By: Emily Gordon | June 1, 2008
So many animals end up in the Eleanor Grosch universe—on the pillows, rock posters, and Keds where her designs appear, for instance—that a Dr. Dolittle comparison wouldn’t be off base. In fact, she named her Philadelphia studio, Pushmepullyou, after the creature with a head at each end from the classic children’s book.
Such an animal also suggests Grosch’s harmonious opposites: commercial design with a strong commitment to the environment; freelance freedom and fiscal sense; pop culture and classical influences. Grosch walks a cheerfully nonchalant line between cute and cool, using a relatively limited palette and a menagerie of whimsical imagery. Creatures have always been an integral part of her life, beginning with her earliest memories of the Lowry Park Zoo in her hometown of Tampa. “I was absolutely in love with birds when I was small. Going to the aviary was like heaven for me!” she exclaims. “The roseate spoonbill, snowy egret, and grey heron were all pretty common sights.”
Grosch got her B.A. in fine art at the University of South Florida in Tampa, where, says printmaking teacher Brandon Dunlap, she “asked a lot of questions. The printmaking lab was available to students at all times, and she was always in there before and after class. Her work ethic was hands down the best in the class.” After graduation, Grosch did a few posters for local bands and uploaded them to Gigposters.com. That’s when the freelance jobs started coming in.
Fast-forward to the two (or is it many?) heads of Pushmepullyou, where Grosch has created pillows for Urban Outfitters, skateboard decks for Alien Workshop, sneakers for Keds, tableware for Skip Hop, and babywear for Mammamade. She’s developed identities, illustrated PSAs, worked on websites, and silk-screened T-shirts; her studio is a veritable Noah’s ark of materials and modes.
Grosch calls Charley Harper, the similarly animal-inspired painter and designer who recently passed away, her artistic hero. She’s sunnily enthusiastic about all her cultural touchstones, which range from heavy-hitting designers and artists like Dirk Fowler, Tord Boontje, Lucienne Day, Ryan McGinness, Jeff Kleinsmith, and Sanna Annukka to pop-culture candy like Domino magazine, Baywatch, and America’s Next Top Model. Grosch’s sweet tooth doesn’t exclude Dunkin’ Donuts, whose motif turned up on her blog’s Color Scheme of the Day: “I was suddenly taken by the lovely colors in the logo.” It’s not the kind of thing she shies away from. “I’ve been inspired by the strangest things sometimes. Once, I found a perfect owl on the cover of an airline magazine.”
Meanwhile, Grosch is as keen on passing along useful information as she is about finding sources for her own creativity. Her blog is a how-to, not just about art and craft making, but also about house buying, CSS programming, and screen printing in your basement. “Hopefully my little blog will help demystify some of the things that I discuss on it. That’s the goal!”
As for her own fans, the people who buy Grosch’s work are as likely to put it in the nursery as in the living room. “It’s very important to me to remain down-to-earth and make my designs something that everyone can enjoy”—like bedding and plates, categories she’s “champing at the bit” to take on. Proud former teacher Dunlap predicts her future: “I think it will just snowball from here.”