A Thin Line Between Two Worlds. Interview with Maria Pia Pascoli and Valentina Caprini by Waldemar Kerschbaumer

Published: 30.11.2022
Waldemar Kerschbaumer
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The Italiano Plurale art collective presents a strong, complete, and diverse image of Italy’s art scene with a veritable mosaic of fresh talent and passionate ambassadors of applied art. Curator Waldemar Kerschbaumer carefully selects artists whose work not only meets the highest standards but also provides refreshing insights into Italy’s contemporary art production.

We introduce the members of the group with a series of interviews.
What led you to use canvas/ink or metal/textile as the basic material for your artworks?

Maria Pia Pascoli: I work with canvas to create playful combinations of different materials: the texture of gauze painted with Indian ink overlaps that of the canvas. The nib plays on these surfaces, and the flow of its ink depends on their texture, which may be coarse at times and, at others, smooth. Flaws such as uneven strokes or stains are, in fact, unique and unrepeatable.
In my more recent works, I have started to use paper in order to produce more delicate, sensitive strokes. Paper can be folded, cut and bent and allows me to play and combine thread and space in new, unexpected ways.
I also use iron and copper wire, for example in Solo Apparenze, or cotton in Omnis cellula e cellula. In Solo Apparenze, I made doilies out of wire. I wanted them to be a symbol of a seemingly familial, harmonious environment that all too often is the scene of violence against women. It is a work in progress as I keep adding new doilies whenever new acts of violence and abuse surface. I used cotton thread for Omnis cellula e cellula because it is a means of sewing, joining and weaving ideas and relationships. Just like every new thing is the result of another, new ideas are born out of old ones.
Valentina Caprini: My use of thread and wire stems from my family’s tailoring tradition. My mother Daniela and my grandmothers Eliana and Silvia are seamstresses and teachers, and I grew up surrounded by handmade clothes and sewing machines. I wanted to bring that language into my goldsmith work: I saw structures and first tried to create a hybrid form of jewellery and clothing by layering metres of thread onto a hydro-soluble fabric. I love to explore the area where those two worlds, jewellery and textiles, meet. I also cast old fabrics into precious metals to transform them into wearable pieces and preserve the handmade crochet work forever. My speciality is the Italian filigree technique, the art of weaving metal wire. In my Italian Contemporary Filigree Course, I teach students worldwide to creatively work with silver and gold wires with a contemporary approach.


MariaPiaPascoli, Solo Apparenze, 2019-2020
Iron, copper, silk thread, cloth pedals, 350 x 140 cm.
Photography by Fortunato Della Guerra.

Valentina Caprini Giusi, collar from the Glowing collection
Photography by the artist.


You both use fine lines and optical illusions to refine your artistic expression. How did your styles evolve?

Maria Pia Pascoli: My journey as an artist started in my childhood: I started painting in oils when I was no more than three or four years old and later went to art school. My penchant for rigorous research and my personal technique I owe mostly to my mentor, sculptor Franco Cannilla. I received a classical education and studied the old masters, nature, the human form, and the expressiveness of colour. Over the years, growth and personal experience led me to reflect on the meaning and value of visual codes. In a society that privileges all things loud, excessive, and fast, I gradually did away with what I considered attention-grabbing and moved towards a more intimate, silent and slower form of expression in order to convey feelings and emotions. The thread I use, to me, has become a symbol of life. The Moirai in Greek mythology, or their Roman equivalent, the Parcae, were believed to weave - and hold absolute power over - man’s destiny. The thread in itself has no real aesthetic value, but it can be turned into a precious fabric, a rope, a canvas, lace, or gauze…it can convey peace and well-being as much as drama, if torn and tattered.
If we look at the history of textiles, we can clearly see how they have developed since the Neolithic Age and to this day are a ubiquitous element of civilisation that emphasises its character and salient features.
It is, however, my being a woman, mother and teacher that has led me to express myself through the thread: I liken the continuous, patient and silent daily work that keeps a family or a class together to the religious, almost ritualistic dedication of those who weave, embroider or by other means create fragile magic.
Valentina Caprini: I’ve always been fascinated by the expressive potential of thread and its simple, fine lines. After I’d started out working with ready-made textiles I began to experiment with different materials and finally found ways to create my own fabrics and structures. Each can be further explored and offers endless possibilities. Even now, after all these years, I have so many projects and ideas I would like to explore that I find it difficult to choose which one to concentrate on next!

