Lidiana Miotto, born in Padua but now living in Lecce, is the only representative of the unique craft of papier-mache restoration in Italy. After achieving a qualification from the Ministry for Cultural Heritage enabling her to operate on their behalf, she moved to Lecce, Apulia, where she founded the Centre for Paper Restoration. Living in a town world-acknowledged for the excellence of its papier-mache creations, Lidiana Miotto is now reclaiming those antique artworks which had undergone extensive renovations over time.
Tell us your story. When did you decide to become a restorer?
I grew up in an antique bookstore, so it all happened very naturally: I couldn’t but become a paper restorer!
Did anyone or anything influence your choice?
Working in the bookstore was very gratifying: I lived in a huge room, amidst books of all times and dimensions, and engravings by outstanding authors on the art market. I still remember those perfumes, and working with paper was the natural outcome for me. Firstly, I learned to touch paper with my eyes closed, to feel it under my fingers, and understand its century-old, frail yet resilient materiality.
How did your passion for paper start?
Since childhood I was fascinated by paper, with my mother’s collusion. She cut out pieces of paper and conjured fabulous scenarios which I still remember with great joy. In my mother’s hands, a simple sheet of paper magically became a bird, a flower, a little doll, and this is how paper “enchanted” me. Thus, my passion kept growing, encouraged by my mother’s creativity, and motivated by her magic and tricks. Later on, I spent a crucial time in the antique bookstore, in contact with books to peruse, studying watermarks, assessing dates and checking authenticity, or learning about engraving techniques and the subsequent cataloguing process.
How many and what kinds of paper are available? Is it always possible to act on them or are they subject to any restrictions?
We can catalogue this material into ancient paper and modern paper. Ancient paper was made out of linen rags and, later on, of canvas, which made them beautiful and highly time-resistant. Linen cloth was beautiful and very good quality, while cotton paper was whiter and scarcely resistant. Paper made with hemp, linen and cotton rags features long, elastic fibres which are intertwined to create a kind of persistent, tough, and wear-resistant felt. Each kind of fibre was used to attain a different kind of paper, while coloured, mixed fibres were used to manufacture less valuable paper. Towards the end of the 18th century, the discovery of chlorine paved the way to artificial bleaching for pulp, which allowed to attain white, refined paper from coloured rags. Modern paper is produced with semi-chemical or chemical paste. Before the “Paper Factor” chemical was invented, the reconstructive or integrative interventions, especially for papier-maché artworks, were created with several overlapping paper sheets. Inevitably, this technique invaded unimpaired parts of the artwork, which easily became reconstructing, against all restoration concepts.
Along with your son Riccardo Cavaciocchi you have invented an ad-hoc restoration dough. What does it consist of and what kind of innovation does it provide?
Paper Factor is the contemporary revolution in papier-maché art: it explores its expressiveness with an unprecedented language, thanks to productive technologies attentive to sustainability and energy-saving measures. From Southern Italy’s artisanal tradition to the internationally appreciated care of restorations, Paper Factor stands out among the most valuable future materials thanks to its functionality and versatility, lightness and ecological value. The impasto is worked with natural pigments, carefully hand-pressed on digitally supported moulds and slowly dried in a special drying chamber, a specifically created prototype allowing for a large-number production, while complying with craftsmanship excellence. Paper Factor’s texture encourages unprecedented creative and sensory paths, connected to visual as well as tactile aspects, exploring two- but also three-dimensional scenarios of shapes, patterns or textures. The products still feature some kind of auspicious imperfection, narrating the care of manual work in various sizes and combinations: from large panels to small modules, which can be assembled in mosaic shapes to cover vertical or horizontal surfaces, ceilings, and walls, but also furnishing components.