There are rock star designers, and then there are rock star designers. The former represents those high-profile artists with lucrative product deals, spots on design shows and panels, and huge social media presence. Sean Yseult is the perfect description of the latter — a musician, artist and entrepreneur who recently unveiled a new line of textiles and wallpaper designs.
The former bass player for Grammy-nominated rock band White Zombie, Yseult now leads a decidedly different life. She lives in a Greek Revival home in New Orleans, where she focuses on design, photography, writing and her newest business, Yseult Designs.
Strong start in the arts
Hailing from Raleigh, N.C., Yseult grew up with a strong appreciation for the arts. Her mother was a Chaucerian scholar and her father a Hemmingway expert, having penned five books on the author. Yseult and her sister were surrounded by other professors, writers and artists, and studied and attended ballet, opera and other musical events. They both performed in some fashion at a relatively young age.
Though dance and music were her main focuses, Yseult always had a pencil and pad in hand, doodling fantastical images of flora, fauna and woodland creatures.
“I remember my parents coming to one of those parent-teacher conferences when I was maybe 5 or 6. All the kids had their pictures of the cute grey mouse on the wall, except for one, which was painted in every color imaginable. It wasn’t hard for my parents to pick mine out,” says Yseult with a hearty laugh.
A dancing dream takes a detour
Yseult left home at the age of 11 to attend the prestigious Preparatory Dance Program at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston Salem, N.C. She recalls with fondness her years studying dance and says she is grateful for the internet, which recently reconnected her to one of her former roommates and fellow dancers.
Tragedy hit Yseult in her senior year. A broken foot meant her dance career was all but over. However, the talented artist had never given up drawing and photography and switched majors to study visual art instead.
Her talent won her a scholarship to the prestigious Parsons School of Design in New York City for graphic design and photography. Yseult’s life was forever changed and her visual art pursuits put on hold.
“I met Rob, my band mate at Parsons. We would go to the same clubs and run in the same circles, so it made sense we ended up in a band together,” she says.
Yseult‘s musical endeavors took a front seat as the band began a series of cross-country tours, gaining momentum and fans, recording albums that garnered attention and awards. It was a 10-year hiatus from visual art, but one Yseult is glad she took.
“I recently found an old journal of mine from when we were just starting out together as a band, and I was asking myself why I wouldn’t take the plunge then to pursue music. I’m glad I had the foresight to do it then. I can’t even imagine sleeping on floors and living in a van today,” she says.
Returning to an old love
After a decade on and off the road, Yseult was ready to hang up her bass and get back to visual art. Having visited New Orleans on the road and on her own, she decided to make it her permanent home. It was there she found inspiration and met her husband, an artist, musician and entrepreneur as well.
Yseult focused on her photography once more, with her unique and somewhat macabre style taking off. She spent the next several years showing her work in galleries across the country.
Though she loved photography, Yseult disliked the dark room aspect of the work and began dabbling in graphic design. She created scarves in the style she had always favored — colorful, nature-influenced and psychedelic patterns. Once again, her art was a hit, with stores such as Barneys, Liberty of London and Fred Segal carrying her work.
“I apply the same technique in visual art and graphics I always have. I draw by hand, filling up a page with designs and images before coloring anything in,” she says. “I have a perfectionist streak, and it is hard to break free from that,” she adds. The artist says she prefers to draw by hand rather than using the computer, as it allows for imperfections, something she says is important to her.
Making her mark with wallpaper designs
After some success with her scarves, Yseult set her sights on a series of prints and specifically, wallpaper designs. It was a task she always wanted to accomplish. Creating intricate wallpaper designs can be a complicated process, and Yseult had to learn how to tesselate. Her patterns are intricate and being just a hair off can ruin her work. It was a huge challenge, but one she conquered.
“I wanted to be a designer, but not in the fashion world,” says Yseult.
Since the beginning of 2017, the artist has focused on creating her current wallpaper design line, and several stockists across the country are already on board. In New Orleans, designer Namita Joshi-Gupta, owner of Spruce, carries Yseult’s designs and is excited to have her on board.
“Apart from being a longtime friend, Sean’s unique designs and cutting-edge style make her wallpaper a good fit for Spruce. She is local and represents the funky New Orleans music culture,” says Joshi-Gupta.
Spruce is a boutique shop that carries a limited number of up-and-coming and style-forward designers. It celebrated the new designs with an intimate gathering of friends, fans and supporters within the design community to view Yseult’s work and talk to her about her plans and inspirations.
The city of New Orleans has always been a source of inspiration for Yseult and to honor its upcoming 300th birthday, the artist has a special project in mind that will include several historical locations around the city.
“It’s such an honor to do this work. I’m grateful,” she adds.