Interview with Laura GuildA

Laura GuildA creates her works mainly with knitting, embroidery, sewing, weaving, macramé and felting. Her works are a mirror of the contemporary society in which we live and tend to criticise consumerism, mass production and the lack of respect for the environment. Her critical cry takes shape precisely through the threads and fabrics.

Francesca Della Ventura(FDV): Dear Laura, you were born and raised between Austria and Germany, and after some experiences in Spain and Switzerland, you moved to Milan to continue your studies and work. I have a curiosity that I think may be of interest to the Italian audience of inWomen: how do you train and work as a German in Italy? What made you decide to stay permanently in Italy? What are the cultural differences that emerge in the artistic field between the two countries?

Laura Guilda (LG); I arrived in Italy by chance, after stays in Barcelona and Ticino, and I never really imagined staying so long. But it was all so automatic. Milan welcomed me so well that in the first few weeks I found an internship with a fashion designer and a room in the Navigli area and passed the entrance test at NABA in Milan (Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti). So I worked during the day and attended the evening course in Fashion- & Textile Design. Since I really enjoyed studying and had another dream in my drawer I soon decided to apply for a Master’s degree at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts to study Decoration-Visual Arts.
Contrary to strict Germany and Switzerland, I believe that art education in Italy is much freer and more playful and gives you the opportunity to be passionate and truly express yourself. Studying in Italy has awakened in me the desire to see things not from a single point of view. There is no single way to get to the result, but there are a thousand different approaches to seeing and treating a subject. It’s fine not to be precise, but it’s good to experiment and let things happen, because that’s often where the most beautiful creations come from. Obviously, this approach was not easy for me to learn at the beginning, and it is not for everyone. Coming from another culture and different educational background, sometimes you can feel lost and you have to get used to letting go, forgetting the rules and trusting your instincts and slowly finding your own way. I stayed in Italy for family reasons but also because I can’t deny that I feel really good here. Italy is a total work of art: the landscape, the language, the people, the architecture, the music, the food.
Since I have been living in Italy for more than 12 years now and have only had all my experiences in the artistic field here, I can only guess that in Germany, unlike Italy, things work differently: the art system is more institutionalised and since art is very important, the state invests in large projects. In Italy, unfortunately, despite the fact that art can be breathed every day because it is present in daily life, in culture and in history, I think it is not promoted enough. Unfortunately, creative artists and small and large companies fail because there is a lack of investment in projects to promote it. However, this encourages the emergence of small groups and organisations that have clear ideas to follow and are trying to carry out projects and survive through networking. Perhaps because of this, it is somehow easier to enter the art system.

FDV: How did your works (I am thinking especially of the sculpture-installations) come about? Where did the concept of “wearable art” come from? How did you decide to approach this kind of artistic language?

LG: I was trained as a “designer” before I studied art and this influenced me and I had to learn to see the work of art not as a project for which you first find the inspiration and then you have to research and think about its form. At Brera, I was told that my works were “very studied”, that is, aesthetically very beautiful, but did not convey a message or express my feelings very much. So I had to change my approach. Wearable art’ was the easiest way at first. My clothes from my NABA days were always more artistic than commercial. Then also at Brera I continued to experiment with the language of fashion, it was natural for me to use fabrics, fibres and threads and so I started to develop my concept of criticism of the fashion industry, against waste and for the protection of the environment. “Decorating space, in the sense of creating art that relates to space” was the guiding principle of our course. So I moved on from clothes to video sculpture and installations with objects in space using textile and recycled materials. I often use antique and everyday objects because they have a story to tell on which I intervene with different techniques. I always like to experiment and learn new things, so my works are also very different from each other.

Webstuhl, 2019, ©Eleonora Gugliotta
“Penelope”, Textile sculpture, macramé and weaving on a gold frame with recycled cotton thread
133cm x 86.5cm x 4.5cm, 2020 ©Laura GuildA
Laura Guilda realises the work “Penelope”, photo Marco Sfreddo.

FDV: Can you tell us a bit about your experience at the digital textile archive for designer and artist Paola Besana? What is a digital textile archive? What tasks does it involve? Why is it important in the field of fashion?

LG: Working with textile designer and artist Paola Besana has been a great enrichment for me. For her, as in my case, fashion and art can meet in creative expression. The boundaries disappear: a hat can be a fashion accessory and at the same time a work of art. While I was working for her, I was finishing my degree thesis ‘Modarte – fashion in art’ and she was a perfect reference example. Anyway, Paola Besana’s textile archive includes her collections: the categorisation of all the textile structures, not only from the loom, but starting with single thread structures such as knits, nets, windings, up to the most complex ones, then arriving at the different fabrics, but also at the textile objects such as baskets, then the different looms of North and South America and the different techniques such as embroidery or crocheting to arrive to fabric deying. Then she collected photos of ethnic costumes and created a private collection of textile accessories and jewellery. I helped her to photograph the different objects, number them, name them and write small descriptions and save everything in folders and sub-folders on the computer. Before I met her I had never paid so much attention to textile structures, but you can really find them in any decoration or object. You can find them in a detail of an eighteenth-century painting, on the floor of a Roman church or in a trivet at home. In the field of fashion, but also in the field of art, an archive of this kind can serve to broaden one’s knowledge, to inspire one to know what has already been done, or to get an idea for example to interpret a technique or an object in a different way.

FDV: Do you try to awaken the consciousness of observers through your works? What does it mean for you to awaken the concept of human responsibility? Which aspects of our lives and actions should we review?

LG: Perhaps I took to heart the advice I received from the viewers of my first works. I wanted my works to be more than just “beautiful” and therefore I started early on to give each work a strong message. In the sense that often before I start a new work I already know what I want to communicate. Sometimes I also develop its meaning during its creation or I get the right idea as soon as the work is finished. In everyday life it is often difficult for me to express my true thoughts with words alone, and since I am a visual person I really like the fact that art can communicate and can become a means of expression for me. I try to awaken the consciousness of viewers to current issues by seeing one of my works. We often know things but we try to avoid thinking about them out of convenience or fear of dealing with complex issues. If a work of mine touches people deeply and makes them rethink certain behaviours or aspects of their life and even manages to change their habits, I would be very happy. It’s not easy, but I try to make it my mission. If I have not made myself clear, I will try with a simple example: These days I am very sad to see that with the pandemic, restaurateurs can no longer do their work and have to keep their bars and restaurants closed, so I am thinking of a work dedicated to them. If a person sees this work of mine, they might think more about it, and if they then think about how they can support their work by helping them order a takeaway dinner or going back there for lunch as soon as it reopens, I have succeeded in motivating them to act.

Francesca Della Ventura
Francesca Della Ventura

Francesca Della Ventura is a journalist, curator and contemporary art critic, as well as founder and director of inWomen.Gallery.