Your art is constantly evolving. Which technique do you currently favour?

Maria Pia Pascoli: We all change and evolve constantly. Curiosity leads me to continually look for new ways to best express the feelings and emotions of that precise moment. Evolution can be lightning-fast or slow…the important thing is never to stand still. Recently, I felt like playing and letting the real thread I used for my small installation run through my fingers. I want to create textile sculptures (similar to others I have made in the past) that will require some fine-tuning of my technique and materials.
Valentina Caprini: Right now, I’m exploring the relationship between the latest in 3d-printing and ancient filigree techniques. I already created wax moulds with a 3D printer so I could cast my designs in silver and create pieces that are nearly impossible to make by hand. These filigrees I then solder these into structures. By combining them with traditional handicrafts, I infuse metal elements created with hi-tech, modern means with a “soul”, while on the other hand transporting the ancient technique of weaving metal wires into the modern world and using it to create shapes never seen or used before.

Maria Pia Pascoli, Il Grande Strappo, 2020
Acrylic and India ink on canvas, 70 x 120 cm.
Photography Fortunato Della Guerra.

Valentina Caprini, Filigree Earring
P​hotography by the artist.

Which piece are you particularly proud of?

Maria Pia Pascoli: I find happiness in creating things, in the hours, days and months it takes for a piece to take shape. The slow, painstaking work is like a ritual, it’s almost religious. Once finished, that particular piece belongs to the past and becomes nothing more than the starting point of a new adventure.
The works I am most attached to are the ones that best express my feelings towards the events, tragedies or moments of happiness that life holds. These include Mediterraneo (2018-19), a personal take on the migrant's ordeal; Solo Apparenze (2019-20), an installation about violence against women; Burka (2009), an installation about a topical issue of our times. I am also very proud of the pieces I created during the lockdowns, and all those that manage to convey my exact feelings to the viewers.
Valentina Caprini: I would say Rossa, from the Pink Roots Collection. I made it together with my mother Daniela: using two sewing machines we sewed thousands of metres of white cotton thread onto a hydro-soluble fabric to create a 1.5 m long necklace.
This piece, together with 3 brooches from the same collection, was chosen by Milan’s Triennale Design Museum for the 2017 W. Women in Italian Design exhibition, a retrospective of 21st-century Italian design created by women.

Maria Pia Pascoli, Mediterraneo, 2019 
Acrylic and India ink on canvas, 120 x 160 cm
Photography by Fortunato Della Guerra.

Valentina Caprini, Untitled, cuffs from the Pink Roots collection, 2017
Thread, silver, white gold.
Photography by Lucy Clark.

Where does your inspiration come from?

Maria Pia Pascoli: Inspiration is random, a fleeting moment, a feeling we gather from what surrounds us. It’s our deeply personal perception of events, historic facts or simple things like a crack in the wall, shadows on the ground, sounds or music, as significant and pathos-laden.
I feel attracted to things most people would regard as insignificant, small and fragile but instead hide a whole universe. In Cielo in una pozzanghera (2019) I wanted to portray reality: cigarette butts, discarded bus tickets, fallen leaves, objects that represent a certain place and the people who left their traces there.
Valentina Caprini: I see beauty in complex empty structures, where the absence is stronger than the present. I’m attracted by the light passing through the parts of an object, band y the air that flows freely between materials. I am fascinated by microscope pictures that show us how the world around us is made up of thousands of small parts in beautiful patterns. Also, human anatomy is a big source of inspiration and curiosity: how we are made inside, how we function, and the shapes of our inner organs. We are and we live through systems and fluids and energies that we are hardly aware of. This is what I’m looking at for my next filigree project.

Maria Pia Pascoli in her workshop.

Valentina Caprini, Filigree work in progress
Photography Lucy Clark.

