In this article we bring you the next of our Member Spotlight series and today, we’re catching up with Fed Community member, Paola De Giovanni. Part of the Association of Photographers, with experience working in the National Portrait Gallery and studies in art and design where “the V&A archives were [her] second home”, creativity comes second nature. We talk art as healer, the power of self care, the ancient technique of marbling and going down the “creative rabbit hole”.
Fed: So, tell us a bit about what you do…
Paola: I am a mixed media artist, textile designer and graduate of the London College of Fashion MA-Fashion Studies. Now, under the label Meanmagenta Photography I create limited editions of marbling ink prints, mixed media artwork, limited editions of fine art photo prints in both monochrome and colour, architectural details and flower photography with a twist. My artwork is available as limited editions of matt prints, in various formats and they all have a Certificate of Authenticity. I print each artwork on matt Hahnemuhle paper and use archival inks to guarantee colour fastness.
Fed: What does a typical day in the life of Paola Di Giovanni look like?
Paola: Without feeling guilty as I used to, I’m very disciplined in making sure I have 60 minutes for self care. I spend an hour meditating, journaling, breathing exercises, a bit of yoga and cooking healthy food for lunch and my evening meal. Then I spend most mornings promoting my creative business, interacting with potential clients, check how my social media profiles are performing, allocate an hour to e-learning like webinars or podcasts about selling, marketing, or branding – topics I am truly passionate about. I update my website, blog and post new products, create images by copying and pasting my art to mock-up products so that customers can see how my art prints and home decor accessories look in a stylish interior decor setting.
Most afternoons I create products and art online and then I literally drag myself away from the computer so that I can create art ‘offline’. Even though it’s a positive and rewarding reality, sometimes you just need to switch off and escape and be somewhere else with your mind. I am so passionate about my creative business and determined to turn it into a renowned and profitable brand that most days I know what time I start to work and carry on until I feel I want to crash into bed, which is usually when I realise that I can’t think straight!
Jokes aside, I spend my evenings relaxing by crocheting very long scarves while I listen to audiobooks – I love Greek mythology, vintage radio drama and detective stories – catch up with friends, tidy up my studio and go through my evening self care routine. That keeps me grounded and focused.
Fed: Where did your fascination for marbling and quilting come from?
Paola: Marbling is a very recent discovery – literally towards the beginning of lockdown – and a kind of ‘love at first try’ because I wanted to do something new and unrelated to my design and photography. I watched a couple of YouTube videos during lockdown, got the inks, tried and literally took to this medium as the proverbial duck takes to water and the rest is history! It is a versatile, liberating and beautiful technique – to me it is a kind of active meditation and like photography, it keeps me focused and sane during these challenging times.
Quilting, just like sewing, is quite probably a genetic inheritance. My fabulous mum is a fantastic, skilled dressmaker and she has taught me all she knows about fabric, pattern cutting, garment construction and even though it sounds like a cliche, I really grew up surrounded by textiles, sewing machines, dressmaker’s dummy. I love it – especially these days when there’s such a big trend for ‘make do and mend’ and repurposing. I’ve always loved vintage and upcycling in a creative way and people are discovering the beauty of transforming garments.
Fed: How do you marry traditional techniques with modern design?
Paola: I do like experimenting and try mixing and matching various techniques but I mainly create 2D artwork by using painting techniques – like watercolour, acrylic and marbling – either one medium at the time or combining marbling and acrylic. Then I scan the artwork and I digitally put it into symmetrical, seamless repeats and I often create various chromatic versions to create more options in terms of colour range. That’s the beauty of contemporary software – you can scan it, change the colourways, blend it, isolate details… so it becomes a mixed media. It’s like going down the creative rabbit hole and the problem with me is knowing when to stop!
Fed: Tell us about your time training as a photographer in Florence… that must have been incredible!
Paola: It was an epic time! I felt live and inspired. Yes, the gap year I spent living and studying in Florence was definitely a memorable experience. I threw myself into learning about analogue and digital photography and I loved being surrounded by art and architectural heritage. Inspiration was literally everywhere! I enjoyed the magic of working in the dark room and seeing the image forming onto the paper and I loved the freedom that digital photography still gives me.
During my training the teacher assigned me various assignments and over the duration of the course I assembled a good body of work about architecture, environmental portraiture and street photography. I have taken many creative tangents but photography is my first love. I always come back to this medium. Photography a great source of inspiration and I can integrate it with other art techniques, both traditional and digital.
Fed: Your Instagram bio says you create “flower photography with a twist” – what would you say is your signature style?
Paola: Well that’s my approach to photography in general; I always like to look at things from a different, unusual point of view. I like to create abstractions and flowers are the perfect subject. I like to observe and capture the details in flowers in my photography from different angles and go beyond the mere realistic representation of them. The point of view, light, composition and setting are crucial to creating a unique photograph. It comes with practice – you develop your own style and your own practice. It’s about experimenting and taking the time to observe. Sometimes I end up in very contorted positions to get those peculiar angles – it’s good exercise, like a form of yoga!
Fed: What would your dream commission or brief be?
Paola: Since I am still very much obsessed with marbling and can see the potential for window displays, I would like to wrap and cover the exterior of the Selfridges building with my marbling prints. Sounds crazy but my life coach advised me to think ‘big’ and outrageous and off-the-scale, and I guess this is pretty big! Having said that, I have so many dreams and ideas: I am truly passionate about nature and animal welfare and preservation. I’ve been brainstorming about how my creativity could be of some help as I often fear that what I do and create doesn’t make a significant difference or impact.
Fed: What do you love most about being a Creative Industries Federation member?
Paola: It was the kind of platform I was after because I was starting to feel a bit too isolated and I wanted to interact with fellow creatives. Quite by chance I stumbled across Creative Industries Federation and I though ‘that’s what I’m after’ so I immediately applied. I love the regular news and updates of opportunities, and I feel that I’m connected with people who share my values. It’s a supportive, empowering, creative community where I feel that I am safe, can ask for advice, share my knowledge, learn about opportunities and have a genuine sense that I am connected and together in all this to support each other and come out of this crisis as better people and creatives.
Being in this community, I feel that there really are other people out there going through the same challenges and together we are stronger. I love how all the members chip in from such a variety of creative profiles, from screenwriters to photographers. I’m more than happy to do my bit to cheer on other creatives and share my knowledge and this is the perfect place to do this. I already told all my creative friends about it!
Fed: Finally – do you have any advice for other creators navigating the ongoing pandemic crisis at the moment?
Paola: Make time for self care, don’t be hard on yourself, keep a written record of what you have achieved so far, add the small and big wins during the lockdown, don’t judge yourself, do ask for help if you need it, make sure you spend at least an hour a day doing something that makes your heart sing. It’s so important to take care of yourself as a person and do something completely unrelated to the creative practice to give your brain and body the break that they need.
If you’d like to check out Paola’s fascinating work, or speak to her about bespoke orders or commissions, head over to her website.
To find out more about our Community membership, speak to our Memberships team today.