Mathilde Bretillot

Catherine Ferbos-Nakov
Independent Curator

With Mathilde Bretillot, things spill over, interlace, overlap, cross-fertilize: family, teaching, French, Italian and English friends, objects, travels, home-based and international projects. This is because all the different facets of her life are important to her, and because she interacts with the people around her, for whom she has created space that is open, moving, changing, friendly, playful and above all innovative.
The different figures who marked her début in the career encouraged her to move forward in creation and to take calculated risks. She learnt her lessons well, integrating them to her training along with new ways of seeing things and age-old qualities still very much alive. Her busy and rich everyday life has accustomed her to changes of pace. You have to step out to keep up with her thoughtful relations with artisans, her inventive collaborations with makers, her work with the Particule 14 association, and the important role she plays in keeping firms like Diam International on the leading edge, conscious of the commercial benefits
that innovation generates. In everything that she does, Mathilde Bretillot is creative, stimulating and open to suggestions.

She works with students just as creatively: at the Esad in Rheims (1994 to 2007) and the École Camondo since 2008. Teaching is vital to her: directing, sharing, encouraging. It is an activity that builds her up, a laboratory that brings together ideas and people, a guideline since her childhood, surrounded by the happy tumult and creative disorder of an extended family.

One day she must have said, perhaps in her heart: “I’ll just have to scare myself.” Could this be why she has gathered around her so many friends, creators and artisans, and why she likes to use the savoir-faire of specialists, the excellence of whose skills she has recognized? No doubt she needs them, but even more compelling is the absolute need she has to draw and to create, to bring forth forms, objects and especially spaces.
Stimulate, pull together, motivate, organize, orchestrate rather than just conduct. Mathilde Bretillot lives by what she finds and sets into place: her appreciation of fine skills enables her to integrate and coordinate
them; her capacity to listen to others informs her readiness to make room —even a lot of room— for input from external sources; and her determination to clear the way for creativity remains constant.
Her designs and compositions result from all this, all that she has discovered and turned into something else, put into a language of forms that is moving and colourful. Forms that simultaneously bring together and set apart, whose users are at once collective and finite, talking, interacting, creating, or sitting back and even withdrawing.
Mobility is inherent to everything Mathilde Bretillot designs: furniture, objects, spaces. Things intermix, cross over, never stay put, in the same way as the user is not just an anonymous observer but is in fact a leading player in a world the designer has brought into being, like a reflexion caught in a mirror, something that takes shape and whose existence depends on the regard of the viewer-player.
Furniture is a field particularly suited to her sensitive nature because of its conviviality —a sofa is made for people to curl up on, relax and regenerate, squabble and sulk and then make up. She keeps the piece moving, rearranging, renegotiating. Turning it this way and that in a round of ideas, characters, creators and craftsmen —and the brothers and the sister who make up her daily environment, a careful blend of creative work and no-less-necessary affection, which she nurtures and draws nourishment from— getting the very best. Without detailing each of her creations, in the suite under consideration here I would like to draw attention to two pieces that touch a personal chord and strike me as being significant. The first is the Ring, which is a sort of cornice-curtain light that defines space, enhances it and sets the stage for the other participants, even though —unlike them— it is hung from the ceiling and cannot change place as they can, inside or outside the defined area. Yet the designer manages to impart movement, expressiveness and playfulness even to this most stable component. The second is the Psyché, because it redefines space via our regard and helps us to conceptualize it. A French dictionary will tell you that a psyché is a full-length pivoting mirror, and it is no surprise to see the designer installing one for us to look into and also reflect the rest of the lounge suite that she has created. But at another level of reference we might recall that in classical myth Psyche (the soul) was the maiden that Eros (love) himself fell in love with, who became his wife and the mother of their daughter sensual delight. Whether consciously or not, Mathilde Bretillot is acting something out here, playing an archetypal scene with us, or having us play-act in the space she reveals: a conversation for two, or three, or more, in which pleasure takes the lead.

Catherine Ferbos-Nakov
January 2012

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