Daniel Henry, découpe du velours
Daniel Henry, découpe du velours© Victor Pattyn

"I am a true craftsman and my inspiration comes from doing."

Interview with Daniel Henry

23 April 2024

A new textile artwork decorates the wedding hall of the city hall in Brussels. After a call for projects by the Museum of the City of Brussels and MAD Brussels, the jury chose the design by textile designer Daniel Henry. His work “Velum Magneticus” blends well with the original decor and refers to love as a succession of moments with an almost magnetic attraction. 

MAD spoke with Daniel Henry about his sources of inspiration, his vision for the future and his design for the wedding hall.

Daniel Henry, impression du velours en sérigraphie

Can you tell a bit more about your career as a textile designer, what journey have you taken so far?

“My interest in textile design started with figure skating, a sport that represents a form of art for me. The costumes we wore quickly brought out my fascination for costume design and textiles. As a figure skater, you wear these glittery suits with sequins and such. Because of that fascination, I started embroidering and designing my own costumes. At the age of twenty, I decided to shift my focus to my future career and enrolled at La Cambre to study fashion. During my studies, I realized that creating clothing wasn't my passion, rather, I was more interested in designing  fabrics and textiless. In my second year at La Cambre, I decided to switch to textile creation. After that, I specialized in textile printing and finishing, an expertise I continue to this day.

“During the first year of my master at La Cambre, an external jury member from Paris showed a lot of interest in my work and offered me a job. This became my first part-time job, while I also completed the second part of my master's. It allowed me to enter the professional world quickly and smoothly. By the time I graduated, I already had a year of work experience. That's how I began my career as a freelance desginer. For the first 7 to 8 years, I worked alone, but now I work with one assistant. I like having such a small team. I want my studio to remain small so that the work we deliver is extremely precise. When it gets very busy, I hire additional freelancers for a certain period.

"My client base is diverse, mainly within the fashion industry, but I also work with clients interested in wallpaper, interior textiles, and costume design. In addition, over the past ten years, I've started creating my art, which remains a focus for me today.”

Daniel Henry, craquelage du velours, patine

How do you start creating a textile work? 

"I am a true craftsman and my inspiration comes from doing. I don't walk into my studio and start thinking about what to create. Rather, I simply step in, work with my hands, manipulate different fabrics, try out various colors, and see what happens. I also engage in research to further enhance my creativity.”

Daniel Henry, velours or craquelé

How crucial are collaborations with other designers or brands for you as an artist and designer?

"Many people often ask me: 'If you could make a living solely from your art, would you do it?'. However, I have a total of three clients with whom I enjoy working immensely. These clients mean as much to me as I do to them. We maintain strong relationships and share a common vision; together we strive to create something engaging. One of my clients is Maison Margiela directed by John Galliano, who consistently challenges me with new techniques, further developing my own work. This type of challenge is invaluable to me; a client who motivates me to expand my expertise. These client relationships hold significant value for me.”

Daniel Henry, recherche de couleur

What motivated you to participate in the project initiated by the Museum of the City of Brussels and MAD Brussels to design a new artwork for the wedding hall of the Brussels City Hall?"

“I don't usually like to participate in open calls; I prefer being chosen by people. But this certainly wasn't the first time I responded to one. When I was younger, I did so more frequently. I've collaborated often with Denise Biernaux, the owner of the Les Drapiers gallery in Liège. Denise was on the jury for this open call and told me about it.

"What seemed interesting about it was the connection to heritage. I believe all my artworks are linked to art history. Creating a dialogue between existing artworks and my own work truly motivated me.”

Daniel Henry, recherche de couleur

Can you tell us more about the inspiration behind your design for the city hall?

“Given that the work was intended for the wedding hall, it was normal for love to be a central theme. This contrasts with my usual themes, where death often takes center stage. However, I found it intriguing to explore the idea of invisibility. When two people meet in a loving way, there's something special that's hard to describe. It's like an invisible magnetic pull between them. That's why I decided to work with the concept of the magnetic field. A couple is like two inseparable poles. These magnetic poles emit a force, much like the fireworks of attraction between two people.”

“Furthermore, I wanted to explore duality. A couple consists of two individuals who must maintain their own identity. While some aspects may blend, preserving individuality is crucial. That's why I opted for two colors, gold and silver, and various techniques such as embroidery and printing for the tapestry. This contributes to the theme emphasizing contrasts.”

“Another important criterion in my project was space. It was essential to understand the space and make the project fit into it. Finding the right balance was crucial. My work had to be in harmony with the room from the 19th century, but also contemporary to indicate that we live in the 21st century, without being too shocking when entering the space. I also wanted my work to be alive and play with the light, so it could look different each time.”

Daniel Henry, application, broderie main

Besides duality, you also focused on the theme of inclusiveness, can you talk a bit more about this?

“Last year marked the 20th anniversary of same-sex marriage in Belgium, yet the previous tapestry did not align with this occasion. It depicted three baby angels, which traditionally represent the beginning of a family after marriage, but that's not the story for everyone these days. The theme of inclusivity gave me the idea of 'patchwork', as this is made from all kinds of leftover or random fabrics. The embroidery on the (upper) artwork consists of 400 applied gold strips, from 40 different second-hand fabrics. These fabrics vary widely, from new to old, from fashion or interior design, and different countries. In this way, I wanted to emphasize the idea of inclusivity with a diversity of textiles. Each small part means little on its own, but together they form a powerful whole.”