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Émilie Pitoiset at the Maroquinerie de Pierre-Bénite

Artist’s residency 2011: Giselle

Launched in 2010, the annual programme of artists’ residencies organised by the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès allows four young visual artists to discover exceptional artisan skills. Mentored by artist Susanna Fritscher, Émilie Pitoiset worked at the Maroquinerie de Pierre-Bénite in 2011.

Fondation d'Entreprise Hermès - Émilie Pitoiset at the Maroquinerie de Pierre-Bénite
© Fondation d'entreprise Hermès

Born in 1980, Émilie Pitoiset is a graduate of the Paris École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. She has achieved critical acclaim with a residency at Pavillon du Palais de Tokyo (Paris), a number of solo exhibitions, and several commissions for public collections. 

As artist-in-residence at the Maroquinerie de Pierre-Bénite, founded in Greater Lyon in 1989, Emilie Pitoiset worked at a variety of posts, discovering a broad range of artisan skills from pattern cutting to assembly and finishing. From a shortlist of four projects devised at the end of her immersion period, she chose to explore the boundaries of leather-work, devising new solutions in collaboration with the technical bureau at Pierre-Bénite. Pitoiset’s work is inspired by the world of dance, exploring concepts of balance, falling, and breaking-points: in this context, she chose to design a stage curtain of pleated black leather, romantically entitled Giselle. 

Lambskin was chosen for its extreme suppleness. Fifty identical shapes were cut out and assembled to form a complete ‘patchwork’ reinforced with cardboard elements glued to the back of each piece. Hand-pleated and pressed using a special stone, the skins were embossed with a relief motif of chevrons and scrolling, intertwined forms, before being stuck together to from a black curtain measuring 183 by 293 centimetres. A tribute to Giselle, the ultimate heroine of Romantic ballet? Or her shroud? A little of both, says the artist: the stage curtain heralds the beginning of a performance or its end: an impenetrable object of contemplation in its own right.

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