Ethnicraft has become one of Belgium’s, and potentially even Europe’s most successful brands in contemporary home furnishings. Their beautiful patinaed oak and teak furniture have graced the spaces of some of our favorite homes. Their clean-lined designs are modern-day classics, but until 2013 they didn’t go beyond tables and seating. They started to work with US-based lifestyle brand Notre Monde, founded by High Point, NC-based Dawn Sweitzer, to incorporate accessories into the mix. This year, their collaboration was made official by merging the two companies.
As an artist, Dawn’s natural ability to create attractive forms and experiment with textures and palette has given her a creative edge when envisioning throw pillows or trays. We took a tour of her studio and sat down with her to chat about how her brand and Ethnicraft have merged so successfully over the years.
Tell us about how you started Notre Monde back in 1997?
After living abroad for several years throughout Europe, I came back to the Midwest not having a clear idea of what I wanted to do. The thing I did know, however, was that I wanted to harness my overflowing creative energy. My travels inspired me in so many ways from architecture, textiles, and everything in between. I was brimming with creative energy and needed something to pour it into. My partner and I started out making one-of-a-kind objects in my dad’s garage. We utilized his engineering background to help facilitate the creation of the objects. I would then apply the skills that I had learned throughout my travels from painting, silk screening, papercraft, and multimedia approaches to create those first objects.
In 1997 we approached a store that had continually been selling out of our pieces. We needed to find a way to reproduce designs to keep up with the demand. Once I figured out the production pipeline it was a matter of choosing what techniques to apply to the objects thus, creating our first functional and beautiful collection for the home.
Many of the stand out pieces that you’ve created are throws and pillows. Did you have a background in textile design or was it a learning process along the way?
While I have always had an interest in both fashion and textiles, I am a self-taught artist and our textile collection has been a beautiful journey of learning and discovery. It’s important to me to understand the process of creating and I have had the pleasure of working with many artisans from around the world including Belgium, Mexico, India, and places in between.
Three years ago I built a dye kitchen, bought a loom, and hired a weaver to bring this process into the studio. I love the handwoven artisanal process, the sound of the loom, and the beautiful collections that we have woven thread by thread. From there we began working with a small family-owned business in Belgium to produce our textile collection for Ethnicraft. I am constantly learning new techniques, materials and how to combine different elements to create a successful collection.
What makes the products that you create unique in terms of materials?
Whether it be creating the textiles in my studio or for Ethnicraft, it is always important for us to be mindful of the materials we use and the impact they have on the environment. We work with a family-owned mill in Belgium that prides itself on quality and sustainability. Working with artisans throughout Europe our mill also creates textiles for couture houses and the top home brands, which is a testament to their skills and expertise. We strive to use natural materials such as linen, cotton, alpaca, and wool that are all locally sourced from around Europe. Every textile is woven with its design in mind so that nothing is being printed and it is created on the loom in its entirety giving it a unique quality exemplifying the art of weaving.
You and your brand are based in High Point, NC. How did you come to work with the Belgian brand Ethnicraft? How did that merger happen?
This is a funny story… In 2013 I was on a holiday in Costa Rica with my partner Paul Delaisse. We were there to vacation with my future Belgian Family and I met Philippe Delaisse of Ethnicraft. In having a conversation about our own companies, we found that what they stood for and represented were very similar. Six months after our initial meeting, we ran into each other at High Point Furniture Market, where I was showing my work. Philippe saw me in my element, as well as the quality and beauty of the Notre Monde aesthetic. That day we discussed the partnership and the rest is history. Philippe and Ethnicraft set up the factory and logistics, while I brought the design sensibility and style of the Notre Monde brand.
How do feel that Notre Monde and Ethnicraft operate similarly? Is there a similar concept behind each?
Absolutely, Notre Monde and Ethnicraft both insist on creating thoughtful versatile pieces. Using traditional techniques of hand finishing on each piece. We both started from a simple idea and slowly built our businesses into respectable brands, never compromising on the quality or integrity of our core values.
Tell us about your studio in High Point, NC – how long have you had the space, how did you make it your own?
My studio is truly the one place on the planet that allows me absolute freedom to create. I walk through that door and the world stops for a moment and I am completely in my element. I bought my studio seven years ago and created the space from what was a mattress factory for 80 years. With the character and bones intact, large windows, and high ceilings, the natural light pours in and spills into every room, creating a calm and welcoming space on even the dreariest days.
There are several unique spaces within my studio that allow me to create and work on multiple projects at a time, from the dye kitchen, conference room, showroom space, and my office, it all feels like a creative and welcoming environment.
How will you develop Notre Monde’s collection over the next year – are their new pieces coming out?
Now that Notre Monde has merged with the Ethnicraft brand I will now have the opportunity to expand into several new categories while adding new techniques to our repertoire. From textiles to furniture to accessories there are limitless possibilities in our future. For me, the new collections are inspired by my travels, layered patterns rich hues, texture, and materials, while playing into my love for the refined bohemian aesthetic.
You can check out more of Dawn’s designs for Ethnicraft here!