Atelier Des Pampilles: Discovering, Transforming, Narrating a Dream
Two different paths of life, one in Architecture, the other in Communication, then, at some point, a new itinerary together, learning, creating, restoring pieces of furniture, never giving up to explore and always trying to give back to the others what they learn in this adventure. This is, in short, Cristina and Sara’s story, heart and soul of the ‘Atelier des Pampilles’: a store, a workshop, and a meeting point in Via Cesare Lombroso, in San Salvario borough. “Transforming materials, working by hands, touching the dirt on the surfaces, that then become tidy and maybe colorful is something that has a sort of shamanic power” – Cristina states.
It all started more or less six years ago. “I had just closed my VAT ID as an architect – Sara says – and in some friends of mine’s garage I began restoring pieces of furniture”. Cristina was ending a professional experience in the field of media relations and communication, too, and was looking for a new professional path to take. “Sara already had a clear thought of what to do, she had found a physical place to work. I was confused, no idea in what direction my life would have gone”. Then, Sara and Cristina met, thanks to their husbands, and started to collaborate. “Everything occurred smoothly little by little – Cristina smiles – when I first came into the garage where Sara was working, I felt disoriented, lost in the suburb of the city. Now I’ve bought a house that faces the courtyard where the old garage was. Almost a circle that comes fully for us”.
L’Atelier des Pampilles was born around six years ago. “We were looking for a French name, I’ve heard this word, pampilles, I’ve searched the meaning and we together decided it was the one”. And a couple of ‘pampilles’, the crystal droplets of a yesteryear chandelier, welcomes the visitors in the hall of the atelier. “The lockdown has been an accelerator in our awareness process. Now all our past experiences are useful to us. Sara’s expertise as an architect is worthwhile, she couldn’t bear the bureaucratic aspect of her job, now she has kept the creative, joyful part of it and forgotten bureaucracy” – Cristina explains with a smile. “If we need a post, or to update the website, write the program of our classes, in short, if we need to make communication, it’s Cristina’s task”, promptly echoes Sara. Does each of you have precise tasks? “No, we are absolutely interchangeable in the handmade process. We often work side by side for hours without saying a word”.
For sure, in the past six years, we have made some adjustments in the way we run our business: “at the very beginning we privileged the ‘store’ aspect, we used to buy pieces of furniture and objects at the flea markets and then we transformed them. We needed more than a showcase. Now we prefer to keep on display only the essential and we work more on a commission basis and offering consultancies for interior furnishing, colors matching”. Indeed, color and the use of different materials, starting from the wall-paper, the fabrics, are part of this evolution. “In the earliest times, the atelier was thought as a meeting point, we used to organize also bachelorette parties, then, by choice, they have gone waning”.
What there have always been are the classes that Sara and Cristina organize in their atelier also in order to overcome the hardships they have met at the beginning of their activity. “The artisanship world tends to be ‘protectionist’, usually there is a reluctance in narrating, sharing the expertise. We have learned by ourselves, apart from some rare exceptions. As concerns the fabric upholstery we have luckily found a lady in Veneto who held classes and has accepted to come to Torino in order to teach us the technique. Now we always tell to all the participants at our classes how amazing and precious is the opportunity to learn, to share”. Among the different classes, especially on Saturdays’, is the one dedicated to the transformation of a piece of furniture coloring or using wall-paper, and the lining of upholstered furniture.
“Before the pandemic, we used to have 8 students for each class, now we have only up to 4 attendees. Nonetheless, as soon as it has been possible, we have resumed our classes, we want to give a positive message and there is an answer, people want to go out, go on living”. The cost of classes is 150/180 each: “our energy and time commitment are significant, alongside with the use of high-quality materials. We wish that our attendees may create here a beautiful product”. For sure there is no shortage of difficulties, the pandemic is the most recent one, and there is also the difficulty to make understand the right price and the right value of the artisanal work. “Our reward is, indeed, the satisfaction of our customers, we have no outstanding payments and in all these years we have never had any conflictual situations”.
“Well, – Cristina and Sara conclude – ours is the story of two persons, two women who reinvent themselves, choose a work to get their hands dirty, and finally pull that off”. And that’s amazing!