How did you end up in Milan?
I came to Milan in 1979 after a period in Rome, which I was fed up with after having worked there as an au pair. I liked Milan a lot. It seemed very eastern; it looked like my idea of Austria, even though it doesn’t really. Very soon I bumped into Martine Bedin, who I’d known as a very young girl in Bordeaux, and who was already in the design/architecture world. Martine invited me to this party a few days later where I got introduced to her friends, and that’s where I met George Sowden and a lot of other people I’ve been connected with since. The whole group that later would become the Memphis Collective were there, practically everybody in Milan was there. George was the one who suggested that I might think about developing textiles based on my drawings.
When you look back at the Memphis years, what did they mean to you?
All of us at Memphis wanted to see pieces of furniture being produced, so there were all sorts of furniture projects that were proposed during the year.
"In my case, Memphis was an opportunity through which I could see my pieces realised. I did not need to refrain from my dreams and could imagine mixing materials and colours, printing special textiles and limited editions of plastic laminates."
From 1981 to 1987, from the first to the last exhibition, I showed some work of mine within the Memphis group shows. It was work that was prepared individually by each of us and chosen collegially by all of us during endless and sometimes crazy meetings and after serious discussions in a trattoria. During those seven years, it was that way of designing that made me consider myself a designer. Later I realised that was not the normal way. There were never any clients in our meetings—they were never involved nor were they mentioned. I have applied the Memphis Technique—which is about not thinking about the client—to most of my collaborations, but not always successfully.
Looking at some of the textiles you designed during the Memphis years, they remind me of what you see when looking through a microscope. Does biology or nature have an impact on your work?
In some of my early patterns one could recognise some biological structures. I cannot say that biology is an influence in my work. At the beginning of the 1980s I was discovering a lot of things through my interest in design. I was looking around, following my own inclinations. I looked at what had happened at the beginning of the twentieth century in Europe, the Wiener Werkstätte, William Morris, Kolo Moser, the invention of modern shapes with the early Bauhaus, craft as technology.
How did you proceed from designing textile patterns to painting?
At the end of the 1970s, I started designing textiles a bit by chance, thanks to the advice and example of George. Soon enough, I started to make a living from them. George used some of my designs on his projects for the first Memphis exhibition. For a year I was doing design in the morning and painting in the afternoon, and then I understood that I had to decide. In 1986 I just decided to start focusing on my paintings.