Telling stories. This is artist Sarah Espeute’s intention, and she has chosen embroidery as her means of expression. Our guest today embraces this delicate and poetic technique as a self-taught artist. A sense of freedom in learning and understanding the subject allows her to express her storytelling talents with ease. Stories that she draws from everyday life in Marseille. So many inspiring scenes captured by this native of Arles as she expresses the beauty in everyday life. Soberly entitled Œuvres Sensibles, the designer’s work dresses tables with a variety of unique pieces – tablecloths, table runners and placemats – with hand-embroidered designs. Each a little gem to be proudly displayed, and very often in monochrome. They have a “humble and timeless” aspect, for objects that can pride themselves on having been designed to “subtly coexist in an interior without taking up too much space visually”. The reflection of a strong desire for simplicity and purity, which takes shape in the apartment she shares with Lucas Marin-Matholaz in the Camas district. A designer like his partner, the founder of the motion design studio Crisscross, participates in his own way in adding to what he, also self-taught, affectionately refers to as an “unfinished work”. Marseille-born Sarah approaches their home as “a space for research and experimentation” where objects with a sentimental value and pre-loved furniture rub shoulders with her own creations. She inherited this taste for vintage and antique from her parents. Indefatigably inquisitive history buffs who accustomed her to visiting historical monuments from an early age. An education that left a strong impression on her artistic identity and that inspires her to constantly rearrange things in the rooms on this top floor with terrace. An encounter between illustrious names in the history of design and total unknowns. A playground for time shifts that is both minimalist and warm!
Sarah, Lucas, could you introduce yourselves, please?
Sarah, artist-designer and Lucas: motion designer; we’ve been together for 10 years now. We live in Marseille and have done so for two years along with three great big cats, Charlie, Romy and Sergio.
Tell us about your background.
I grew up in Provence, and when I finished my Applied Arts studies in visual communication at Olivier de Serres (ENSAAMA) in Paris – in the same school as Lucas – I established my own printing and publishing house, Riso Presto, specialising in RISO printing in Paris. I then worked with someone else for a while under the name Klima Interiors, where we explored objects and interior design illustration. I am now developing my ideas for decorative objects under the name Œuvres Sensibles.
After general scientific studies, I decided to turn to the applied arts in the digital field, and then to train as a designer multimedia editor at Gobelins where I trained in app design for web and mobile. After a few years as product manager of a startup in the finance sector, I started a motion graphics design studio with a friend crisscross.studio, for which I still work today.
Tell us how you learned to recognise beauty. How did your tastes develop?
I developed a taste for antique objects through my parents. At home, nothing was new, everything was antique, and we visited lots of historic monuments and churches. Then during my studies in Paris, I got interested in 20th-century art and design. It was at this point that my taste for beautiful things established itself. It was a whole new aesthetic dimension that opened up to me!
I guess my approach to aesthetics is guided by my scientific training, with a more marked attraction to regular forms, predictable and symmetrical compositions. But despite my “shift” to artistic studies, I still find it difficult to have a clear-cut opinion on what I define as beautiful. I usually end up deferring to Sarah’s opinion; quite often, my sensitivity to “beauty” takes a little time to develop.
Sarah, you are the founder of OEuvres Sensibles, an entity that brings together your embroidery and painting work. Where does your attraction to these particular mediums come from?
When I started to make things on my own, embroidery came to me quite naturally. As a child, I learned two embroidery stitches, which enough for me to be able to interpret my drawings on textiles. I liked the way the line was drawn and embroidered in the interior space; it made me want to explore it and be inspired to make up stories! My approach to painting is also self-taught, but in a different way; my need is deeper. Having seen several exhibitions of painters and paintings, I had a strong desire to express myself personally, find my style and define my vision. I feel a powerful desire for pure and sincere expression; I like to explore it, inspired by what I draw from within myself.
Tell us about your creative process.
Every tablecloth is a new story! I like to invent a theme for it, and I like it to echo a moment. I compose with elements of everyday life, things I find beautiful, that speak to me. If I repeat the same thing, I get bored. That’s why I now ask other embroiderers to embroider for me when it is an object to be produced in series, and I dedicate myself to unique pieces so I can continue exploring new sources of inspiration.
Monochrome and natural materials are part of your artistic signature. Can you explain these aesthetic choices?
It’s true, I’m not very attracted to bright colours in decoration. I think that the colour has to be justified, that it has to be interesting. Otherwise, I get bored. And I like the idea that each object can subtly coexist in an interior without taking up too much space visually. I like it to be humble and timeless.
What about designers and artists: whose work has influenced you and your work?
In general, the work of well-known multidisciplinary artists, like Charlotte Perriand, Eileen Gray, Valentine Schlegel, Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Isamu Noguchi and others. They have stimulated my desire for global interior design and to crossing the boundaries of several artistic fields. Recently, Mathieu Matégot’s work has attracted me a lot with his invention of “Rigitulle”, a thin sheet of metal, perforated like lace. And in painting, I am very much influenced by the work of Hans Hartung and Cy Twombly.
As a designer, what influence does your activity have on the decoration of your interior?
My home is gradually being coming together. I take the time to choose, and I try to find a balance between objects. I combine sentimental objects with many of my own creations. I see my interior as a space for research and experimentation. It’s like an unfinished work!
Your tablecloths, table runners and placemats are embellishments for the dining room. What part do the art of the table and fine dining play in your daily life?
I would say that it is the art of everyday life that interests me, and the table is one of its iconic elements! It is a living object that speaks of sharing and conviviality, and I like to show it off in a way that is simple and sincere.
What does your apartment say about you?
Lucas often says to me: “You need to stop moving the furniture around all the time!” But it’s all about finding the perfect arrangement! I like it to be functional and to feel we’re using the whole space. I like it to look sleek and uncluttered, but warm and welcoming at the same time. The furniture is all second-hand, but not from well-known designers. With the exception of my Nuova X-Line chairs by Niels Jørgen Haugesen, which I miraculously found at my hairdresser’s! On the whole, it’s more of a mix of old and new. I really like to create time shifts; it gives the place a particular atmosphere.
You live in Marseille, a Mediterranean city known for its cosmopolitan lifestyle. What do you like the most here?
The mix, the slowness, the creeks, swimming, the sunsets, the relationships with people, and our terrace!
Other any designers from Marseille – or from the surrounding area – whose work you particularly like?
I would name friends whose creativity I admire a lot: Lisa Favreau and Lisa Guedel-Dolle from the brand Azur, Léa Bigot for sculpture, Laure Amoros creator of Oros, Marie Jacotey for illustration, the designer Inès Bressand and the photographer Pierre Girardin.
Can you tell us about your favourite places here?
I really like my neighbourhood, the Camas, and the surrounding areas, Réformés, Cours
Julien, Longchamp and Noailles. There are lots of nice bars and restaurants like Limmat, Oumalala, Le Trois Quart, Les Eaux de Mars, Il Capriolo, Chez Fun Funk the Brûlerie Möka too.
Where will we find you in the months to come?
Always in Marseille! And why not in my studio. (Laughs)
I really like to create time shifts; it gives the place a particular atmosphere.
Photography: Valerio Geraci – Text: Caroline Balvay @thesocialitefamily