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Haeckel Haus Co.

Nineteenth-century lithographic curiosities reborn for home and fashion

by Evan Orensten in Design on 25 September 2012

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The 19th-century biologist Ernst Haeckel is credited with categorizing thousands of species, creating a genealogical tree that unites all life and coining the world "ecology." But his prominence in the scientific community is matched by his cultural legacy: Haeckel's lithographs of rare creatures have become emblematic of the Victorian era. More than a hundred years later, Haeckel is enjoying a second heydey as the inspiration for accessories concept collection Haeckel Haus Co., which reprints the best of the biologist's work—along with other scientific motifs from various antique sources—on pillows, roll charts, oversized scarves and more.

Britt Erlanson, a founding partner of Haeckel Haus Co., tracks the genesis of the collection to an obsession with roll charts. "I fell on a group of unwanted, old, musty vintage botanical school roll charts at a flea market—gorgeous, quirky, colorful images of jellyfish and sea creatures," says Erlanson. Setting up an eBay account, the industrious founder had some success selling the pieces to an American audience. "One problem... business stops once you can't find any more pretty vintage charts," she admits.

"So I got the idea of learning how to make these canvas charts myself. I invested in a giant heat press, found a supplier for the wooden dowels and was in business," says Erlanson. "It took a few months to find the techniqe as the printers today no longer do this retro process."

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Always fond of the lithographs by Haeckel in particular, Erlanson traveled to Jena, Germany in search of his home. The property is now a museum for the biologist's work, and sits nestled in the university city. Erlanson saw an opportunity to resuscitate the work and began licensing the images to produce prints.

Erlanson and her international team took the project a step further and began the work of designing patterns to print onto textiles. Decorative pillows and oversized scarves followed, and Haeckel Haus Co. eventually expanded beyond Haeckel himself: current designs incorporate vintage backgrounds and other scientific drawings from the era. Individual lithographs are collaged, resized and patterned to outfit beachwear, furniture and wallpaper in addition to the roll charts and textiles. The patterns are like a wearable curiosity shop, full of strange and vibrant images of birds and marine life.

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The vaguely edgy prints appeal to those with a fascination for lithography and an appreciation for materials. For us, seeing the prints in person led immediately to tattoo inspiration and Instagram uploads. Haeckel Haus Co. products can be purchased from their online shop, where prices range from $198 for the vintage roll prints to $375 and up for silk scarves. For pricing on custom interiors, pillows and swimwear, contact the company directly.

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