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Séverine Gallardo: Creating as an Adventure

Séverine Gallardo's Friday Feature Artist Interview can be found at the bottom of this page.

For textile artist Séverine Gallardo, the process of creating embroidered wearable sculptures is an adventure. 

From her home in Angoulême, France, Séverine uses her needle to travel to far and distant places inspired by architecture, churches and cathedrals, history, textiles and cultures from the past. 

Her unique headdresses are modern interpretations of all she has discovered. Séverine loves to collect her materials by visiting flea markets or searching online for textiles, beads and fragments to repurpose in wondrous ways. These striking structures, with their landscapes, faces, patterns and charming motifs are full of intrigue, from how they came to be and from where. They are colourful and tactile, accomplished, yet joyful. 

Rainy Day Beginnings

Séverine’s art journey began when she was 11 years old. She was with her grandparents on vacation, on a rainy day. “I was bored and didn't know what to do. And my grandmother taught me to crochet. She went to the closet and came back with a box full of yarn. And she said, ‘I'm going to teach you how to crochet’. I loved it. I loved the repetitive gestures, I loved the material. And I loved to spend special time with my grandmother, and work together. Everything began at this time.”

Even though Séverine’s first attempt was “nothing special”, this was the beginning of a lifetime of works, from making small things to creating sculptures and incredible headdresses. 

“I started with African masks,” says Séverine. “Because I love African culture and I wanted to try to build an African mask with knitting and yarn. Each mask allowed me to try something new with yarn and then slowly, my work became more sculptural and architectural.”

Like many artists, Séverine also has a day job, which facilitates time for her creative work. “I am a publisher so I work a lot with images and illustrations,” she says. “I am also a teacher at Ecole D’Art, which is open to anybody who wants to make art. I have a special textile arts lesson which I really love because I love to talk with people.”

When Séverine’s daily work is done, she transitions from teacher to artist. When most people are sitting on the couch watching a film, Séverine keeps her hands busy, launching into her intricate and incredible works. 

Séverine Gallardo artwork

Developing Her Creations

As she works, Séverine starts with a simple concept, adding elements as a new piece comes together. “I don’t always have a precise idea of what I will do,” she says of her creations, which all evolve from experimentation. “However, I enjoy faces and architecture.”

Séverine applies a range of techniques, using felt, beads, crochet and embroidery until a piece becomes a sculpture, many of which are wearable but still stand as beautiful works of art on their own. “What you see on the top is the beginning, then it all comes together, which is very exciting,” she adds. “I don’t work with ‘flat’ materials… I build like an architect, giving it shape then starting the embroidery.”

The elements of Séverine’s sculptures take inspiration from different places, including where she lives in a small mediaeval town in France near the ocean. “I love to draw and I spend a lot of time drawing,” says Séverine when discussing her inspiration and process. “I use my sketchbook as inspiration for my embroidery. A lot of my drawings are mediaeval, or they come from China or Italy, but I take a lot of inspiration from different places.”

Séverine explores museums and searches the internet before imagining how she can do things her own way. Her bright, often fluorescent colour palette is inspired by other artists she loves. “I start with one colour then discover how I will add other colours and put it together.” 

In terms of materials, Séverine finds fabric and other materials to use everywhere. “I love to be surprised. I go to a flea market, where I find amazing things. For example, I found some python leather at a market last week and I am already starting to use it on my next headdress.” 

To showcase her incredible works, Séverine uses models in a creative way, even featuring her father in the photography. 

Séverine Gallardo artwork

Two Steps Forward, Two Steps Back

With a predilection for fours comes, unsurprisingly, a tendency to work with squares. “I came to the squares, probably about four years into my practice,” Stephanie says. “And then I probably added a series about every two or three years. So, probably by the time I had been working for 10 years, I had my various letters of my alphabet. But I got better at using them with time. Some people change a lot. I kind of consolidate and galvanise. I think that's important because everybody makes work, and I think the best work is when it's uniquely attributed to the maker because of who they are. I respect other makers for that.” 

Other than becoming a mark of Stephanie’s personal style, squares also have social and cultural connotations. “I think a really interesting thing about the brain is that when they look at my work, because of that, squareness. We're taught to read squares, our screens are squares, often our information as human beings is presented in a square. So I think, for ceramics, to be square is an interesting thing. Although there's a big tile history, a lot of our things are three-dimensional and based on a circular or concentric kind of patenting. So to see my work as a square telling a story is relating to a whole lot of different contexts in cultural documentation.”

Séverine Gallardo artwork

Staying Creative

When it comes to artists wanting to be more creative but wondering about ensuring a piece has commercial or exhibition appeal, Séverine has this advice:

“When I start a project, I never think about whether it will be exhibited or sold. I do it for myself and for the joy that it brings to me. This pleasure is the most important thing; don’t lose the joy you have when you do something you love. You have the freedom to choose the colours and materials that you want. Then, if people are interested in your work, this is a gift.”


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