The young Italian Elena Salmistraro has become famous literally over the past two years. 2017: Elena is named Designer of the Year for collections for Bosa, De Castelli and Texturae and is named Ambassador of Italian Style to the world (in this capacity, she travels with lectures in Latin America, the USA and Africa). 2018: again a resounding success, this time with a collection of carpets for cc-tapis, when she finds herself among such masters as, for example, Patricia Urquiola.
Elena studied at the Polytechnic of Milan, specializing in graphic design and artistic practices, therefore, along with design, she is interested in genres of the rank of “pure art” – painting, sculpture, illustration, conceptual decoration.
The designer and artist told ARTANDHOUSES why she had to get her hands dirty, about her charming monsters and when work becomes entertainment.
When did you decide to become a designer?
The content of the article:
- 1 When did you decide to become a designer?
- 2 How did you start in design?
- 3 Your name has become a household name mainly due to your work with the Bosa brand. Tell us more about this, please.
- 4 Tell us about carpets for cc-tapis.
- 5 Describe how you work.
- 6 What inspires you?
- 7 Your style is unmistakably recognizable. It has something of folklore, something of animation and naive art. How would you define it yourself?
- 8 What are your plans for 2019?
How much am I myself I remember I was drawing something. I liked the expressiveness of the line. I liked the magic of creativity itself: after all, one has only to turn on the imagination, a new world is born, full of amazing things. Somehow, by themselves, these dreams migrated to life. The art school spilled over into the Polytech (Politecnico di Milano, Polytechnic University of Milan – the Italian forge of personnel in the field of architecture and design. – N.K. ). However, I prefer to call myself an artist rather than a designer. Although I must admit that lately the design is dragging. There are many more projects, like an avalanche.
How did you start in design?
I learned to “get my hands dirty” – to work with material. It seems to me that the profession of a designer is not only sketches and tall materials, but also the ability to lend a hand, that is, sawing, sculpting, cutting, if necessary. I was interested in ceramics. I spent a lot of time hanging out in the ceramic workshop. I used clay and papier-mâché to make furniture and lamps in a fun, irregular shape. The sofa (“Deux Âmes”) seemed to be eared, while the lamps (“The Collapsed Lamps”) and vases resembled the furnishings of a troll's dwelling. It looked lovely! These things evoked a smile and had a liking for themselves. I also made papier-mâché jewelry and corsets. I like the lightness and plasticity of this material. Even when the mass hardens, it retains the warmth of your hands, the thing looks hand-made, beloved. I love each of my works, they seem like children to me.
Your name has become a household name mainly due to your work with the Bosa brand. Tell us more about this, please.
I participated in the Animalità project, which Bosa did for the Triennale ( an exhibition complex and a museum center in Milan. – N.K. ) in 2015. It was dedicated to ceramics as a material for creating art objects. I came up with two characters: the battleship Loricato and the stylized Khepri scarabs. In fact, these are ceramic containers, but both looks are not accidental. The battleship among the peoples of America is considered a symbol of overcoming fear, and the scarab in Egyptian culture serves as a totem that protects against evil. It was a memorable project, with Sam Baron, Matteo Chibich and the GamFratesi duo also participating.
Subsequently, Bosa and I made two more collections: Primates vases, plates and pendants and Dornette tiles. As the name “Primates” implies, the images are generated by our relatives, the primates.
Tell us about carpets for cc-tapis.
The cc-tapis team is so cool that our project can hardly be called a job. We loved what we did so much, what I would call entertainment, a creative laboratory in which new ideas are born. The theme of my carpets was the popular science fantasy of the late 19th century, the novel “Flatland” by Edwin Abbott, in which the action takes place in a two-dimensional world and a conflict with the 3D world, as we would now call it. The acting heroes are geometric figures. Imagine: everyone has emotions, a thought process. The story, for example, is conducted from the perspective of a square. I laid out this world on a plane, composing them with a topographic map of “Flatland”. The carpets got their names, respectively, in honor of the great mathematicians: Descartes, Pythagoras and Euler.
Describe how you work.
I have a studio in Milan. I don’t stick to a specific schedule, I don’t get up at five in the morning, I don’t live on a schedule, I don’t want to turn work into a ritual. I like to think that it is akin to a game. I try not to “crumple”, I'm afraid to stagnate, so I try something new all the time.
My studio is a must see! You will be able to understand what a real creative mess is. Papier-mâché mixed with wire, fabrics, here are sketches, finished and unfinished, business correspondence, my favorite sneakers, a heap of scarves. I draw a lot by hand, but have been playing around with the iPad a lot lately. I'm not against digital. The digital world can be a lifesaver.
What inspires you?
I think inspiration needs to be cultivated. It cannot be taken by surprise. So, I travel a lot, read, life itself inspires me, I try to imbue with emotions so that they can result in the concept of a future project, give an idea. It may not happen right away, but when I think about some work, I can remember this episode. An artist, a designer must “store” impressions, create a “data bank”.
Your style is unmistakably recognizable. It has something of folklore, something of animation and naive art. How would you define it yourself?
My works are an explosive mixture of comics, childhood memories, myths of the peoples of the world and educational programs of the Animal Planet TV channel. For a long time I groped for my style, in the end I was prompted by his passion for illustration. I love graphics, I love fairy tales. I like it when a thing has a subtext and a whole story can be told about each of my works.
What are your plans for 2019?
I'm going to turn to painting more often. I do not have enough intimacy, intimacy of the statement. Painting, when you are tete-a-tete with canvas, just can give it. In recent years I have also done illustration. I want my images to become more understandable, sink into the soul. I plan to devote 2019 to this area. In terms of design, I work a lot on wallpaper collections, but not only. Soon I promise a new scale – get ready for megalomania!