Meet the Alumna: Francesca Colussi
6 March 2019 by Roger Tredre in Alumni Stories, Features
Textile artist Francesca Colussi, a TexSelect alumna from 2011, talks about her unusual work transforming vintage postcards with embroidery.
It’s a vintage black-and-white postcard of a country lane and a thatched cottage. But this idyllic view is bursting with embroidered colour: a pink tree, a yellow rooftop, a violet floral explosion. Something old has been transformed into something new, a vintage treasure given a thoroughly modern twist.
Idyllic Life / 2019
Francesca Colussi, who was a TexSelect designer back in 2011, is a textile artist and designer based in Llandudno, North Wales. Her inventive approach to old postcards and photographs, collected from vintage shops, has won her quite a following – and was the subject of a recent article in British Sunday newspaper The Observer.
“I can add my own storytelling to the images,” she says “It’s a conversation between yourself now – your passion for stories, for colours – and something that already existed and has a story, but has somehow lost it.”
The Maiden / 2017
She credits Instagram with turning an exploratory project into something more substantial. “Social media really helped to promote this work,” she acknowledges.
Colussi was born in Italy where she studied Modern Literature and Women’s History at university in Bologna, but since 2008 she has been living in the UK with her husband and children. “I was based initially in Derby, where I studied Textiles (Weave and Print).After I finished my textile degree and after Texprint [now TexSelect], I freelanced as a surface print and pattern designer, mostly for womenswear and home interiors. View Studio is still selling my work.”
Her experience with TexSelect is a fond memory. “It gave me such a lot of knowledge that I hadn’t picked up from my degree – and nowadays the fact I was one of the 24 selected in my year still gives me a boost of confidence.”
I will not pretend. I will not put on a smile. I will not say I’m alright for you. / 2019
She adds: “I started to embroider on vintage photos by chance: in 2015 or 2016, I spotted this little vintage and collectables shop, not far from where I live, and I was fascinated by some of the old postcards. I made three, just as a sketchbook project, and then in September 2017 I started again and never stopped.”
Colussi enjoys the process hugely. “It is a way for me to make something with my hands, in total contrast with how I used to design on Photoshop. It is a very slow craft, meticulous and time-consuming work that is a form of meditation in itself. It lets me work with thread, which I miss from my university weaving years. It alters an existing surface and creates such a rich texture and contrast with the paper. It’s both visual and tactile. Doing it on paper, rather than on fabric, comes with challenges and differences but I find it more intriguing than embroidery on fabric. The dimensions of the postcards are perfect to work with; they fit perfectly in your hands, but I have collected many interesting tiny photographs and I’d like to reprint them bigger and start working on a bigger scale. There are so many more storytelling opportunities to explore…”
“I suppose I like the idea to be in a sort of dialogue with these images from the past, bringing them back to the present, lifting a layer of dust and letting the colour through. And again, it’s in total contrast with the dynamics of the fashion industry, dynamics and processes that I’m finding increasingly unsustainable and troubling.”
A Slow Approach to Happiness / 2019
Currently, she sources photos and postcards from her original little collectible shop in Llandudno and from a monthly vintage fair in her local Council Town Hall (some of the people there know her by now and call her “the lady who stitches on paper”). She also collects from other vintage shops, as well as eBay and Etsy.
The Observer newspaper asked her whether she had discovered a forgotten romance in the messages on the back of her postcards. Alas, no. “I don’t know if it’s a British thing, but mostly they write about the weather.”
The final seal of approval? Her postcards were selected for the Royal Academy’s prestigious Summer Show in 2018 by a selection committee headed by Grayson Perry. The lady who stitches on paper has become the pride of Llandudno.
Main featured image: Yours Truly / 2019
Via Con Me (Dreaming Of You) / 2018