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!

Via Lom­bro­so, 3 – Torino