Katherine-Mary Pichulik For VISI: Farewell To Villa Lena

WORDS AND IMAGES Katherine-Mary Pichulik

Katherine-Mary Pichulik of PICHULIK is blogging exclusively for VISI as she embarks on a two-month artist residency in magical Italy.


I awoke on Saturday morning to the grumbles of an eminent thunderstorm. After the previous day’s heat the air in the villa was heavy and humid, and emotions were on edge. As the rain poured down, the mist rolled in over the Tuscan landscape and the pressure that had built up was released.

It is my last weekend here at Villa Lena, the final days of my two-month residency at the large two-storey pink villa with a stable as my studio, the sounds of owls asleep at night and the happy chatter of Italian voices when I wake. It is a life that I know will seem like a dream once I get back to my Cape Town routine.

This isolated estate seduced me into a new routine of 10pm dinners and working until late in my studio; of endless swims in the pool and finding a reason to drink wine at every meal. Nature is in an endless dance with the villa and those of us who have briefly lived here.

I have become accustomed to seeing a fox creep out of the kitchen when I arrive at my quarters after dinner, or being greeted by long-tailed green lizards and accompanied by horse flies during my daily walk along the dirt road.

The time in Italy has done something to me. It brought about a slow creeping-in-of-a-feeling, of getting to know myself again. With the demands of being creative as a business, one can often get so busy, so caught up in the numbers and the strategy, that you lose sight of the joy of making and the simple satisfaction of feeling your hands working with materials.

We held an “open studio” on Wednesday evening and each artist showed what he or she had created while at the villa. I have completed what I feel will be PICHULIK’s Spring/Summer 2016 range, which will be released in September, as well as one or two pieces of furniture shown above.

I also held a workshop for artists, children and guests. It was an hour’s experimental playtime in which we were led by the materials and explored the notions of collaboration, sharing and touch. I assembled a trousseau of threads, ropes, beads and twine and invited participants to bring an object they found at the villa. We then sat together and crafted by attaching the objects to one another. The final result was secondary to the experience.

The villa is like a village in itself where the guests, artists and staff engage and share experiences on a daily basis. It dawned on me that I had sat down for dinner with my fellow residents 55 times.

I thought of the special shared interactions I experience, among which had been a morning meditating with 20-year-old elfin Flo Morrissey, who has just released her first album, Tomorrow Will Be Beautiful (listen here). Also, listening to the wise words of Brazilian designer Barbara Casasola on design, and of curator Simon Njami who got me thinking about vocational titles such as designer and curator and how they can limit enjoyment and self-expression.

I also jotted down a few random quotes on food:

“Simplicity is what every Italian stresses about cooking.”

“Pesto is for pasta. That’s it.”

“Do not overheat your olive oil, as it removes all the flavour.”

“Add salt to the water only when it is boiling. Adding it before will just raise the boiling temperature.”

And one on beauty: “The trick of French women’s beauty is adding magnesium to a warm drink before bed.”

Click here if you missed Katherine-Mary’s first blog from Villa Lena or her second blog about travelling around the magical city of Florence. Her third blog introduces you to the residents of Villa Lena – don’t miss it!

Follow Katherine’s journey on Twitter (@Pichulik) on Instagram (@pichulikafrika) and on Facebook. You can also visit pichulik.com for more info.