Elin Petronella and Charles Henry are on a mission to see the world, share their passion for the arts and embroidery, and connect creatives.
If not for art, Elin Petronella and Charles Henry may have never met. While working on her first embroidery project in Paris, Elin met Charles, and the rest, as they say, is history. The artists’ love story, which began in 2016, feels like it’s straight out of the movies. From France and Sweden to Portugal, Spain, and beyond, the adventure-seeking artists travel the world, capturing their memories in beautiful works of art. Meanwhile, they also run a shop offering their original embroidery patterns, host a podcast featuring creatives, and recently they launched a teaching platform. In an interview, the multidisciplinary creatives revealed their sweet story that’s centered on their shared love of the arts.
Where and when did the two of you meet, and when did you know you were meant to be together forever?
We met in Paris in October 2016, and since the first day we met we’ve spent technically every single day together. We realized quite early on that we shared the same foundation of what we think is important, how we want to live our lives, and our goals. We knew that we wanted to work creatively, with art, and to help others, and three months later we started our first business together, Le Kadre.
What did your families think when you said you wanted to travel long-term?
Honestly they didn’t say much as they know we are both strong characters and will do what we intend to do regardless of what others think. We are very similar on that point: when we have an idea of something, we will act on it and make it happen. Our families trust us and know that we always take responsibility for our actions, and most of the time it turns out well in the end. However, we have to admit that our goal isn’t really to travel long-term. Rather, we are slow travelers trying to live in different places in order to figure out where we want to create our base. The ultimate goal is to have a base with our proper studio and then travel from there but always have somewhere to come back to that is only ours. It can be very exhausting to always be on the road. Especially when you have to travel with your materials everywhere, it becomes quite limiting.
How long would you like to keep traveling?
We will continue to travel until we find a place where we feel home (it’s actually harder than we thought, which is why the ideal in the future will be to have multiple homes, so we’re quite motivated to get work done). We still think it’s important to have a home base if you want to excel in your art and be able to be free in your creativity (for example, traveling can limit you a lot when it comes to materials, tools, and size of your works). Even though regular embroidery is very portable, our goal is to do larger pieces on canvas, etc.
What are some of your favorite places you’ve traveled?
This is such a hard question, because for us it’s not as much about the physical place as it is about who you travel with. When you are in good company, every location feels great. However, if we had to make a choice, this last summer we drove from north of Sweden to Norway, which was a very scenic and great experience. It is not the kind of place we’d typically travel to, as we generally prefer to go south, but that’s probably what made the experience more unique.
When did each of you start embroidery, and how did you develop your craft?
Elin did different kinds of embroidery growing up but didn’t get going frequently until a trip to India at the end of 2015 and beginning of 2016. It was a development practicum with her university, where one of the tasks was to work on a personal project. At the site she also worked with an NGO [nongovernmental organization] that taught embroidery and sewing to empower women to create their own businesses, which boosted her motivation and passion for the craft. When she returned to Paris, she continued to embroider and just never stopped.
In September of the same year (2016), she got her first commission, which encouraged her to open an Instagram account (@petronella.art) to share her progress. Just a few weeks thereafter, Charles and Elin met.
At the time, Charles was just finishing his photography business and was focused on developing his illustrative art. But after seeing Elin embroider every day for a few weeks, he finally gave in, tried, and got hooked the first day. Thus through Elin’s guidance and his own experimentation, he has continued with embroidery until this day.
We develop mostly by experimentation, “learning by doing.” We love how this medium opens new possibilities of realizing ideas we previously created with pen and paper. Elin was doing architectural drawings before embroidery, and Charles encouraged her to try to embroider one of her sketches, and that’s how the architectural/travel theme began to emerge.
You have a podcast called Charles and Elin, featuring creatives. What have you enjoyed most about this project?
Launching the podcast in late spring 2018 was probably one of the best decisions we’ve made this year. It is incredibly inspiring to be able to talk to other creatives and see how they tackle everyday problems in their creativity, how they got to where they are, etc. Thankfully the two of us have each other and can bounce ideas off each other, but to have an extended community of like-minded artists is just golden.
What are some of the biggest challenges and rewards of your creative life?
Let’s start by focusing on the positive. Leading a creative life is the greatest fulfillment and dream life we could have. To wake up every day and be free to create what you feel motivated and inspired to do is the greatest privilege of them all. However, as with everything, there is always a downside attached to any life decision. To choose a creative life is very challenging when it comes to social acceptance and judgments. The constant question is “When will you get a real job?” which can be extremely limiting to motivation and creative freedom. It doesn’t help that you’re never sure of how much income you will have at the end of the month and you just have to stay positive and try your best to ignore those nagging judgments of the way you’ve chosen to lead your life. But at the end of the day, all challenges are always worth it, and we are not scared to work hard to continue to live the lives of our dreams.
Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
We have recently launched our new teaching platform, Charles and Elin Academy, where we currently have online embroidery courses teaching our take on this amazing art form. But in the near future, we’re also releasing courses (which go hand in hand with our podcast, Charles and Elin, which you can find on all podcast platforms) on how to make your passion your living. Just as much as we are passionate about making art, we feel strongly about helping other people to be able to live their creative dream as well. Through experience we have a lot of knowledge about how it can be done and aim to share it with other creatives as soon as we can. Thus for other creatives out there who are just about to go full-time, this is something for you!
If you’re perfectly happy to keep embroidery at a hobby level, we also run a monthly pattern program, where subscribers receive a new pattern on the 15th of every month. The designs are generally inspired by cities around the world. Just head to tipeee.com/charles-elin to have a look at past patterns that have been released through the program.
You can keep up with Elin and Charles’ art and travels: Elin @petronella.art, Charles @_charleshenry_, and both @charlesandelin. Their podcast, Charles and Elin, is accessible on all podcast platforms, such as Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, etc. Give it a listen to gain inspiration and confidence in your creative pursuits!