To us, Eva Basile is the Lady of Felt, a nickname which lets you immediately understand how good she is at felting and how deeply connected she is to this material.
Eva was born in Florence and grew up among illustrated books and artworks. She got a diploma in Visual Arts and then started a career in textile art. It is indeed true that Beauty creates Beauty, Florentine philosopher Marsilo Ficino said. With her tireless experimentation and her innate talent for textiles, Eva is a real role model in the field. She also is an excellent teacher who combines theory and practice in her classes.
Hi Eva. You are definitely a well-rounded artist. You work with weaving, felt, textile cataloguing, tablet weaving. And you are also a teacher. Out of all these expressive means, which is the do you feel is the most fitting to you, and why?
Yes, it's true, I keep busy with a lot of things! Some of these disciplines, like cataloging, have little to do with art. Others, like tablet weaving, are less immediate. They are techniques I am curious about and at which I try my hand at, without any artistic aspirations! With all of them, my personal work goes hand in hand with teaching. Felting and weaving are the means of expressions with which I create artistically. I love the former because it's versatile and it gives me the opportunity to work with the third dimension, the latter for its narrative quality.
The day you discovered felt. Can you tell us how it went?
I discovered felt a long time ago. Or rather, I discovered felted weaving, the amazing effects you can get interlacing and fulling, mixing fibers and colors. That was in the mid-80s.
My desire for those effects was unfulfilled for a long time. Ten years later, in Kiev, I saw a gallery of felt works, and when I asked where I could learn that, they told me, "In Hungary"! OK, but where???
Finally, in 2000 I found my first teacher. In the meantime, I had tried felting fabrics I had personally woven, and I had met Jorie Johnson, who had told me about local wool. Both fulled fabrics and Jorie's research on local wool lit up my curiosity. Around 2000, I was looking for a more tactile, immediate means than figured weaving. Felt came just at the right moment!
I have heard many reasons why felt-makers love for felting. Because it's eco-friendly, because it can be made without any machinery, because it is an ancient textile material that has protected Mankind and kept us warm since Prehistoric times. What's your reason?
As I was saying before, felt came into my life as I was looking a more immediate, simpler, less engineered means of expression. I had worked with and taught jacquard weaving for years. That is a technique in which you spend a lot of time designing the project, which involves a great responsibility. If you make a mistake, you throw out the work of days, which can cost a lot of money. I would draw and design textiles for fashion houses, which are companies that are always rushing and there is no room for mistakes.
Felt was mine only. It was tactile, animal. In a word, instinctive.
What's the condition of craft felting currently? And what do you expect will be its future?
Felting is not a fad. I was afraid it could be, but I see new artists, new shapes, new styles are coming up. It's an evolving technique, an artistic one. It is true that there are some repetitions, and some divas, but I think that is inevitable. Personally, I hope everyone can find their own style, and I think this will be possible once the 'forms' and the styles of felting will be at a mature, accomplished stage. In the meantime, the more things are made, the better. With a greater quantity, quality will emerge.
You live between Florence and Porchiano. What do these two towns, so different from each other, give you from a creative point of view?
Florence is the city where I always lived, in which I collaborate with Fondazione Lisio, an extraordinary place where I live and I have spend the key moments in my career. That is where my books, my computer are, and where I realized most of my works. A city, however small, is always stimulating, and everything is at your fingertips. If I need something, I know where to find it.
Porchiano is a small, quiet town, where I have a slightly bigger house and a garden, and where a live a much more laid back life. That is where I work on my personal projects, as I have time to devote to them and more room to store the materials, which inevitably tend to accumulate in the course of a creative career!
You have a chance to meet a person from the past. You can invite him or her for a snack and give him one of your pieces as a present. What kind of food would you feed him or her and what would be the present?
I would go and meet Picasso. I would like to meet the famous Spanish master, but not at the peak of his career, rather at the age of twenty. I would be twenty too and we would be in bohemian Paris, with a lot of projects in mind and broke.
What do I feed him? A bottle of red wine. And something simple to eat, something you don't need to cook: a pack of chips, some bread with salame, or a couple of apples... We are devoting all of our energies to dreaming of our future life. As my present to him, I give him a few drawings, we are still young and we are still looking for our own artistic voice. We talk, we argue, hours go by without us even realizing.
A book to recommend to someone who would like to know more about the world of textiles?
Oh, I really wouldn't know! Maybe L'essere e il tessere, the book by my friend Luciano Ghersi, published by Loggia dei Lanzi about twenty years ago? Or a whole shelf of textile art exhibitions catalogs, with all the works of the great masters and all of the artists -- more or less skillful, and more or less interesting -- who use yarns and fibers. Or, On designing as well as On weaving, by Anni Albers.
What is your favorite museum?
The Museum of San Marco in Florence, the museum that hosts the poetic simplicity of Beato Angelico. Or the Specola Museum, which is the natural history museum located in via Romana, in Florence. The Musée du Quai Branly in Parigi is also very beautiful: it is an anthropology museum where you can find objects belonging to popular culture that are truly extraordinary.
Overall, of course, the Guggenheim in New York is always a must-see: a place where the exhibition and the building form a unique whole. If I have to choose only one, I'll go for the first one I mentioned!
If you liked this interview, you may also like that with Marjolein Dallinga.