For over twenty years Elena Palossi, decorator and set designer, has been the proprietor of the Milanese studio LargheVedute, a well-established enterprise in the city, recognized for the design and realization of customized works and bespoke products. Each project is the fruit of a passionate work of creative research and study that leads to a contemporary, evocative and poetic end product, always strictly crafted by hand.
Tell us your story.
As a little girl, I had great fun in the workshop of my grandfather, who was a goldsmith, trying to copy his gestures as I crudely modelled pieces of brass on the workbench next to him. Those childhood memories are still a point of reference for me today: I had been able to grasp how much value there was in his work and how much passion and know-how was concealed behind the making of every object.
I had sensed what was later to become clear: manual work involves a lot of effort and commitment, but it also offers profound intellectual gratification.
I had always wanted to draw and when, after the Academy of Fine Arts, I was given the chance to be the assistant to the director of staging at the Teatro alla Scala, I had attained my goal: entering the most important craft and artistic workshop in the world. I was fortunate to have a great teacher, the set designer Giorgio Cristini, and for over twenty years I have been putting his teachings to good use every day. In 1992 I went into artistic partnership with Paolo Larici, the craftsman and painter-set designer with whom I set up the LargheVedute studio.
I had attained my goal: entering the most important craft and artistic workshop in the world.
As a little girl, I had great fun in the workshop of my grandfather, who was a goldsmith, trying to copy his gestures as I crudely modelled pieces of brass on the workbench next to him.
How did you come to decoration?
The professional experience I gained in the years of working with the set designer Giorgio Cristini had given me the opportunity to design the decorations for the stores of the Versace fashion house (Atelier Versace, Versus, Istante, etc.). Paolo, on the other hand, had years of experience in stage design, painting backdrops for the theatre. The combination of our skills earned us the commission for part of the interior decoration of Gianni Versace’s Casa Casuarina in Miami. Out of this experience came a collaboration that led to the realization of important interventions of decoration in his houses and in the homes of other prestigious clients.
What materials do you use in the execution of your works?
We use pigments (mineral and vegetable) and natural pastes (vegetable, animal or made from cellulose) or synthetic glues, depending on the result we are trying to obtain. In some cases we also use acrylic paints or temperas, rarely oils. The choice of materials changes each time as it depends on the technique required by the end product. The various techniques often overlap. Experimenting with this is intriguing and stimulating: wood, canvas and other fabrics, and then natural colours, earths, pigments, egg and milk binders... Mixing and testing, always in search of a unique and surprising result.
What are the stages in the execution of a work?
The first stage is that of design, which takes the form of sketches in pencil and the production of one or more studies to scale in colour. Sometimes, when the project is very extensive and complex, we also make models out of cardboard to check the validity of our idea.
The second stage is that of execution, which passes from the preparation of the support to the creation of the palette and finally the act of painting proper. Each wallpaper is made exclusively by hand at every stage: hands that work, draw and paint meticulously, hands that sketch and put the finishing touches driven by passion and a profound understanding of the material, with the elegant sensitivity typical of high craftsmanship. The most fascinating phase in the process is undoubtedly the one in which dreams take form and the creative act leaves an indelible mark on the paper. Every thought and every action are constantly in pursuit of excellence and perfection, taking care over the smallest detail in order to interpret and convey the deep essence of the design.
How is the choice of a subject, of the scale of a work, made with the client?
Up until a few years ago we did works entirely to commission, while never negating ourselves, going against our taste, our ideas, our passions and our mode of painting.
In recent years we have created collections that we adapt and tailor to the spaces of our clients. The customization concerns measurements, colours and at times even variations of design that we consider necessary in order for it to be evident that the work was done precisely for that space and could not be located anywhere else.
Is there a work or project to which you feel particularly attached?
During Design Week 2019 we took part in the “Living Object” event organized by TED Milano and Artemest by presenting a new product: Jungle Green Mixedmade Wallpaper, a new idea based on a completely original hand-painted subject. It is a digital wallpaper design but one that has been repainted by hand. In this design tradition and technological innovation are intertwined and support one another, each putting in its own added value. The digital medium permits speed of execution and an innovative support that is PVC free, environmentally friendly, fireproof and velvety to the touch; the manual aspect, on the other hand, is what makes possible the uniqueness and exclusivity of the
product, the customization and the variations on the theme, bestowing on the product the artistic value of the handmade.
A bizarre commission?
The most eccentric things we’ve done were for Gianni Versace. At times his requests seemed so absurd that we didn’t believe in the end result and every time it turned out the same way: with the realization that his vision broke the mould, that it was brilliant, innovative and unique, like the time we made about 30 panels on paper in an 18th-century taste (fruit, butterflies and dragonflies, birds and rocks, flowers and shells) to be inserted into the divisions of the Empire-style cabinets of his bathroom in Villa Fontanelle at Moltrasio (Como).
What does it mean for you to be a MAM-Maestro d’Arte e Mestiere?
It means having received, after thirty years of work, a mark of appreciation that is of enormous value. We feel understood and supported and are infinitely proud of our work, of having been included in such a prestigious selection. This recognition makes us proud to be Italian and conscious of the great artistic heritage that has been handed down to us.