Pia Puonti, warm use of color and that certain Nordic austerity

Italiano (Italian)

translation by Marina Dlacic

I met Pia several years ago, I don’t remember where or how because in reality I seem to have known her forever. It’s easy to get in tune with this lady with a strong artistic spirit, curious and calm at the same time. Her  works have rigorous forms but vibrant colors. Extremely balanced in the distinctive Nordic style even if always looking for new techniques and materials.

Pia Puonti was born in Helsinki, Finland, and grew up in a family where design, color and fabrics are of primary importance. From an early age she became familiar with weaving and tailoring. In the 60s and 70s she moved to California and was fascinated by the ancient quilts preserved and exhibited in museums. In the 1980s she lived in Australia where she worked in fashion industry. For several years now she has lived in Italy with her husband, in a small town in the foothills of the Dolomites and from traditional quilting she has moved on to the contemporary one, experimenting with new techniques, using fabrics of all kinds, fibers and colors.

With her works she has participated in competitions and exhibition obtaining awards and winning prizes of international importance.

Think green, 2018, copyright Pia Puonti

Pia, we’ve known each other for a long time and I’ve always been fascinated by your works. A different artistic formation from the Italian one is evident. How much do you think is true? How much is your style influenced by your Northern European origins?

It is difficult to say whether my training in art was different in Finland from the training that one has in Italy. I can only say that drawing and designing was held very important at my home and also at the schools I attended. I’m quite sure that the Nordic background influences one’s creative work, even though you end up living away from your roots. The North stays within you, the certain austerity, which, no doubt, is, at least partially, caused by the rather harsh climate. This touch of austerity, I think, is always somewhat present in my works. It doesn’t influence my use of color, but causes the results to appear rather linear and graphic. This is not always necessarely intentional, it’s simply something that happens. 

Citrus, 2016, copyright Pia Puonti

Quo vadis, 2017, copyright Pia Puonti

How did your passion for quilting start?

My passion for quilting started in the sixties and the seventies, when living in America, in California. I fell in love with antique quilts in museums and exhibitions. From childhood on, I have loved all forms of textile art, and fabric has always been a primary passion. Admiring the old, beautiful quilts made me want to learn to create this form of textile art. I started, without knowing what the results would be, made endless mistakes, but eventually mastered the traditional techniques.

Grasslands, 2016, copyright Pia Puonti

How was the inspiration for your quilt born?

Often it is born from a color, or a color combination which I want to deal with. My head tends to be full of immages, old and new, and I usually end up picking the one that will work, when waiting to get to sleep. First thing in the morning I draw a simple sketch of the immage I that I had thought of.  Often the end result of the quilt is just that, but not always! 

All your work is “experimental”, it seems that having achieved your goal you have to try “another”, while remaining faithful to your style. What drives you to try new techniques and materials?

I do love to experiment with different types of fabrics, various fibers, natural and synthetic. There is no limit when making an art quilt; you don’t have to think if the finished work is washable. It is fun to create different textures, different surfaces,and it’s interesting how the colors can be intensified or muted by using various transparent materials on top of fabrics.

Karelian Stones, 2017, copyright Pia Puonti

You have been to the our “Scuola Romana Quilting” several times with your courses. The generosity in sharing your experience is clear. How important is human interaction to you?

Human interaction is very important to me! I love teaching and sharing ideas about various techniques. Collective creating is fun, each person has her / his own approach to a specific project. 

Road Ahead, 2018, copyright Pia Puonti

From spring to winter, 2018, copyright Pia Puonti

You often participate in international exhibitions with collective projects. competitiveness seems not to be part of your character. What drives you to share these experiences?

No, I’m not competitious, it’s not a trait that I’d like to have in my character.  I enjoy having my quilts exhibited collectively with some other quilters, rather than having my own show. I have had the fortune of experiencing  both kinds, and I prefer to be in a group.

Pia Puonti and Anita Normani

In contrast to the previous question, you and Anita Normani often take on exciting and friendly challenges. How did this “tradition” come about?

The tradition of having an annual quilt challence with Anita Normani started ten years ago. We are now working on the eleventh edition, and we will go on! Challences are always a good stimulus, no competition involved, just fun creative work, and the surprise of seeing what the other party has done with the same materials as you..   

Autumnal Verses, 2016, copyright Pia Puonti

Chocolate Eggs, 2009, copyright Pia Puonti

Each of your works has a message to show. Is it your personal need or more a sense of civic and moral duty? Do you think you have to do your part in this company?

I guess that often there is a message in my works, a feeling of the moment in time, inserted there into fabric…  sometimes it just comes out like that. I do think that art, of any form, can be used for transmitting messagges of social awareness. I believe that art doesn’t always have to be purely “beautiful”, it can also be a way to cause you to reflect on  civic and social issues. I’m no moralist, but a strong supporter of social awareness!

Amarone o Suave, 2014, copyright Pia Puonti

Come quando piove, 2007, copyright Pia Puonti

Birches of Karelia, 2015, copyright Pia Puonti

What are the jobs you are most attached to and why?

That’s hard to answer. I have only two of my works hanging on the walls of our house, one is ” Parole delle Donne”, and the other one is “Rainforest”. They look well  where they are, the colors are right, and they don’t irritate me! 

Can you tell us about your new projects? Any new techniques or materials?

New projects? Many, but the first will be a silk fiber project, which is made using water solubile material.

Rainforest, 2012, copyright Pia Puonti

Le Parole delle Donne, 2008, copyright Pia Puonti

Emanuela D'Amico

English version Mi sono avvicinata al quilting nel 1992, da allora ho frequentato diversi corsi in Italia e negli USA per approfondire le tecniche del patchwork, passando dai disegni tradizionali o geometrici alle tecniche artistiche con cui posso esprimere la mia creatività. Insegno le tecniche base e avanzate dal 1998. Ho fondato la Scuola Romana Quilting nel 2015: e dal 2014 organizzo a Roma la mostra di ArtQuilting: ArteMorbida. A partire dal 2018, con la collaborazione di Maria Rosaria Roseo e altre colleghe/amiche abbiamo iniziato la pubblicazione di ArteMorbida Textile Arts Magazine. Oggi ArteMorbida è anche, finalmente, una rivista cartacea. Parola d’ordine: Divulgazione!