Is Paris ever not inspiring? For artist Helli Luck, it’s been a place where her creativity soars, surrounded by masterpieces housed in places like the Musée d’Orsay and the Louvre. And it was a recent trip to the City of Light that kick-started a new venture for her.
At the end of 2019, Luck was wandering a Parisian marketplace in search of curios when she came across tapestries with art deco-inspired motifs filled with tropical birds, big cats and lush greenery. Created by local artists, the works are printed with environmentally friendly inks on sturdy recycled paper, then they are antiqued and glazed by hand.
Luck was enamored.
“The images are so striking,” she says. “Everyone can relate to nature; everyone sees it every day.”
Since her discovery, Luck has partnered with the artists to found Tropical Tapestry, an online boutique with a collection of monkeys scurrying in banana leaves, regal cockatoos perched among plumeria, leopards resting in the trees and more. The team of artists includes art muralists and painters, and some collaborate on a single design. Luck’s followers have fallen in love with the limited edition tapestries, hanging the pieces everywhere from grand living rooms to man caves.
“I think because I’m an artist, I could instantly see the value that they would bring to people to be able to use them as a piece of art,” she says.
An impressionist plein air painter originally hailing from London, Luck was raised by artist parents in a city where the museums were free. She could easily pop into an art exhibit when the mood struck, even just taking 10 minutes to absorb pieces by the great masters. She earned a degree in graphic design and worked for Saatchi, which gave her the opportunity to travel around the world, including her regular trips to Paris.
“Everything in Paris is just beautiful. It’s just an amazing place to paint and, of course, see art and drink,” she says, laughing.
Luck moved to the United States in 1988, working as a chef and caterer, and she also started a jewelry business. Today, the hyphenate runs her Tropical Tapestry business from her home on Pawleys Island. She walks the beaches and is inspired by the colored stones she finds in the sand, or she discovers the color palette she’ll use in her next painting while taking in the marshes. In Charleston, she paints the architecture and horses and carts—she says the city reminds her of Europe.
“Whether it’s plating up a plate of food, making a diamond pendant, or painting a painting or being involved in these tapestries, it’s a creative outlet to make something beautiful and enhance people’s lives,” she says.
Luck’s goals for expanding Tropical Tapestry include getting them in front of more buyers and interior designers; as impressive as they are online, they’re even more whimsical in person. The texture of the antiquing comes alive when the tapestry is run through one’s fingers. And they’re not precious—they’re meant to be touched and admired. For online buyers, the tapestries can simply be rolled up in a tube and shipped. While some have them framed, many take Luck’s advice to hang them from tapestry rods for a more organic look.
And there are new designs in the works. Luck is in touch with her Paris team to work on more tapestries and produce new batches of prints, and eventually she would like to add her own impressionist paintings to the catalog. Luck is also working on showcasing Tropical Tapestry at home and art shows and connecting with design companies to have them hang in showrooms.
“There’s something about seeing them in person,” Luck explains. “Most people send me a picture of how they hung it when they get home and they’re so excited. That makes me feel great because it’s the same exact reaction I had.” *
Christiana Lilly is a freelance journalist in Pompano Beach, Florida. See more of her work spanning the arts, community news and social justice at christianalilly.com.