CONVERSATION

Caleido interviews Elena Salmistraro designer

Caleido interviews Elena Salmistraro, designer and artist. Welcome to Caleido, an inspirational diary, that narrates many stories: about creative people, trends, travels, objects. / Read the Editor’s letter here

Diary of: @elenasalmistraro

Caleido interviews Elena Salmistraro designer
Ph. @simon171 | @ad_italia
1. You say that drawing – because of the slowness, care and attention it requires – allows you to absorb the essence of what you are observing. Are there any rituals, or customs, that you associate with the act of observation?

Apart from drawing, I don’t have any particular rituals or habits. Generally speaking, when something impresses me, and it may do so for a variety of reasons, I always try to draw it. Like we used to do at school when we were young: to learn a lesson, we used to rewrite it: this helped us to memorise it better, to make it our own and above all to clarify in the best way possible some of the more complex steps. In my opinion, only the “doing” allows us to really understand things in depth. It is a way of overcoming the huge gap between theory and practice. My “doing” is precisely drawing… Many of these sketches, which I don’t like to show, I consider very personal, I consider them to be the tools of the trade to which I am very attached and also jealous. I prefer to show what I have really understood, rather than what I have tried to understand.

Caleido interviews Elena Salmistraro designer
Most Illustrious Ceramic statue for Bosa
2. Shapes and colours tell a recognisable story of your own world, they are your signature. How does your colour research take place? What are the chromatic identity elements that characterise you?

I have an artistic background, and I have always painted since I was a child. One of the things that has always fascinated me and that I still spend a lot of time on is colour research. I love mixing colours, finding the right graduation, the right amount of black, and I think I have a particularly good eye for that. Obviously with painting it’s much more fun, in design or graphics you have to adapt to standard palettes and above all know how to be satisfied with the result, because the result almost never perfectly matches the original choice. I usually like to use colour as a component of the project itself: for me colour is not a negligible element, it serves to underline, highlight or hide, colour is the bearer of emotions, it is not for nothing that you are red with anger or blue with sadness. My favourite colours are the light ones, so with a hint of black inside, while those that are too bright scare me and I try to use them sparingly. But as I said before, a lot depends on what I want to communicate, in some cases even fluorescent colours are necessary.

Caleido interviews Elena Salmistraro designer

Project x @luisaviaroma

3. Is there a contamination phase between your aesthetic and that of the brand you work for? What are the compromises you make and those you are not willing to make?

I prefer to work with those who have the ability to distinguish and understand the differences, enhancing them and making them a strong point of the brand itself. Having said that, I don’t think there is an aesthetic contamination between me and the company, but there is definitely an understanding of the project on both sides. I don’t like talking about compromises, it’s a term that implies a renunciation, as if there were a clash between the designer and the company. Personally, I prefer to talk about collaboration, dialogue, I always try to create a synergy that goes beyond a simple agreement between the parties, which would make everything very sad indeed. Also because I don’t usually drop projects from above, and I don’t believe that a project can be good for any brand. On the contrary, I am absolutely convinced that every project is closely linked to the person who produces it; with my work I also try to tell the story of a company, its know-how, its materials and its history, and this is often understood and appreciated.

Caleido interviews Elena Salmistraro designer
Decibel collection x @marella_official | Ph. @federicosorrentino_o
Caleido interviews Elena Salmistraro designer
#DesignVariations2021 | BRACE YOURSELF | Ph. @thomaspagani
Caleido interviews Elena Salmistraro designer
Installation x @marella_official
4. Your eclectic universe is rooted in the incessant dialogue between function (design) and emotion (art). How do you find a balance in this apparent dichotomy? How does the process of contamination between these two sides take place?

Exactly, as far as I’m concerned the dichotomy is only apparent, I don’t think there is such a clear-cut border, or at least if there should be I always try to break it down by working on it, taking it on as the field of my research if you like. The balance, if there is one, I think is given by the approach, which, to paraphrase Mendini, is that of the artist in making design and vice versa. Personally, I always try to use the same method, the same approach, whether it is a painting or a sofa, and this allows me to range from design to fashion, from illustration to art, always remaining consistent with myself. As far as I’m concerned, the concept of contamination goes beyond the simple “fusion” of several disciplines. As far as possible, I try to include various elements, signs, cross-references, code citations, which give the object a higher degree of complexity, and I believe that this is an excellent method for representing a contemporary world that is clearly stratified, varied and fluid.

Caleido interviews Elena Salmistraro designer
Pensieri Panteschi | New collection x @lithea_official | Ph. @erika_mtt
Caleido interviews Elena Salmistraro designer
Hotel Chimera x @ceditceramicheditalia group @florim_ceramiche | Ph. @vanniborghi
5. Your universe is populated by imaginary characters: some more reassuring, others more ‘monstrous’. How do these characters come into being? How do you shape their personalities? To what extent are they connected to the events of your life?

