Thursday, March 5, 2009

Discovering Italian Embroidery: The Work Of Paola Matteucci

The other day I was looking around the Potterton Bookstore as they were finishing their 25% off sale at the end of February and I spied a book called "Merletti e Ricami Italiani" Italian Laces and Embroideries. This modest looking paperback book is a snapshot in time at work from various embroiderers throughout Italy in 2007.

The work of individual artist is represented by one pillow per page with their location highlighted as well as techniques and local affiliations. The text was in Italian and English. The work of all the artists is exceptional but one pillow really caught my eye and frankly took my breath away; that of Paola Matteucci of Umbria.

The floral embroidery is at once rustic and elegant and so finely styled that it has a quality of a snapshot in time. It is as if she walked in a field then returned to her embroidery frame and recorded the moment. At once beautiful and nostalgic, quiet and peaceful; you are probably asking yourself..."all this in a pillow?" I wanted to buy it.

An email address is listed for Ms. Matteucci so I wrote. Using the translation of Outlook - I wrote in English but include a translation. To my great surprise I found a response from Ms. Matteucci telling me that she is a teacher of embroidery and that she wasn't sure which pillow I was referring to. She suspected it one that is currently in a local museum and included the photo for confirmation. She was correct.

Respectfully, I asked if she could make one for me. As an embroiderer myself, I explained, this inspired piece of work she did was something I wanted to own. Her response was like reading poetry. Following is my general interpretation of her response:

"The pillow design is inspired by our Umbrian landscape in Winter, when the colors are warm and gilded in rest, the rose hips interlace with the copper of dried oak leaves and the dried clematis flowers. I work on cotton tulle with silk that is spun and natural dyed by local hands and the clematis flowers are embroidered with white cashmere. This pillow has not only the colors but also the scent of my Umbrian Earth."

She went on to tell me she is currently working on a wedding veil commission which must be done in May but would make a pillow for me. She said that she normally does not like to make the same pattern twice but in my case she would make an exception to that rule.

The chance of such an encounter is rare, isn't it? I happen to see a book in a store which leads me to an email connection with someone I consider one of Italy's National Treasures of Embroidery and one day soon I will have that piece of art and always the connection to Ms. Matteucci.

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