Colors, geometry and originality characterize the designs, products and spaces created by Zazie Gnecchi Ruscone. This interview explores the creative passion that led this modern artisan to create one- of- a- kind utilitarian objects d’art in which hues and form reign and which bring a sense of zest and joy to those who come in touch with them.
Q: What is Zazie Lab about?
A: Zazie Lab is a an entire universe, conceived as a brand of hand painted fabrics. My creations can be used and applied in many different forms as fabrics used for home decoration; to create one of a kind furniture pieces; to make clothing, foulards or to make shoes to name a few. I also work collaboratively with different brands and do consulting on various creative projects.
Q: Why did you embark on this enterprise?
A: It was a spontaneous conception. I painted fabrics as a passion since I was 8 years old. As a child, I would make small summer bags that I would paint and sell to my mother’s friends. Growing up, I went to Paris for university and when I came back to Rome, I started to paint fabrics as it was the one thing I felt I wanted to do. At that moment in my life I had a need to project my creative passion into a concrete project which became Zazie Lab. And my passion became my career to which I dedicated myself 100%.
Q: I see that you only work with geometric patterns why is that?
A: Because geometric and colorful forms create a feeling of a form of chaos within rules. I love colors and I like to use and mix all of them in my work. But my nature is also rather orderly. I like to play with geometric schemes mixing them with the freedom of colors. With geometry you can create infinite combinations of shapes. From a couple of lines you can make a thousand things. Figurative designs on the other hand, represent something that already exists. The imagination to make abstract figurative designs, such as the ones I made when I was a child, are difficult to create as an adult. As children we still have the capacity to be extremely creative figuratively. This quality goes lost as we grow up. So I chose to use geometry, which corresponded more to my creative expression, to conceive my designs.
Q: Can you tell me about a challenging experience you had while going through the process for creating Zazie Lab?
A: A challenge for me has always been not to let the hand made aspect of my work become a limit to it.
Q: How have you financed your project?
A: At the beginning I used my mom’s old brushes, paints and some linen military sheets- that I bought in a market- to paint my own fabrics. As I started selling my pieces I was able to slowly finance myself and establish my creative enterprise.
Q: Tell me about your work space? What is inside your studio?
A: The essential tools are a huge table, paints, fabric, scotch tape, brushes and some music. But what I like about my work is that I don’t necessarily have to do it in my studio. I can work from anyplace as long as I have these essential tools. I am a very instinctive person so my work space and my creations are very spontaneous. I adapt to the circumstances of the moment.
Q: How many people work with you?
A: In my studio I work alone, but I collaborate with other craftsmen. I work with an upholsterer that sews my fabrics into pieces of furniture. I also work with Cordwainer who makes bags with my fabrics and leather. I also work with a designer and her brand, making clothing with my textiles such as, shirts and dresses. Collaborations with many different brands is also an important part of my work.
Q: As a creative what inspires you? Who inspires you?
A: I am inspired by everything. If you have a creative spirit you don’t need a lot of stimulation, you can be easily inspired. The people that inspire me are those who have a strong creative personality and character, which at the end, are people that still have their inner child very alive. Their strong creative personality is a reflection of their inner child. I am also inspired by great artist such as Matisse, Louise Bourgeois, Sonia Delaunay. Individuals that mix a childish grace with originality to produce their artifacts. Growing up we tend to lose this grace. By being able to look at a book or an exhibition of their art work I can feel inspired. Nature is a strong source of inspiration for me as well. But inspiration is very mysterious. Sometimes you are inspired to create something and you don’t know where this creative energy is coming from. Then perhaps after a month you cross a certain bridge that you walk by every day in the city and you realize that this is where the inspiration for a certain design came from. Inspiration also comes and goes. There are days in which I am unable to create and it’s best at that point to do something else. And then there are days that you cannot stop creating things for an entire day. Inspiration enters you in an unnoticed way, you absorb it, re-elaborate it and then express it. This is the only way you can be original.
Q: Tell me about your creative process walk me through it
A: There is not a lot of preparation. It is very instinctive. I start and continue and many times I would not be able to tell you how I started. Although I am an artisan, not an artist, when I create I enter in a sort of trance. In a time and space where I am extremely focused and my hands sort of moved on their own. I rarely pre-meditatively think of my creations. I am very intuitive although I have a lot of precision given that I only use geometric forms to create my designs. Chance also plays a big role and I start creating forms that I wasn’t planning on. I start with more or less an idea and then I create different figures from what I initially thought of. My creative process is very spontaneous.
Q: You call yourself an artisan, why?
A: Because I make handmade and one of a kind decorative pieces with an utilitarian purpose. My products are not solely decorative. For instance a pillow made with my fabrics is decorative but if you lay your head down on it it also makes you feel much better. My pieces are not just contemplative pieces they are used by people. As an artisan your work is not only auto celebrative as it can be for artists, it is also utilitarian.
Q: What is your favorite place in Rome, why? Why did you choose to live in this city?
A: I don’t have a specific favorite place in Rome. I love to move around the city and stop spontaneously in a place, a park, a bar. I also like the Roman hills. In reality Rome is my home. I returned from Paris with the idea that I would come back and stay for a bit and then transfer myself to another place. But the magic of Rome captured me and I never left. I chose to live here because it is a very pleasant place to live, it has an incredible light and a particularly wonderful weather. The most important incentive was the privilege of having my beautiful studio in Trastevere. Then, I started working and that also held me back from leaving. Rome has many defects, but for the type of work that I do its an intensely esthetic, therefore inspiring, city. Living here I don’t need to exhilarate myself with important art exhibitions and the such. I compensate for that by traveling to cities that offer these kinds of cultural venues. For my everyday work, and my concentration, Rome is fantastic. Here I am able to work in nature listening to the birds.
Q: What do you do in your free time?
A: I like to spend time with friends and to go to the sea, to listen to music and to dance, but I also consider my work as fun time, I usually work every day of the week.
Q: What impact does Zazie Lab have on society? What legacy do you want Zazie Lab to leave behind for others?
A: I would like to leave behind colors, so that the world can be a more cheerful place with more originality. I’ve been told that what remains with people after they acquire one of my pieces is a sense of brightness and joyfulness. My products exert my joy and love for my designs. I create because I am passionate about doing it, there is no other hidden reason. It’s almost my mission to leave a more colorful world behind as my grain of salt to brightening up the world around me.
Q: Tell me a fun fact about you?
A: I have recently experienced motherhood.
Q: What is next? Any upcoming projects?
A: I am developing my online shop to sell my products and I also have a wonderful project coming up in collaboration with an interesting brand that I can’t reveal yet… but both coming soon!