Interview : 1

Grant Gibson [GG]: How has the pandemic effected your practice?

Arianna Lelli Mami / Studiopepe [ALM]: We wanted to see the pandemic as a chance to re-think our way of working together. It has been a very challenging time but, by the same token, we have learned things about ourselves. Strangely it has been quite a creative period.

Chiara Di Pinto / Studiopepe [CDP]: It was a period of transformation I think.

ALM: It has been interesting to be able to slow down and have time to read, to sketch and to think. So it has been a rare opportunity.

CDP: That said, we shouldn’t forget that it has been a tragedy. We’ve been lucky to spend six weeks in this way.

GG: What initially interested you in Connected?

CDP: Our approach in the studio starts with the concept. We liked the fact that the idea for the project came out of this extraordinary period. We were excited about the theme.

ALM: Before thinking about forms and shapes we started thinking about the story behind the piece, which allowed us to do lots of research. It was a really interesting opportunity.

“Before thinking about forms and shapes we started thinking about the story behind the piece …”

GG: What do you love about timber as a material?

ALM: We like its honesty. We love natural materials. Wood is interesting because you can paint it, you can engrave it, or create inlays. You can do a lot of things with wood. It’s a very strong material, it’s very tactile, it has an inner beauty. It is what it is and it’s beautiful.

GG: And what can we expect from you?

CDP: Hmmmmm! That’s our secret! We started with something simple but which, for us, has a very strong meaning. It’s about the fact that we were both in our own houses. We both listened to a lot of music and there’s a song, entitled Pink Moon by Nick Drake, that we both like very much. We both heard it on a number of occasions but we’d never investigated its meaning. A Pink Moon appears in April and is named after pink flowers called wild ground phlox, which bloom in early spring and appear throughout the United States and Canada. It indicates a time of new growth.

ALM: It was perfect for this period. We saw it as a sign. Its meaning is beautiful for these times of change. After a crisis there will be a re-birth.

GG: What is it that you both like about Nick Drake?

CDP: It’s a combination of his voice and the melodies. They are just so moving. He has become more famous after his death.

ALM: He’s a contemporary poet in our opinion, like Bob Dylan.

GG: How has his song been translated into your design?

ALM: It turned into an organic form. The table is an abstract shape of a pair of mountains and the chair becomes a rising moon. We want to create a landscape. We want to give the idea of something very natural which is where the wood comes in – it’s the ideal material for this project.

CDP: Over the course of the lockdown we really felt the lack of nature. One of my favourite places is a mountain range a couple of hours from Milan, where I sometimes go trekking. When you see the moon rising from the mountains, it is something that is ancient and slightly mysterious. That is something we wanted to capture.

GG: Did the timbers you’ve been asked to use – American red oak, maple and cherry – have any effect on what you’re designing?

CDP: Sure the idea came when we got the samples, you could smell the timber and understand the character of the woods. This period has only heightened our respect for nature and trees.

ALM: There’s a message attached to our piece too because we’re also keen to draw attention to the importance of our environment. If we don’t start taking action now we will lose it.

“This period has only heightened our respect for nature and trees.”

GG: Is working digitally with the manufacturer, Benchmark, throwing up any challenges?

CDP: It’s quite unusual. Normally we’d go to the workshop to see samples and things like that.

ALM: Now it’s a different way but, at the same time, when people are good at their job – which Benchmark undoubtedly is – it’s easier to communicate. They understand immediately what we are going to say.

CDP: I think at the moment it’s going very well.

GG: I’m always interested in partnerships. How do you work together and what do you both bring to the studio?

ALM: I would say our relationship is very fluid. We don’t have any particular roles – it isn’t a question, for instance, of one being more creative and the other more marketing orientated. Our ideas are generated by the conversations we have the whole time.

CDP: We’ve known each other a long time, we’ve shared lots of travel together. Sometimes it’s very weird because I think of something and she’s thinking the same thing.

ALM: We are in tune! One plus one makes more than two in our case.