Today we meet Shana Weisberg, artist and the founder of Studio Sensibilité, an American in Paris who draws inspiration from French chateaux and interiors as well as 1940’s floral textiles. While she spends most of her time in her adopted city of Paris, surrounded by calming blues and greys of the city, she enjoys visiting family in the South of France and exploring all of the vivid colors around her.
In May of this year, she released her first limited edition silk scarf collection, ‘Bloom’. Embracing the importance of quality over quantity, Shana worked with a small Lyon-based atelier in a region of France known as being the heart of the European silk trade. Throughout this interview, Shana shares her love of art, history, and architecture and you can’t help but be inspired as you read her words.
When did you first become interested in art?
I first became interested in art when I was really young. As a young child, I was constantly painting and drawing (even on the walls of my parent’s home and the closet doors). I have a few distinct memories of when art really began playing a larger part in my life. I have an older brother who is a little less than two years older than me. Those early years we grew up doing almost everything together during the daytime, typically with my dad, a jazz pianist, who took care of us during the day before playing gigs in the evening while my mom was working full-time as a regional bank manager.
I clearly remember when my brother started kindergarten and I felt so confused as to why I couldn’t join him at school. His teachers very kindly began giving him two sets of every assignment so that I wouldn’t feel left out and we’d work on them together when he came back home from school. By the time I went to kindergarten two years later I had already learned much of what was being taught, so I have very vivid memories of the teaching assistants giving me sketchbooks and I would sit and draw whenever I had extra time in class. This was essentially my experience in elementary and middle school as well because I was in a specialized math program where I didn’t take any math classes during the week with the rest of my classmates, instead I had an intensive maths course on Saturday mornings. This led me to have a lot of additional time to myself during the school day that I spent in the library or drawing by myself until I was in high school.
Your mother is Vietnamese, your father is American, and your husband is French, how do you feel these three cultures have influenced your style as an artist?
I’m constantly in search of the intersections of my family’s cultures and histories, it’s one of the biggest reasons I began Studio Sensibilité. I’m heavily influenced by French chateaux gardens and interiors, it’s within French chateaux designs that I feel most connected to my cultures. I am fascinated by tracing the history, craftsmanship, and stories of high-quality textiles and materials like silk and porcelain that originated in Asia and made their way to France centuries ago. I’m constantly inspired by historical photo archives and French chateau visits where I can immerse myself in an era of porcelain vases sitting atop a marble fireplace mantel, luxurious drapes and upholstery on armchairs, and sofas, and beautifully hand-painted porcelain plates being set for a royal dinner. As someone who grew up in America, I feel this deep appreciation for both Vietnamese and French history as their histories are much longer than that of the United States. I also believe that within me lies a motivation to continually reimagine and innovate, which are values core to how I see myself as an American.
How does living in Paris inspire your work?
Paris is a constant inspiration! I have absolutely come alive by living here. I first visited Paris when I was 10 years old because I had an international ice skating competition in France. During that trip, I took tons of photos and I, unfortunately, got very sick the day my ice skating team had planned to go to Versailles. I longed to see Versailles like my family and fellow teammates did. I would flip through our “France Trip” photo album imagining the grandeur of the Versailles gardens and interiors. I didn’t see Versailles in person until about 15 years later when I was working as an international technology consultant. Prior to living in Paris, I actually worked almost 10 years in the corporate world as a technology consultant across North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
When I began living in Paris, I could no longer contain my desire to be more creative in my work. Being surrounded day in and day out by the city’s architecture, history, and design is magical. Living in Paris allows me to have a deeper appreciation for quality and craftsmanship as everything here can last centuries, and I want to be able to do the same with my own designs — to preserve the quality, craftsmanship, and know-how from centuries ago by reimagining designs for today.
What are some of your favorite flowers to paint?
Currently, I love including at least one large prominent flower in almost all of my designs, flowers that you could find in the gardens of a chateau such as roses, peonies, hydrangeas, tulips… There’s something so timeless about these types of flowers. I love looking at textiles and artwork from over a hundred years ago and seeing the same flowers we see today. It’s this continuous thread of inspiration for generations, no matter which culture or country you grew up in. To me, that is such a beautiful link to the past, present, and one another.
Which brushes and paints do you like to work with most?
I typically use Winsor & Newton professional watercolor paints and Princeton or Raphaël precision brushes.
As someone who loves vintage styles, I love that the design for your scarves was inspired by a vintage 1940’s floral textile. Tell me a bit about your “Bloom” scarf collection.
The styling of the Bloom pattern takes inspiration from a 1940s vintage floral textile covering my favorite sketchbook by Forget Me Not Originals, a UK-based shop that covers books and sketchbooks in the most beautiful vintage floral textiles. The “Bloom” silk scarf collection is my first silk scarf design, which I decided to do as a nod to both my Asian and European heritages for the styling and fabrication. The “Bloom” silk scarf available in light champagne and dark emerald green colors draws inspiration from the silk road trade, dating back to the 13th century. Silk traveled from Asia to Western Europe, culminating in Lyon, France becoming the heart of the European silk industry.
I sought to recognize this history by working with a small atelier in Lyon, France which continues to focus on craftsmanship and preserving the know-how or savoir-faire of hand-rolled hems to bring my artwork to life.
What was the best part about working with the small atelier in Lyon, France to bring your scarf designs to life?
Working with a small atelier in Lyon, France has been an incredible experience! It was really important that I found a partner who would want to work in small batches as I want to focus on quality and not quantity with my studio (which is why I created only 15 scarves in the light champagne color and only 10 scarves in the dark emerald green color). The atelier I’m working with has less than 25 people employed, many of whom have gone through a reconversion or professional change of career. Throughout the entire process, my contact at the atelier has called me every step of the way and even sent me pictures of the prototypes being hand-rolled by their team. Lyon, France was truly the heart of the European silk industry for centuries so to be able to find a small atelier that continues to preserve the savoir-faire or know-how that many would think of with Hermes for instance, has been a dream come true.
Do you plan on releasing another scarf collection in the future?
I’d love to create 1 limited edition small batch collection of silk scarves each year. My “Bloom” silk scarf collection, which was released on pre-order at the end of May 2021, has exceeded my expectations in terms of both the quality of the scarves and in interest from clients, so I’d love to continue creating limited editions because the silk scarves to me are wearable artwork which is so beautiful to think of.
You’re currently spending some time in the South of France. How are your surroundings providing inspiration?
Oh goodness, I love the South of France! I’ve been visiting my in-laws who are based in a small village outside of Nice, very close to Antibes. The colors in the South of France are brilliantly vibrant, a stark contrast to the usual light blues and grays I’m used to in Paris. My paintings while in the South are more vibrant, more colorful, more playful as a result of these beautiful surroundings!
What do you enjoy most about being able to paint outside during your summer vacation, and have nature all around you?
I love the tranquility of painting outside. Being able to paint in the fresh air with some calming music in the background is near meditative for me because it becomes this fully immersive experience for your mind, body, and soul. I like to use a few references while painting, either real flowers, vintage floral textiles, or antique hand-painted porcelain plates, but when I’m painting outside in the spring or summer I can take a few looks around and become instantly inspired by everything that is blooming around me.