Interview with Elena Obando

A few days ago, we interviewed Elena Obando aka Saturno Rosa or e__l__o, as she’s known on Instagram. She is a multidisciplinary artist that stands out for her incredible tulle embroideries, many of them portraits, and for her jewellery. Elena has a sublime sensibility that shines through in all her artwork.

If you’d like to find out more about her, come on in and read.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

As a little girl, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I was older but what I do remember is that I have always loved animals, I was besotted with them and with looking after them, so I imagined myself doing something related to animals.

I was always curious about the arts in general. In fact, I took ballet and violin lessons at some stage in my childhood. I remember I used to love to paint and create things with my hands, but I never really knew what I wanted to do when I grew up.

Where does your passion for creativity and arts & crafts come from?

I think it comes from my family, mainly my aunts and grandmother.

“When I was a child, I really liked painting and drawing at my grandmother’s house, where my aunt would give me colouring pencils and a notebook or where she would show me how to do cross-stitch.”

She was always crafting, and she was really creative with her embroidery, drawings and fabrics. I loved that. And although I saw everything she did, I felt distanced from it. I never imagined I could do anything as elaborate as what she did with her hands.

You began with embroidery during your training as a jewellery designer. How did you start? Do you have any anecdotes you could share with us?

I started my jewellery classes and, during the exploration and jewellery design process, I created a collection where I tried to mix metals with other materials. In this case, I decided to use textiles and include a part of painting, that I so love and appreciate, as part of a tribute to great artists. I made silver necklaces together with pendants that had mini embroideries of paintings such as “The Kiss” by Klimt, others by Matisse and Picasso, but that were part of my search to discover my own style.

That was the first time as an adult that I did embroidery without knowing very well what I was doing, but not being scared of making a mistake or of trying out new things.  That’s how I discovered that I loved it and I decided to continue embroidering and trying new things along with embroidery.

When and how did you decide to embroider faces in tulle?

When I started embroidering, I did so on manta cotton, and then, while I was looking into how to create more contemporary embroidery, I looked for different fabrics that could work. I used fabrics with colours and I later discovered tulle, that inspired me to create new things like birds, faces and portraits.

You think of embroidery as a mask and it’s incredible how you create fragments of faces in a wooden ring. How did you achieve this unique and personal style?

During the process of looking for fabrics and materials to embroider with, I liked to experiment with new things, specially materials I didn’t normally see in traditional embroidery. And through playing with them, I discovered that tulle, being a translucid fabric, made the embroidery look as if it were floating on air. That’s why I chose to create abstract faces that could be used as a kind of mask when I placed the taboret in front of my face.

“Occasionally, I consider myself to be a bit introverted, and I hide behind the embroidery… Yet, at the same time, it is the way in which I show my work and that entails revealing myself.”

Little by little, this process evolved into creating complete portraits.

The combination of photography and craft is a deliciously surreal version of everyday life. Is it your way of escaping from reality? Your escape mechanism?

Despite not being a photographer, I get a lot of joy from taking photos in my day to day, both of my processes and of my final results, of my workshop, my trips and the things I like.

“Photography is a great inspiration for choosing colours and images, for documenting my work and for conveying the way I see the world.”

How much time do you need to complete one of your pieces?

The time I need to finish a piece depends on many things and depends on each embroidery. If it’s a complete portrait it can take months to finish or weeks for something less elaborate, but generally speaking, I don’t spend less than two weeks on each piece, as I take my time in creating it and I go at my own pace.

“I like to have spaces to be able to work on different things and activities and in that way, I don’t get blocked or exhausted, because it’s a process that requires patience and perseverance.”

The process between each of the pieces is also different, as I make sketches, I choose colors, threads and I take my time to plan the embroidery before I start.

Main references and artistic influences

The greatest references or influences on my work come from different areas. I think that is what has allowed me to create my own style or at least allowed me to be able to create pieces that are coherent, allowing people to recognize one of my embroideries as mine.

Some of the things that inspire me are photography, painting, films and obviously embroidery artists but they aren’t my greatest reference.

“My main connection is with painting because, when I create an embroidery, it’s as if I were trying to paint with threads.”

Also, when I think of artists that I like or that inspire me Matisse, Ines Longevial or Danielle Clough immediately spring to mind, among others.

Where does your alias Saturno Rosa (Pink Saturn) originate?

Saturno Rosa was born as the name of my jewellery brand. I normally associate it more with the jewellery than with the embroidery because I try to keep the embroidery as something more personal than a product or brand. Saturno comes from the return of Saturn, which is the stage in life where we complete one cycle and initiate another. For me, this was the case when I started with embroidery and jewellery… as if my creative side were being born again. Additionally, it took place roughly at the age that Saturn completes its entire orbit around the Sun.

Tell us more about your Domestika course

“The Domestika course is one of the loveliest and most challenging things I have had to do, because I had to rethink the way in which I perform my work in order to be able to explain it and share that knowledge and those years of experience.”

I loved doing it and knowing that I can show what I love to do to people from all over the world, as well as helping people to learn to do something new and to inspire them to create with their hands.

Future plans…

I would love to carry out more workshops and to participate in fairs abroad. I may possibly return to Barcelona this year with some projects that I am planning.

Your favourite place to lose yourself…

In nature.

Recommend a book, a film or a TV series and a song or a band that you like

A book: “Raras” by Brenda Ríos. A film: “C’mon c’mon”. A series: “Ozark”. And a music band: Mac DeMarco.

Your mantra for this year

To be present.

(*) Photos provided by Elena Obando.


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