Sandrine Pelletier

Sandrine Pelletier’s sewn portraits and surreal
tableaux are expertly crafted and surprisingly kinetic, but don’t
expect tidy, traditional needlecraft: Her crewel is not meant to be
kind. Instead, you’re more likely to see the canvases’
backsides, where the vacant eyes and mouths of her zombie children and
backyard fighters “bleed” profusely by way of unruly red
cotton strands. The internationally exhibited Lausanne native says she
is more interested in showing evidence of the “almost
violent” way she attacks her canvas with the needle, to better
show raw emotion and the truth of her subject matter. Inspired by the
Surrealists, Aubrey Beardsley, gothic art, and artifacts from her
childhood such as Jim Henson’s Muppets (indeed, puppet-making was
her first love after graduating from design school), Pelletier straddles
the divide between fine art and design with gallery shows around the
world and commercial assignments from clothing retailers and pop-culture
magazines. A firm believer in art that is rooted in classical training,
she nonetheless riffs off tradition with whatever medium suits her
needs, be it stuffed, flying cats for a Tsumori Chisato in-store
installation; portraits made of marbled lunchmeats for Yummy
magazine; or a shoelace-fashioned road for the CD cover of a new Cassius
Play release. Reflecting on her work, she also reveals a mastery for
understatement: “I’m attracted to the unfamiliar,” she
says with a laugh.


Where do you usually draw?
I draw at
home, where I have my studio. As I need a sewing machine most of the
time, or complicated collage material, I can’t really work on the
train, in public places, or outside. But I get most of my ideas when I

What’s your most essential tool?
scalpel—the best tool to cut adhesive, fabric, and all sorts of
things I experiment with—and a needle and thread, of course. I
don’t do research on the internet; I like to consult books,
especially craft books.

Who first taught you to draw or make art,
and what do you first remember drawing? What do you most like drawing

I remember very well my first artworks: dragons. I also
loved to draw bodies, animals, insects, panic and terror scenes. When I
started at the ECAL (Lausanne’s University of Art and Design), I
was introduced to graphic design and contemporary art and had to put
aside my popular-culture and teenage influences. But I now use them as
often as classical ones I learned at school.

What would you be
doing if you weren’t doing this?

I would be a dancer in
Cats on Broadway. Seriously, I do have a fascination with ballet
and all types of dance, because of the discipline, the grace, and the
body use.

What do you like best about being an illustrator?

I don’t like it when clients ask you for
illustrations they have seen in a gallery context. I like it when the
position is clear, and both client and illustrator agree on the type of
drawing or style that will work best with the product. But frankly,
being an illustrator—or being able to make a living from any
creative passion—is a real privilege.

Do you think your work
is characteristic of Switzerland in some way?

I really
don’t think so. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I am
interested in exploring the sociological phenomena of different
countries, such as English backyard wrestling, Mexican lucha
, or Russian arts and crafts.

Where would like to see your
work most?

I’d love to do a video for a band I admire, or
work on creating characters and the set design for a special-effects

If you could collaborate with another artist, living or
dead, who would it be? Also, if you could illustrate any text, what
would you pick?

John Waters, Michael Jackson, David Cronenberg,
Jim Henson. I would like to illustrate Sebastian Brant’s The
Ship of Fools

What’s your favorite museum in the world?
Near where you live?

Definitely the Collection de l’Art
Brut in Lausanne, my hometown. Now I live in Paris, so it is a bit like
living in a giant museum.

What’s the number-one thing that
gives you energy and inspiration to keep making art?

My mother
and the Flashdance original soundtrack.