world”. Jewelry was a way for us to channel our creativity and curiosity and Grau Wal arose as we noticed that other people were intrigued by our pieces.
The necklaces makes me think of 19th century girls with tight braids – what is the inspiration for this collection?
Close, Victorian mourning jewelry was actually our reference point, which incorporated a lock of a deceased person’s hair into a piece of wearable jewelry. We found this idea of carrying a part of a loved one around with you, in such a decorative way, very interesting and wonderfully morbid. Later, we researched other types of hair jewelry given as love tokens, gifts, mementos, and as devices of identification. We wanted to play around with modern materials (synthetic hair) and create pieces that evoked that sentimentality and nostalgia but also, ones that were wearable and playful.
Could you tell us a bit more about the materials, manufacturing and finishing?
We wanted to exaggerate and emphasis the hair and incorporate harder elements (metal) to give each piece a dynamic hard/soft balance. Synthetic hair really lends itself to our pieces because it’s available in so many different colors and lengths for us to manipulate. Strangely enough, we found that regular hair spray is the best finishing agent even on synthetic hair, as it stiffens without leaving any residue. Thank you Aqua Net! Our metal is gold plated brass. Also, all of our pieces are handmade so each one is unique.
Where is the name Grau Wal coming from?
Grau Wal translates to gray whale in German. Coincidentally, Eve’s last name is Cahill, which is Gaelic for whale, and Anna’s last name is Rybakov, which is Russian for fisherman. We wanted to incorporated this nautical theme into our name and use words that sounded and looked beautiful to us…unfortunately, no one we know can pronounce it :)
What are the future plans?
We’ve already started playing around with thick nylon ropes and small metal pulleys. Also, we want to incorporate some dying techniques into our work. I think other industrial materials and found objects will make an appearance.
Need to see:
EVE: the spider silk textile at the Museum of Natural History
ANNA: Alexander Sokurov’s film Russian Ark
Need to read:
EVE: my birthday present from Anna, Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour by Kate Fox
ANNA: Marc Chagall’s autobiography, My Life
Need to visit:
EVE: the Nile
ANNA: the Mongolian steppes
Need to know:
EVE: many languages
ANNA: how to play an instrument