Pamela Campagna interview: Transforming old techniques
Born in Italy in 1977, Pamela Campagna is perhaps best known for adapting existing techniques into something all her own, particularly when working with threads, nails, magnets, rust, and wood.
The result is a reflection of her nomadic attitude, a wonderful mix of graphics and crafts with a focus on exploring both our present and our presence.
In this interview, Pamela shares with us her path from economics to art, her ideal creative conditions, and the importance of tradition to the work she produces.
A deep sense of grace
TextileArtist.org: What initially captured your imagination about textile art?
Pamela Campagna: To build complex shapes just with a single thread, and also weaving, is about connecting both physically and metaphorically. That was the reason why I actually approached this kind of work.
As a graphic designer, I was working with visual metaphors, expressing concepts through the use of decontextualization of specific materials and gestures. There was a moment when I wanted to deal with the idea of family. I wanted to work with a specific image of my mother’s family… it all started from that.
What or who were your early influences and how has your life influenced your work?
I imagine the map of inspirations and influences has a vascular system making the blood circulating in the same flow, even if coming from smaller vessels, so I don’t consider something more relevant then other things. Basically, every step I did and everything I saw is influencing me.
But looking specifically at my recent work, I have to think about the amazing trousseau my parents had from their mothers, all carefully embroidered and communicating a deep sense of grace, pureness and faith. Another thing in my approach comes probably from the chemical experiments we made in the lab at school.
What was your route to becoming an artist?
It was quite curvy.
I studied economics for some reasons, while simultaneously bringing up my curiosity towards art, including going to shows, drawing, transforming, attempting, researching and trying to match the two parts. When I met tOmi scheiderbauer and c a l c, I started to work with them as graphic designer with some incursion in art, but after seven years the artistic part took much more space.
At the moment those are two worlds which are inseparable and they totally influence one another.
The piece has an independent life
What is your chosen medium and what are your techniques?
All my works are finished in collaboration with the environment and time. It means that once I have closed my intervention, the piece has an independent life that escapes my decisions and can reveal unpredicted appearances. I’m looking for wonder hidden in everyday life and I try to reach it through different materials like threads, nails, magnets, rust, wood, or anything that can have a possibility of failing or manifesting itself.
How would you describe your work and where do you think it fits within the sphere of contemporary art?
I often make up techniques by transforming old ones. This is my way of understanding and connecting with the present and the presence, but I don’t know if fit into the contemporary art sphere. What do you think?
Tell us a bit about your process and what environment you like to work in.
The space where I work is my main contributor and it’s just as essential as any other element. I live and work in a little penthouse with a wide view on my city, with a small white space, a beautiful light, the sunset in front of my table, some plants on the terrace, and the sea in a corner. That’s a cure for my soul.
Do you use a sketchbook?
Sometimes, at a super early stage. But mainly I make decisions by designing on the computer, and then leaving a bit of margin for late changes. I then get into real work.
Fascination towards fiber art
What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?
Maria Lai is an artist I adore because she embodies the quality I seek as an artist and a human being: humility, deep connection with the nature, discretion, reliability and magic.
I’m so sorry I didn’t have the chance to meet her before she died two years ago, but I often felt really connected to her. She worked with fiber art, but the best art piece she did in my opinion was an action where textile was used to connect people, spaces and visualize relations.
Tell us about a piece of work you have fond memories of and why?
The artwork I mention before, the NETwork_01, the first I realized in collaboration with tOmi, can for sure be considered as a starting point of a new investigation and the fascination towards fiber art.
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
I don’t know. In my perception, it changes constantly, and looking at the future I only hope not to lose the enchantment of the discovery.
What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?
Try to avoid any technique that overcomes the essence of the art piece.
Go far in your research in the sense, and do not stay too much around the things strictly related to textile and fiber art.
Go deep in tradition but try to evolve it looking for the spirit of the present.
Do not overproduce.
A pure exchange of ideas
Can you recommend 3 or 4 books for textile artists?
In the book L’essere e il Tessere, Luciano Ghersi makes us notice how the structure of textile has probably developed the structure of logic and language. Most probably, the weaving was formalized before the language. So when you go through the Book of Looms by Eric Broudy, you get so fascinated by the different approach to that logic and to that problem.
I would also suggest a book which changed my way and the approach to art and design, which is Design for the Real World by Victor Papanek.
What piece of equipment or tool could you not live without?
A music player.
Do you give talks or run workshops or classes? If so, where can readers find information about these?
Yes, I do, on different topics from graphics to printing and weaving – a pure exchange of ideas and energy.
I definitely would like to do it more often and I’m getting organized for that. I have some programmed this year but I will tell more in the next months.
How do you go about choosing where to show your work?
The personal relation or the feeling I have with who is inviting me is the main factor.
Where can readers see your work this year ?
Other things are on the way but still to be confirmed.
For more information, visit: www.pamelacampagna.com