Orsola Clerici took a diploma in painting and restoration in 2002. Fascinated by the world of art and conservation, she decided to specialize in the restoration of contemporary art at Milan’s Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in 2005. In 2007, capitalizing on her training and the skills she had acquired, she and Chiara Troglio set up Pictalab, a workshop of decoration located in Milan. In 2009 Pictalab started to specialize in the production of decorations on paper, alongside the decoration of walls, favouring themes linked to nature. Thanks to her commitment, manual ability and great expertise, Orsola Clerici received the title of MAM (Maestro d’Arte e Mestiere), awarded for the third time in 2020.

Tell us your story.

I was born and raised in Milan. I’ve always had considerable manual skill and after classical secondary school I decided to devote myself to restoration. First I studied painting and restoration at the Accademia Aldo Galli in Como and then went on to take a course in the restoration of contemporary art at Brera, fundamental to deepening my knowledge of artistic techniques and materials.  After finishing the academy I immediately went down the road of decoration, which fascinated me greatly. I started to work with Alfonso Orombelli and after a few years, in 2007, I founded Pictalab with Chiara Troglio.

Has there been an event or a person that has had a particular influence on your life?

From the technical viewpoint Alfonso Orombelli taught me a lot and has greatly influenced me. Then I had the great fortune to start working with the Milanese architect Piero Castellini, who honed my feeling for colour and beauty and taught me to pay attention to details and materials.

What are the characteristics of PictaLab?

Pictalab is in a state of continual evolution, very dynamic. We work on different fronts: interventions of restoration, small projects of decoration or complex ones in which we are responsible for coordination of all the different finishes. In recent years we have also specialized in the realization of decorations on paper or on movable supports of various kinds. This allows us to work on our own premises and send what we produce anywhere. Another sector in which we are investing a great deal is that of ‘special’ finishes or techniques, such as textured materials, sheets of metal or metallic pigments and glass.

What kinds of paper do you work on?

When we use the term paper we are often referring to thin supports that can be cut and applied to the wall. We do a lot of work on a nonwoven fabric made of glass fibre that is not sensitive to damp and so does not deform when we paint on it, allowing us to deal with the problem of the joints between one sheet and the next and ensure the continuity of the designs. Other supports we use are paper made from 100% cellulose, silk and canvas. Paper remains a material we also make wide use of in various types and thicknesses (tissue, watercolour, wrapping, lining and dusting paper) for inserts, studies and sketches.

How do you go about choosing the paper and the subject with the client?

It depends on the situation: sometimes the requests are very precise, while at others all we have to work on are suggestions, which we use to come up with proposals. The context and the use made of the setting that is going to house the decoration can also be decisive and its architectural characteristics often guide our stylistic choices. Small spaces, for example, can ‘inspire’ strongly characterizing decorations, dark rooms can be enhanced by intense colours that lend them warmth. The choice of the support is always in relation to the result you want to achieve. 

How many stages of production are there? How long does it take to complete a project?

The first stage is that of design, which starts out from the indications of the client. We work with sketches, models and/or renderings. This can be followed by presenting samples of the finishes or colours. Then we move on to the organization of the work, which entails choosing the appropriate people and procedures, and finally the execution. The time all this takes varies a great deal, depending on deadlines and the type of work. Some works can be done in a few days, others take several months.

What does originality mean for you?

Original for me means different from everything that we have seen or that we are accustomed to seeing. But this does not necessarily signify that it is always beautiful or that it is an objective to be pursued at any cost.