Sofia Barao is an amazing mixed media artist living in France (she’s originally from Portugal). I loved the delicate vintage style of her art pieces, as well as the craft pieces she makes. I got a chance to talk to Sofia to find out more about her love of crafts and art, as well as her perspective on crafts in Europe.
Nat: Please tell me about your art and craft background.
Sofia: I have a more crafty background than arty. I started crocheting and knitting when I was 6 or 7 years old with my mother and my sister who is 12 years older than me. My sister was learning how to do sewing machine embroidery at that time at a sewing school. She was always doing clothes for me, so I guess my sister was the first creative person around me that inspired me. My mother wanted me to continue my general studies and to start a different kind of career like in business or in the medical field. I was told at a very young age that if I couldn’t draw, I couldn’t be a painter which is totally wrong of course. But at that time I guess I really believed it and had totally put aside the thought of a creative career. So as a teenager, I would make some necklaces or bracelets, but only for myself. I liked the idea of having something unique. Later, lots of art and craft books helped me to grow my creative side. I also recently had an intensive week class with a great painter who lives not far from where I live, Isabelle Dansin.
Nat: You have lived in international settings from Portugal, Switzerland to now France. How do you see the craft world in these places?
Sofia: Well, in Portugal it’s a huge thing right now for this new generation. I don’t remember having that kind of creative opportunities when I was there during my teenage years. There are craft fairs everywhere, and almost all the time. Maybe also because crafts have always been part of the tradition in Portugal. Portugal is also an “avant-garde” capital with great new designers and it’s a great place to go see what will be “in” in the next year to come.
In France, I have the feeling that most of the time craft and art don’t belong to the same world — when they do. For me, craft and art are linked together, along with fashion and design. I don’t think you can split them. Everything is about creation and that’s the most important thing. In Switzerland, I know that there are great artists and designers but I haven’t been to any exhibition there since I came back in 1997. I keep an eye on it from time to time. There is this great blog of the swiss designer Tina Roth Eisenberg where you can check out her Swiss creations (swissmiss.typepad.com).
Nat: Your mixed media art work is so beautiful. Where do you find your inspiration?
Sofia: Oh, thank you. My inspiration really comes mostly from the vintage purchases that I do at flea markets, old photos, papers, postcards, clothes all kind of objects with a story to tell. Also nature, architecture, fashion and home decoration (love scandinavian style) are a major inspiration to me. My country, Portugal, inspires me so much too. All the nostalgia in my work, that’s a very portuguese thing. What I’ve been wanting to do for years now is to include a bit of Portugal in my creations. I’ve been thinking about a way to do that and I think that I’ll be doing something out of it for 2007.
Nat: Tell me about some of the jewelry you make, such as your retro brooches and share locket. A lot of them have a distinct vintage 20’s -30’s feminine touch.
Sofia: Yes, I’m bound to a vintage touch that I can no longer ignore. I have always been like that, but I wasn’t aware of it. For exemple my first pair of heels when I was 17 had to be “Richelieu” shoes, very XIXth century. I can’t remember anyone wearing this at that time. I have some other little things like this that make me laugh now when I think about it. When I look back I’ve always loved and been atracted to vintage objects and history, so I guess that reflects in my work, art, and craft work.
Nat: What have been some of your favorite projects and why?
Sofia: The last one was the launch of my everyday art blog, 1 par jour, this is a big challenge. The concept is to post a small size artwork (4×4 inches) almost everyday. This is so special. I’m always working in my little atelier and finishing a piece everyday. When I work on bigger pieces, they are never finished in a day. So here, I can give my inspiration some wings and actually see it finished quickly.
Nat: Can you share with us a special crafting tip you have?
Sofia: I like to mix the craft and the art world. No bounderies… So I like to stitch my artwork like if they were made of fabric.
Nat: What kinds of projects are you working on for the near future? Are there exhibits of yours we should be looking out for?
Sofia: I’m in a group exhibition going on right now in New Zeland (until march 2007) along with other wonderful artists, it’s the Human Artefakts show, it will be touring in 4 New Zeland galleries, next month I’ll also be exhibiting some of my works in Portugal at the Quasiloja Gallery in Oporto.
Also some other group shows for next year here in France. And there’s always my 1 par jour blog, that’s a special one for me. I also have an art blog where I feature artists who’s works I love. I do some interviews there and it’s updated weekly on Monday In the mood for ARTE. I’m also preparing new things for next year, but I can’t really talk about it yet.
Nat: What’s one thing on your holiday wish list?
Sofia: Only one ??? uhhmmm…..the cute Sony Vaio laptop in green or pink. Not very crafty, but I’m really needing a new computer!!!
Here’s some of Sofia’s beautiful goods that would make great holiday gifts: