I met Francesca Carallo years ago in Lecce in her atelier in the historic center where, while she creates and works, her papier-mâché creatures keep her company. There it seemed to me that she was moving, aerial and delicate, on a silent stage where the theatrical backdrop is represented by her lamps, her vases, her tapestries in woven papier maché and treated with innovative artisanal processes that make her creations immediately recognizable.
The Lecce artist talks about herself
The mention of the theater is not accidental. Before devoting herself to papier-mâché, a material resulting from the maceration of rags, paper and vegetable materials, Francesca, as she tells us in the interview unfortunately carried out at a distance, had to deal with theatrical research techniques for a long time. The “transition” was gradual but definitive. And today the Lecce artisan-designer interprets the intense light and bright colors of Salento in her own way and through her works she communicates joy, love for her land and sunshine.
The objects she creates in her laboratory in Lecce are dedicated to the modern spaces of everyday life for those who appreciate the essentiality and simplicity of shapes, but also and above all respect the environment and the eco-sustainability of her modern design creations. A sinuous and effective design thanks to papier-mâché, a material that Francesca Carallo knows and transforms to make it ductile like a fabric that is enhanced by the light, lit by the color, softened by the natural tone, which forms the basis for weightless but resistant sculptures.
Before leaving the floor, I want to add two things. Her design objects not only furnish homes around the world but have been chosen to embellish important showrooms such as those of Boffi and Cassina. And Issey Miyake also chose lamps and furnishing accessories created by Francesca Carallo to furnish his London showroom. The second is more personal. Although this interview was not carried out in person as already pointed out, it gave me the feeling and the consequent emotion that it was not filtered by a cold medium like the PC but that between us there was a game of glances. Something that has never happened to me from a distance before! And that I am happy it happened with Francesca, a person of great sensitivity and a great artist.
Let’s start from the beginning. Why exactly papier-mâché?
As I have often said … a case! Yet I am convinced that nothing is by chance. To explain myself better, I have to tell my story a little.
After a long experience with the theater of research and innovation with the scene, a place where I was able to bring to life that part of me that is interested in “doing artistic”, here is the very strong need to regain possession, after the experience in theater, of something I have always loved very much: manual skills.
So here is my encounter with paper, born in the shop (traditional technique for traditional objects). After a long learning process, done with attention and dedication.
Made my technique, the very strong need to give life to a completely personal expression.
With which technique do you obtain the papier-mâché you use to shape your objects? And what is the procedure that leads to the final result?
The paper is the same that has been used for traditional papier-mâché for centuries. I don’t have a single technique to make my works. But the result of continuous research, a process where ancient technique and knowledge are combined with contemporary ideas.
Where do you draw inspiration for your works from?
Most likely, the result of a long look, observe. Still managing to amaze me, curiosity. The personal perception of the light in some places and the need to transform into shapes and colors.
What are your favorite shapes?
Soft, organic shapes.
What do you want to communicate with your creations?
I like to give lightness to the material, which does not mean fragility. It allows me to express lightness, strength, transparency, dynamism, changeability.
Where do you like best to see your installations placed?
A subtle way to transform the spaces of everyday life.
Can you tell us about your latest productions?
I like to emphasize the material lightness that becomes more and more airy and floating.
I know you as a sensitive and very private person. If you had to describe yourself what other adjectives would you add?
Constancy, perseverance, believe it always believe it!
And if you hadn’t dedicated yourself to your passion by making it a profession what would you have done? Did you have a plan B?
I think… this is not just a job, but a life project.
My goal has always been… Do what you love very much, even with all the difficulties. A profession where you do not feel the time passing, indeed it is never enough.
I certainly couldn’t do anything else first with the theater and then with manual skills. Finding a language that unites.
I conclude with the desire to soon meet Francesca Carallo in person to really talk looking us in the eye.