As I have often said, drawing is a travelling companion for me; it is probably the method of communication I like best, the most natural. I don’t like to use words very much, I definitely prefer to express myself through shapes, drawings, and in this the creation of more or less monstrous characters is simply a ploy to represent everyday life, moods, feelings. It is a very primitive and evidently effective method, which is not dictated by work demands or obligations, but is the result of a natural, personal, intimate need. The fact that it is the starting point, the inspiration for many of my projects, is therefore a normal consequence, it is my being in relation to that particular project or work, and it is also the element that gives my creations their authorship, their uniqueness.

Caleido interviews Elena Salmistraro designer
Tactile 3D surfaces | Chimera Collection
6. Caleido’s guests allow us to investigate and understand the society in which we live. As a creative and entrepreneurial woman with considerable media exposure, do you feel responsible for being an example of female empowerment? What do you think are the most urgent battles to be fought in this field?

Absolutely. The differences in treatment between men and women are unfortunately still very evident in our society, just think of salaries. For a woman, everything is definitely more difficult, and when you become a mother, this becomes even more evident. If I think about design, women have always been there, but often the spotlight was elsewhere. Personally, I don’t believe much in battles, but I believe a lot in education, as Munari said, it’s difficult to change an adult’s mind, so let’s concentrate on children. For this very reason, I believe that today it is right to show what women have done and are doing, which does not mean creating a distinction from what men do, but simply means restoring a dignity that is often taken away.

Caleido interviews Elena Salmistraro designer
Efesto x @orografie @perabitaredentrolecose @giorgia.brt | Ph. @max_rommel
Caleido interviews Elena Salmistraro designer
Eulero Outline x @cc_tapis | Ph. @wunderlab
7. Your work is often considered ironic, cheerful and colourful. Characteristics that I imagine also characterise your personality. In your less carefree moments, as a woman or as an artist, what are some activities that make you feel good and reconcile you with the world (and people)?

When I am under stress, the only solution is to go to the countryside or the sea, far away from the city. Breathing clean air helps me reconcile with the world. I like to go for long walks, I walk a lot because I’m not really a sportswoman and it’s the only solution, although I’d really like to be able to do something. The cinema and exhibitions are also a good way of finding myself, while for the rest, being a very habitual person, I prefer to devote myself to my family and everyday life.

Caleido interviews Elena Salmistraro designer
Chhau dancer | Cabinet x @scarlet_splendour
8. Thinking back to the beginning of your career, what are the pages you would write in your diary to recount those moments? If these pages were to pass into the hands of your children, what would be the 3 main lessons you would like them to pass on?

I would rewrite and do again everything, both the good and the bad, also because if I am here today trying to tell you about what I do, it is precisely because I have tried to put myself on the line right from the start, I have not accepted compromises and I have never stopped believing in myself. I started with a collection of puppets made with scraps of thin felt, and to do this I had to sell my car, then I moved on to paper works and ceramics, to collaborate with companies.  It has been a crescendo, a hard job made of sacrifices and a lot of work, but over the years it has also given me a lot of satisfaction. I hope that my children learn from my teachings to always be themselves, always sincere, no matter what. I would like them to learn perseverance, which guides every choice and every project in life, and above all that they learn to have fun and be happy.

Caleido interviews Elena Salmistraro designer
#DesignVariations2021 | BRACE YOURSELF | Ph. @thomaspagani
9. Your works allow the viewer/viewer to fly with the imagination to distant destinations. What is a place you have visited in the past that you would like to see again? When you travel, how do you store visual information (e.g. photograph, paint, write?)?

I always want to see the places of my childhood again, such as Sardinia and Trentino (regions of Italy). The smells, colours, emotions and memories that tie me to those places are difficult to find anywhere else, and I probably unconsciously always look for something that resembles them. For the rest, I hardly archive anything, or if I really have to be honest, I archive everything in an absolutely chaotic and disorganised way on a daily basis. My husband says I’m on the verge of being called a serial hoarder. When I travel, I take pictures or I draw, depending on the time available, and very rarely write anything down. I prefer to focus on emotions, and on the vibrations that a place can give me, I need to experience a place and not just visit it.

Caleido interviews Elena Salmistraro designer
Posidonia Living collection x @natuzzi
Caleido interviews Elena Salmistraro designer
Posidonia Living collection x @natuzzi
10. What is one object in your home that you would never give up? What is the memory attached to it? Can you send us a photo of it?

Without a doubt a vase by Alessandro Mendini decorated by 2501, so the vase of a master decorated by one of the artists I appreciate most, as well as a friend. It is a unique vase, which I bought at an auction at the Triennale, it has a beautiful energy, it is an object that fills, an object that exalts, it is an object that manages to keep me company.

Caleido interviews Elena Salmistraro designer

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