The multitalented and multifaceted artist Mariapia Malerba, known for everything from fashion to painting to multimedia, has branched out again—this time into home design.
At the invitation of West Elm at Coconut Point, which frequently partners with area artisans, Malerba created a collection of hand-painted and hand-stitched pillows, a throw blanket, an abstract painting and a set of outdoor pillows, all of which complemented previous artwork made available as prints.
“It’s a mix of geometric shapes, flowers and animals—the whimsical combined with something more classy,” Malerba explains, just before the start of a reception organized by the store to show off her work.
The throw pillows range from a patterned work featuring hand-cut and stitched heptagons to rather refined-looking kitty, upon whose right ear is cocked a beret, to a dachshund who peers through oversized, thick-rimmed glasses. The works are multidimensional—the beret and the glasses, for example, are suede appliques.
“They are minimal,” she says. “A touch of black and white, a touch of color, but through that you can express so much.”
The outdoor pillows are pure Malerba, merging her love of transparent mediums and her passion for recycled materials. She fashioned the pillows out of a clear plastic, painted the signature animals on them (in this case, dogs) and stuffed them with found materials—cotton balls in one and skeins of chenille in the other.
“I don’t know how that happened,” she admits with a grin. “It just came into mind.”
Read more about Malerba in Imagination Unleashed.
The juxtaposition of playfulness and sophistication is what attracted Karin Dahlstrom, the shop’s arts and events curator, who combs the region looking for artists whose work might appeal to West Elm patrons.
“I’ve known Mariapia for years, and I know she has such attention to detail and quality and she has such a whimsy to her, but done in an elegant and modern way,” Dahlstrom says.
For now, Malerba’s collection is available only at the Coconut Point location and through the artist herself. The store will display the collection through Tuesday. West Elm takes no commission and asks patrons to purchase directly from the artist. Whether the chain decides to mass-produce her work will be up to the corporate office, Dahlstrom says.
But the idea of pursuing home goods intrigues Malerba, who had been a textile designer earlier in her career. “It’s nice to put all of your skills together and create something new,” she says. “It’s interesting in life how things start to merge.”
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