Making something from papier mache is pretty much a creative right of passage every child goes through, wouldn’t you agree? It’s fun, it’s messy and the end result can turn out pretty good if you set your mind to it.
But did anything you make turn out as beautiful and delicate as designer Maria Fiter’s lights? Certainly mine didn’t. While Maria has tried many different things in her life – from art graduate, clerk, carousel operator, bar tender – she certainly didn’t expect papier mache to become her creative passion or her career of choice. Recycling and upcycling are her friends and, so it seems, is the solar system …
Please introduce yourself – what’s your background and how have you ended up where you are today?
I was studying art history in Poland and in Italy. I chose this kind of study because I always liked art: painting, architecture and most of all sculpture. At the end of my studies I noticed that pure theory was not enough for me but I didn’t know what exactly made me happy. I tried to do many things in my life. I was working in a bar, as a clerk, art critique, carousel operator and finally after a few years of searching I understood. I always liked to draw, to design something – a bag, wallet, bracelet, cushion etc. In general, I liked to work with my own hands because it was a lot of fun – to create an object (sometimes pretty but sometimes not) which I could use afterwards. This passion or hobby has now become my full-time job.
Pluto Paper Pulp Pendant
Can you share a bit about the creative process, what you make and the materials you use?
I create eco-friendly lighting made mostly with paper-mache and wood; I also make furniture by recycling old furniture. To create paper pulp lamps I use only old newspapers – this way they are 100 per cent recycled. In some of my lamps I use wood – the leftovers from the carpenters’ workshop. In my wooden products I use only water-based varnish and beeswax finish.
I love how your pulp paper pendants have stories behind their design – tell us more about them.
Each paper pulp lamp is different – it is not possible to make two exactly the same. I make each of them by myself and each has its own story – their stories talk about my inspirations to create them, like the series of lamps called “Copernicus” where the inspiration for all of the lamps comes from the planets of the solar system like: Luna, Jupiter, Pluto, Globe. Sometimes the inspiration comes from the text of books or poems like in the “Drop” lamp where the source of inspiration was a poem by Alan Sorrenti called “Aria”. Also art is a great source of inspiration for me. The structure of lamps – grey, porous, irregular, dry and cracked – was inspired by the paintings of Polish artist group Grupa Nowohucka.
Where do you source your materials from?
In my lamps I use old newspapers – my friends and family are my suppliers. Old furniture I usually buy at flea markets or in a second hand shops.
Tell us about the importance of upcycling and sustainability in your work, work practices and home life?
Sustainable design for me means an object projected in an ethical way that impacts the environment minimally. Designing an item means creating a story that speaks through the object – its environmental friendly material, its form and shape. It is like giving a bit of soul to the object. We can call it emotionally durable design – where a kind of connection between the object and a consumer is created and in this way the consumption is reduced as is the waste of resources. Sustainable design for me is also a design that reuses, recycles ready-made products and gives them a second life. I apply these rules in my work.
At home I am a conscious consumer – or at least I try to be one – by buying less but of good quality and things that are made in an ethical way. When it comes to food, I always find out where it was made and when I have a choice I buy products made near the place where I live. I buy in small shops that belong to local companies rather than in big shopping malls.
What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on a new series of lamps made from paper mache and Iroko wood – this is a very strong, tropical kind of wood. The series will include a table lamp, floor lamp and a bracket lamp.
What do you do or where do you go for inspiration?
There is no such a place. The inspiration comes to me unexpectedly and in strange situations. I always try to have a pen and sketchbook with me to draw my ideas.
My guilty pleasure is …
I love Italian cuisine, especially sweets. My boyfriend is Sicilian and every time we go to Sicily I come back 2/3 kg heavier. Fortunately there is an Italian bar in Valencia which serves my favorite sweets called cannolo, a crunchy cake filled with ricotta cheese.
The best thing about living in Valencia, Spain is …
The hot weather and 300 days of sun during the year. For someone who has been living almost their entire life in Poland where there is much, much less sun, this is just great. And the sea and the seafood, of course.
Have you ever had a ‘who’d have thought’ moment?
Yes, when I started to work in a carpenter’s workshop. Until then I had never used any kind of mechanical saw. I was very afraid of them and everybody knew about it. I would not have thought that I would ever use a piece of equipment like that.