How do your clients perceive your work? Do you have a certain user or use in mind?

Maria Pia Pascoli: People’s first reaction is often disbelief. They seem to find it hard to believe that what they are looking at was handmade using a good old-fashioned nib and ink, carefully weaving thread after thread. After disbelief comes curiosity, and they move a little closer to touch and verify that what they see is actually drawn and not glued on.
It was particularly flattering to hear my work described as exciting at the Arte in Condominio exhibition I did for the 2022 Rome Art Week. What I am trying to achieve is precisely that: I want to excite and touch peoples’ souls, so they stop and think and eventually follow the threads of a story, my story.
Valentina Caprini: Together with artistic clothing, jewellery is the only kind of art that can actually be worn and not just admired from afar. When I make a piece, I think about not just its wearability, but also about the meaning that it will acquire once placed on the body. Moreover, what happens when the piece speaks about the body that wears it? I find that really intriguing, and I’m still exploring its truly fluid meaning.

How do you feel about having to put a price tag on your creations?

Maria Pia Pascoli: I always find that awkward. How do you put a price on months or years of work? I have spent so many hours of my life on each piece! I have actually given away some of my works rather than sell them because I think it is hugely important that people are genuinely interested and in tune with what I wanted to express.
Valentina Caprini: At the beginning, I found it quite difficult, not least because of the huge number of hours that go into each piece. Now, if the material is not precious, I think of my feelings towards a piece rather than the time that went into creating it, and I try to come up with a price I would feel comfortable with.
Thinking of money as a form of energy might give us a new point of view when it comes to selling our art.

Do you have an underlying concept that you express in articles, books, galleries, museums, etc.?
What do you think of contemporary Italian painting/jewellery art?

Maria Pia Pascoli: In his review of my 2009 solo exhibition Trame, professor and art historian Stefano Borsi wrote: Maria Pia’s art is as delicate as her threads. It refuses to be loud and commercial, but rather comes across as intimate, vibrant, and dreamy, yet thoughtful, and sometimes carries an ethical, social message. One could even say it is classical in its uncompromising defence of a craft that bears obvious traces of thorough training and skilful technique…
Italian contemporary art is too complex a field to judge. 'Art' demands unwavering dedication, you can’t just become an artist on a whim and hope for success. Personally, it took me a long time before I finally decided to present my work to the world. This was probably down to me being overly modest and self-critical. The contemporary art scene, to me, looks fairly confused. Few artists engage in serious research, while the majority create pretty but innocuous, rather commercial art. Contemporary galleries worry mainly about their finances and drive this trend by pandering to the taste of clients looking to decorate their waiting rooms and offices and who don’t seem to want to risk investing in ground-breaking non-commercial art.
Valentina Caprini: I think that Italian jewellery art has high manufacturing standards, but there are still many more 'traditional' jewellers than there are 'contemporary' ones. Italian artists from any field always seem quite attached to tradition and would seemingly rather avoid taking risks than find new ways to play with our rich artisanal heritage.

When does painting / jewellery become art?

Maria Pia Pascoli: If there is thorough research involved, be that semantic, historic, technical or any type of research that makes a piece unique, then it’s art.
Valentina Caprini: That is a very difficult question! I think that a piece can be called art if its creator manages to push past the purely aesthetical aspect and rather focus on its essence as a message worth spreading.

You are part of the Italiano Plurale artist collective, what made you join?

Maria Pia Pascoli: At a time when technology with its false ideal of perfection has become an integral part of our daily lives including the art world, the act of creating things by hand and accepting imperfection is an almost sacred ritual where true art happens. This is why I decided to join Italiano Plurale: we are a group of artists and craftsmen with common interests. The only downside is the fact we are scattered across all of Italy, which means we can’t physically work together and share our experiences.
Valentina Caprini: Along my journey, I’ve always tried to create around me a community of artists and creative minds so we can talk, exchange ideas and help each other. When Waldemar Kerschbaumer introduced me to his collective of quality Italian artists, I was more than happy to join. I think sharing is very important when it comes to art… because the more we open up, the freer we are to give and receive from others.

What is next on your calendar?

