In the Parisian suburb Arcueil lies a house initially intended as a woodshop when it was built over a century ago. Now, the industrial loft-style house with exposed red brick, large skylight windows and steel beams is the home of artist Kethevane Cellard, her husband Matthew, their two boys and two cats.
After visiting the home of Kethevane Cellard, we feel that to understand Kethevane’s one-of-a-kind home, one must first understand her art. The two are undoubtedly connected, and the road to Kethevane’s artistic expression did not come easily. After graduating from art school, Kethevane spent almost 15 years working a day job as a graphic designer while she attempted to find her artistic voice: “I was drawing and painting for years, but somehow I was never satisfied with the results. It was very frustrating. In 2015, I started carving wood for fun and was immediately taken by it. Something clicked in my imagination, and I started sketching shapes that I wanted to bring to life”.
Kethevane’s mantra is to slow down, which also influences her artistic process. To Kethevane, art is about taking the time and finding the right mindset: “When I search for forms, I have to have a positive frame of mind - meaning that I cannot create if I’m in a critical mood. That mood is for heated debates with friends over a glass of wine – but not for art”. Kethevane explains that her inspiration transpires from what she calls the ‘real world’. Her forms are created in the process of reconciling different tendencies, values and longings: “I read or listen to books, articles or podcasts about a variety of topics such as history, economics and science. I find that there is still so much to learn from plants, animals and fungi. And so, my imagination is populated with undiscovered underwater creatures and colourful insects. I also have a deep curiosity for the history of humans, and I feed on the vitality of prehistoric art and tool shapes”.
As it often is, art is never straightforward, and Kethevane explains that there are days where inspiration seems far away. However, emerging into deep thought as she reads, takes notes, sketches in her notebook, and draws, ideas eventually come. In her workroom, which is also the living room, hangs a large pinboard. To visualise where to go next and which forms to bring to life, Kethevane always pins everything onto it. Once it is decided what to continue working on, Kethevane begins to shade her new forms patiently using fountain pens or carefully carve them in wood with gouges.
Since Kethevane spent much of her childhood in the French countryside, it is key for her to be surrounded by plants and greenery. After a three-year search, it was in the Parisian suburb of Arcueil that her family found the peace and quiet they were looking for: “You almost forget that you are in the city, even though you are only 15 minutes from the centre of Paris by subway. Our house is in the middle of a block, receding from the street and over the years, we have planted and grown multiple plants, vines and a few trees. Now, we have lots of birds and insects populating the yard, along with a pond that hosts over three dozen goldfish. It has become our haven away from the hectic urban life”.
“When I search for forms, I have to have a positive frame of mind - meaning that I cannot create if I’m in a critical mood.”
They moved into the house, which used to be a woodshop, seven years ago. Owing to its industrial past, the characteristic house features dark red bricks, steel beams and skylight windows that create the most enchanting rays of sunlight throughout the day. However, it was the spacious nature of the rooms that made Kethevane fall in love with the place. The nerve of the house is the grand living room, which is also Kethevane’s workspace: “The core of the house is the wide-open that we use as our living room – this was where all the heavy machinery used to be. Nestled in between cosy cushions, I love just to sit here and gaze at the trees swaying in the wind or curl up with a cup of tea in my favourite nook by the woodburning stove. The atmosphere in here makes it ideal for family life and gathering friends, but it is also a place where I love to work when the house falls quiet”.
Regarding decorating, Kethevane stays true to her own aesthetics and everything in her home has its own rightful place. In her own words, this prevents clutter and the risk of being visually overstimulated. And so, each object and piece of furniture is chosen carefully: “I look for a timeless essence in those interior design pieces I let into the house - even for contemporary items. Also, the textural quality of the materials is vital to me – there need to be elements of tactility, and I always welcome imperfections. The small flaws are a part of life, and they are always more interesting than utter perfection”.
“Even though I have never had a big budget to buy art, the pieces I own are either exchanged or bought from other artists. My collection is a mix of prints, a few originals, some ceramics and works on paper. The way I have arranged them in my home is subjective; they just feel right together, like they are in conversation with one another.”
When asked what home means to her, Kethevane leans back and quietly reflects before answering. “Home to me is a place where I can find peace and rest. But it should also be a place to welcome friends. Both are equally important to my sense of home. Home is also where my ever-evolving art collection is. Even though I have never had a big budget to buy art, the pieces I own are either exchanged or bought from other artists. My collection is a mix of prints, a few originals, some ceramics and works on paper. The way I have arranged them in my home is subjective; they just feel right together, like they are in conversation with one another”.
Seated here, in a linen couch underneath the Parisian sky and gazing onto Kethevane’s drafting table and many art supplies, one is overwhelmed by the creative soul that exudes from every corner. It almost feels like a touch of destiny that this particular old woodshop would turn into Kethevane’s workspace - where pieces of wood and paper come to life as beautiful works of art.