Working with Decorative Artists in the Modern World

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  • January 30, 2020

More and more people are rejecting mass production and looking instead to modern artisanal craft and designs that are steeped in history. This steady revival rests on the experienced, educated shoulders of craftspeople who are skilled in techniques and traditions of the past.

This month we’re exploring how interior designers can work with decorative artists to create timeless contemporary spaces. Have a read and get in touch if you want more information on how you could work with us.

Pigmentti demo at David Collins Studio

The importance of working with decorative artists today

Some of the most universally important things an established decorative artist can bring to a project are their depth of knowledge and range of skills. Whether it’s the mastery of trompe l’oeil painting or the intricacies of sculpting bas-relief, these artisans have years of training and experience behind them.

Many have also worked alongside generations of fellow experts. Here at Pigmentti, Paolo started out in artistic decoration at 14 and spent 20 years working with three generations of the acclaimed Verenini family, while Noel pivoted from mechanical design engineering to artistic decoration in 2003, so brings a raft of technical knowledge to his craft.

decorative-artists-ceiling-decoration-bassano-del grappa-pigmentti

Painted decoration project in Bassano del Grappa, Italy


Early photos of Paolo Bello – Pigmentti

Commissioning a decorative artist also offers a rare chance to create something entirely unique. An original and imaginative understanding of space and objects allows the artist to come up with design ideas that may never have crossed your mind. They’re experts in thinking up exciting new designs that reimagine centuries-old techniques for period and contemporary projects alike.

At the same time, the most experienced decorative artists will value their client’s perspective and take an open-minded, collaborative approach to creating – or working with – a design. Another factor often overlooked is the huge variety of decorative artists across the world. Noel and Paolo divide their time between Ireland and Italy, and their 50 years’ combined experience has seen them develop enduring relationships with a network of international creatives. 


Pigmentti in Bassano del Grappa

How interior designers can work with decorative artists

The process of working with a decorative artist can be as hands-on or hands-off as you want it to be. If you know exactly the kind of aesthetic you hope to achieve, the artist can work to your designs and turn them into reality. If you’re intrigued by the use of traditional techniques but don’t know where to start, decorative artists can conceptualise and create a design from scratch. In a previous post we shared bas-relief ideas for luxury interiors, for example, so it’s worth having a look through the blog to gather initial inspiration. 


Bas-relief Panel Collection by Pigmentti

Somewhere in the middle lies a collaborative approach in which the decorative artist and interior designer work together using both parties’ expertise. This tends to be a smooth process as the artist and designer “speak the same artistic language”, and can easily relate to each other. On rare occasions, decorative artists are brought in to help resolve problems that interior designers are having with specific aspects of a project. Whichever the level of involvement, discussions can take place via video chat, email and shared screens, to allow for international and domestic collaborations. 

Pigmentti with These White Walls Studio

From start to finish, the process might look something like this: the interior designer contacts the decorative artist and sends across project drawings, photos, and any fledgling ideas they have. It’s worth noting that the best results are usually achieved when the designer engages with the artist well before the project commences, to give ample time for design development. Together they would then discuss the initial concept and the decorative artist would send digital images to support a requested sample. 

Samples are the simplest way for a designer to visualise how decorative art could work in their project. Having agreed on an estimate, the decorative artists develop the design and finalise the samples before executing the project.


Pigmentti showing samples at David Collins Studio

There’s also plenty of scope for interior designers and decorative artists to develop a mutual understanding and respect of each others’ work. Studio demonstrations and presentations to interior designers present a chance for both sides to share knowledge and ask questions. 

Pigmentti creative process

Here at Pigmentti, the first (and usually most important) part of working with a designer is to develop a clear, rounded knowledge of the project, its decoration and design, and the extent of the designer’s knowledge. Once we’re clued up, we use basic drawing and modelling skills to develop the design, continuously referring back to physical and online libraries to cross-check our ideas with traditional technicalities. Next up is one of our favourite parts of design development: realising the sketch in watercolour or clay sculpture, to give everyone the chance to understand the play of colour and light. 


Pigmentti at the Solagna studio

Depending on the project, a scaled sample or model is then created to present to the client for sign off. For a closer look at how we work in the studio, have a read of our ‘A Look Inside the Studio of a Decorative Artist’ blog post. After the studio work is complete, we finally start work on the real thing. 

The materials

We wax lyrical about materials because having a deep understanding of the medium used to bring designs to life is as important as skill and technique. Most of the projects we work on involve pushing boundaries, which only happens when you know your materials inside-out. Interestingly, we’ve also noticed with the resurgence of artisanal craft comes a shift in perspective around materials and their usability. Ancient materials like gyps scagliola and marmorino – used by Pigmentti in bas-relief work – were once viewed as signifiers of tradition, but they’re increasingly used in union with contemporary materials to create designs that defy labels.


Noel working on a modern relief sculpture

Sourcing the finest quality materials is, of course, incredibly important. At Pigmentti we’ve used the same handful of valued producers for years, and so have developed strong relationships with them. We know our stuff when it comes to materials, but these are the people who introduce us to new materials and help to resolve our issues. The relationship works both ways: it’s just as vital for the producers to understand how their materials are used by their customers, like us, so they can refine and upgrade them over time. 


Moodboard by Bergman Interiors using Pigmentti relief sample

We’re constantly looking for new ways to marry our skills as decorative artists with ancient and contemporary materials – and to introduce them to the modern world in unexpected ways. Having close ties with the industry makes this much simpler. 

As we mentioned further up in this post, requesting a sample is one of the simplest ways to see for yourself how decorative art could work in your project. And if you’ve decided on working with a decorative artist, or you’d just like to find out a bit more about the possibilities, please feel free to contact us for a chat.

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