Maria Pia Pascoli: Work, work, work…  everything else is secondary.
Valentina Caprini: I want to make my new place, Linfa Studio Gallery, bloom and make it all I dream it to be. I would like to create not only a magic environment for myself to work, sell my pieces and teach in, but also an open space for any kind of art (ideally something different from jewellery!) that is worth sharing, seeing and experiencing. Inside this beautiful lab, I will keep researching contemporary Italian filigree and hybrids of jewellery and clothing.

About the Interviewee

Maria Pia Pascoli lives and works in her native city of Rome. She studied architecture at La Sapienza university, Rome, and attended Liceo Artistico Statale Via di Ripetta art school in Rome, where she studied under Franco Cannilla and Franco Valeri. She is the former holder of the Chair of Sculpture at Liceo Artistico Giorgio De Chirico, Rome, Istituto d’Arte ISA 1 & ISA 2, Rome and Istituto d’Arte, Rieti.
She participated in many exhibitions like Rome Art Week 2022. Arte in Condominio. Grassimesse 2021 with Italiano Plurale (2021). Rome Art Week 2020. Sconfini, Camera 79 Art Gallery (2018). Cosmografie, Varco Pigneto Rome (2016). Babilonia, Sale dell’Agostiniana Rome (2012). Donne Rinascita, Galleria Passepartout, Milan (2012). Premio Open Art, Sale del Bramante Rome (2012). Cosmografie, Domus Talenti Rome (2012). Colori dal Mondo: Rassegna Internazionale di Arte Contemporanea, Centro Internazionale OAD Rome (2010). Premio Open Art, Sale del Bramante Rome (2010) and she was the winner of the painting award.

Valentina Caprini is a jewellery artist based in Italy. After an MA in Semiology, she completed her BFA at the renowned Alchimia Contemporary Jewellery School in Florence in 2012, where she studied the traditional Florentine way of working metal with a contemporary approach, tutored by internationally renowned artists like Peter Bauhuis and Ruudt Peters. Her studies of conceptual jewellery continued with an exchange course at the Estonian Academy of Arts in 2013, where she further researched the language of threads in a special environment of ice and silence.
Once back in Italy, Valentina decided to specialize in the Italian filigree technique, an ancient way of weaving wire, learning directly from the artisans of Campo Ligure (Genova, Italy), one of the top places in the world that still use this particular method. Valentina Caprini teaches this technique worldwide with her Italian Contemporary Filigree Course.
Valentina currently works as a jewellery maker, artist, and teacher, and she recently opened Linfa Studio Gallery in Florence, a jewellery lab, art studio, gallery, and a place for art projects of all kinds and artistic exchange.

About the author

Waldemar Kerschbaumer
is the Creative Director and founder of the advertising and web agency adpassion based in Bolzano, Italy. He spent 7 years working for a local weekly magazine and over 10 years in different advertising agencies before founding his own company. adpassion caters to a variety of different sectors, from business to education and museums, and private and business clients as well as artists.
Italiano plurale was born in 2018, when Waldemar Kerschbaumer was asked to select Italy’s best and most promising jewelry artists for the Vienna Jewelry Days. The big leap came after just a few months: The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s annual PMA Craft Show settled on Italy as their guest country for 2020 and Waldemar was asked to curate and select the best Italian artists from various art categories. His previous experience promoting artists and having their work shown at international events proved an invaluable asset in the early days of the project. Italian artists expressed the need for support, especially for a whole host of excellent yet underrated artisans.

Valentina Caprini, Work in Progress.
. Photography by Nathalie Frankenne..
Valentina Caprini, Work in Progress.
Photography by Nathalie Frankenne.

© By the author. Read Copyright.
Maria Pia Pascoli, Come nuvola.
. Acrylic and India ink on canvas..
Maria Pia Pascoli, Come nuvola.
Acrylic and India ink on canvas.

© By the author. Read Copyright.
Maria Pia Pascoli, Come nuvola, detail.
. Acrylic and India ink on canvas..
Maria Pia Pascoli, Come nuvola, detail.
Acrylic and India ink on canvas.

© By the author. Read Copyright.