The Patternbase Discussions: Lorenzo Nanni

Please tell us about your work and talk about the medium and/or materials you work with. What is your relationship to them?

I am a textile artist specialized in embroidery. I use natural minerals and materials: felt, silks, cotton fabrics & threads, wools & fibers, glass and precious stones (Quartz, jade…). I use bones too, along with woods, metals and rhodoïds. It was spontaneous for me to choose these types of materials because my pieces are inspired by flora, fauna and anatomy. I have a lot of respect for nature and animals.

When did you first become interested in working with fibers and textile mediums?

I started studying at the classical art school of Besancon, France. I began with painting, which reflected my desires for matter, colors and also for fashion. Then, I continued my studies at ESAA Duperée Paris, a unique fiber state-funded school in France. I received a BA & MA in Textile Design with specialization in Fine Arts & High Fashion Embroidery. I had a well-rounded training fibers techniques including textile design, fashion, embroidery, prints, weaving, tapestry, dyeing and so forth.

Do you feel that there is a message or meaning that can only be revealed through these materials?

Man is made of water, fiber, capillaries and veins, which is the same process that I want to try to create in my work. It’s like trying to give breath to my work, just the blood is the missing flow in the fibers. Knowledge of organic matter allows me to work without losing their genetic characteristics. For example, creating a tree bark in silk and being able to make the wood soft and shiny as silk.

Tell us about your studio and how you work.

I work in a small studio in down-town of Paris between the Marais and cemetery Père Lachaise. It’s located in a quiet garden, many crows make their nests there. I work on large old wooden tables. The rest is made of several cabinets where I put my pearls, threads, wools. All are closed and cataloged with an scientific precision. The order and cleanliness is the basis of my work. In the chaos I can not create. A lot of objects found in old markets inspire me. Often, space and place do not limit my work, embroidery gives you the chance to be able to work anywhere. I have made pieces in Berlin and Barcelona, but when I need open spaces, large structures, and an escape from big cities, I move to Eastern France. There my grandparents have an old farmhouse in the countryside.

On my production method, I always begin with a sketch. Then I move to pattern-construction, dying then assembling fibers and finally embroidery. The time of the process can vary from 10 days up to 9 months of work, depending on the objects. Some pieces require 100 hours of embroidering. They are all unique pieces.

What are you currently working on?

Right now I’m working on humans hearts.

What do you do to sustain your art practice and living as an artist?

I have a few galleries I work with and they sell my pieces. I work also as textile and embroider Designer for Haute Couture & Prêt a porter (Christian Lacroix, Balmain, etc.) and I collaborate with musicians (Sir Alice, Mismerizer) and photographers (Alexandre Dieval).

What role do you think fiber art plays in contemporary art?

The use of fiber has never been lost; the textile has always accompanied the painting as a form of decorative art, and has undergone the changes of time and civilization; suffered the influence of shapes, volumes and materials.

How is your work typically displayed in a gallery setting? Does the work change for the audience when viewed in the gallery as opposed to viewing it in photograph or digital form?

It depends on the customer, the place and the curator. Usually the sculptures are scientifically pinned in glass displays or suspended under glass globes like the anatomical ecorchés or entomological trophies. Of course, the emotional impact and the details work are evident closely. But the era of digital photography and knowledge of power to allow their work to see a much larger public, without losing all of that emotion that the embroidery can give. Photography gives me the opportunity to create scenarios that are on display difficult to recreate. Occasionally I take pictures of my work on models as if they were jewels or prostheses of their body or just placed them in their natural “atmosphere”.

What has your experience been like in dealing with galleries, exhibitions, and consumers as a fiber artist?

I sell my works through exhibitions and private orders. Speaking from my own experience, buyers are often filtered through the gallery, and French galleries are usually timid in selling works in fiber. But I know one of my last pieces was bought by a collector working at Christie’s.

What is the hardest part in being a fiber artist?

For me the hardest is the slowness of realization of pieces, with embroidery you need a lot of hours to have a good effects!

Where do you imagine yourself and your work to be five years from now?

I can’t imagine my work in 5 years, but I have the desires to make big pieces. I want combine video with my fibers art. In 200, I  made a stop motion movie “Naiade”, and it gave life to my pieces. I will also continue my photography studies on models and landscapes.

Do you have any shows or exhibitions coming up?

At this moment my work is being exhibited at Plaza Athéne Hotel in Paris, curated by Maison Parisienne. I have future exhibitions in Switerland in 2012 and I am working on a collective show in Italy in 2013.