“Everything from the materials, to production processes to everyday personal and future business decisions will reflect my aim to tread as softly as possible on earth,” Petra Palumbo is serious about her commitment to sustainability. With a new home wear accessory company, Petra Palumbo Ltd, underway, she’s putting her passion and training to good use. “It started when I did a one-year really intense MA degree at Chelsea College of Arts in Sustainable textiles, specialising in print design last year. Having worked at large, established fashion houses I realised that their supply chains were too convoluted, it would be incredibly difficult to reverse back out of them to become more sustainable. It’s so much easier to have sustainability at the core of your practice and brand when you start out.” And the work she did on her MA was truly impressive.
It’s amazing to see Palumbo really commit to her sustainability efforts— an area where so many people just pay lip service. She’s not afraid to fully embrace her ethics, even if that means making things more challenging. But it’s a challenge she is definitely up to.
And it’s not the only impressive thing about her. Sure, she travels the world, works as a model (catch her in a recent Ellie Saab advert), and has an Instagram page that will make you drool with envy. But what really makes her stand out is that she isn’t shy about channeling her emotions through her artwork. “Generally speaking, I find abstract design and compositions more exciting than work that is purely representational and illustrative,” she explains. “To me, mark making is a very liberating experience; my aim is to try to capture conscious yet spontaneous marks and textures that are either loose and gestural or controlled and neat. It’s an exercise of slowing down and reflecting more. Mark making allows me to express my feelings and emotions in response to something I’ve seen or felt.”
Though the process itself can be painstaking, experimentation is an important part of making art. “Trying to reproduce gestural design through a screen and onto fabric is a challenge because more often than not, the mark will look great on paper but won’t translate onto the material. It’s all about experimenting, being patient and open-minded.”
Embarking on your own business— especially an artistic one— is no easy feat, but the Palumbo shows that benefit of knowing yourself and being true to your own working style. “The key for me is to not work at home – if I’m home, I get distracted,” she says. “I also am really organised which helps, I write a large work plan for each day of each month and stick it on the wall above my desk.”
And though it’s important to stay organized, she emphasizes that you shouldn’t be afraid to tackle all your passions and dreams— even if that means juggling a few projects at once. “My Mum has always said to me ‘never spread yourself too thin, focus on one thing and do it properly’ but like her, I’m keen to do lots of different things at the same time, proving that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” she says. “But I believe that thanks to the advancement of technology and globalisation it’s easier than ever to wear lots of different hats.”
“Be brave and give it a go. If you don’t try, you’ll never know.”
“I’m a strong believer in trusting one’s intuition too. My work and sustainable motives were criticised lots during my MA degree by my peers and tutors in particular and I welcomed it. I’m very critical of my own work and I always appreciate constructive criticism and feedback from others, especially those who may have a different angle on matters or more experience than I do. My husband is also a very good at giving me criticism; he’s incredibly honest yet rational.”
Looking To The Future
So what can we expect from Palumbo in the future? “I have set up my business, Petra Palumbo Ltd – a sustainable, made in the UK homeware accessories brand that inspires through pattern and print,” she says. And it’s coming soon. “I am planning on launching it sometime in the early spring; in the meantime I’m working on perfecting my products and prints.
But it’s not just about the next launch— she’s thinking big picture. “My long-term goal is to set up a sustainable, fully compliant print studio in the Highlands of Scotland, tackling youth unemployment in Inverness – encouraging people to learn the art of screen-printing and building their careers at the studio,” she explains. ” My aim is for my business to be as plastic and waste free as possible from the get-go. I’d also really like to get involved with plastic charities, raising awareness on the damaging effects single use plastic has on the environment and in particular the oceans.”
“My perfect Saturday? A lie in with no alarm, a bath, a long walk in the park with our dogs, reflexology, home-cooked food, seeing my parents, siblings and friends, going to the theatre or visiting an exhibition, catching up on admin… It really depends on my mood and the weather.”
There’s obviously a lot more coming from Palumbo, so make sure to keep an eye out for her debut company. In the meantime, her Instagram page will let you see the artist at work. She’s an inspiration for any 21st century woman looking to branch out and invest herself in what she loves. And when there’s passion and spirit in the process, it shows in the creation.