Interview with Pretziada

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Californian set designer Kyre Chenven and Milanese artist Ivano Atzori are the creative duo behind Sardinian based studio Pretziada, which means ‘precious’ in Sardinian. Motivated by the abundance of local craft, the pair moved to the southwest corner of Sardinia four years ago to bring Sardinian craftsmanship to a contemporary design audience.

The interdisciplinary creative practice promotes the Sardinian heritage through words, photography and a collection of design objects made in collaboration with local artisans like Mariantonia Urru.

Pretziada’s recent collaboration with weaving workshop Mariantonia Urru, whom we have had the pleasure of representing exclusively in Australia for the past few years, pays homage to Sardinia’s history. Together, through extensive research they have produced a contemporary new rug series inspired by traditional weaving patterns and motifs found on the island.

We caught up with Kyre and Ivano to find out more about their life in Sardinia, their collaboration with Mariantonia Urru and their process behind working with the local artisans.


Can you describe the concept behind Pretziada and how it all began?

Today we can say that our mission is to recenter the focus of Sardinian craft firmly on material and conceptual quality. However what brought us to work on this specific concept was a personal necessity. We knew from our previous time in Sardinia that we were looking for a different quality of life than the one we had settled into in Milan. There are many things that are missing from a rural place like Sardinia, but we knew that this territory could teach us how to appreciate aspects of life that you don’t see at first coming from the city. We also felt inspired to use our background and skills in a territory with infinite difficulties. And so we moved our family here full-time and began Pretziada.


What drew you to Sardinia?

So many aspects: rurality, the deep darkness, the silence, easier access to high quality food and high quality free time. And as time went on we realized how good of an environment it was for research – it has a long and powerful history, with a hugely significant prehistory that continues to inform the present.
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How easy was it to connect with the local community and what are some of the biggest challenges you face?

Having two small children was definitely the first connection that helped us integrate into the community. It was challenging for both sides at first – dealing with cultural differences takes time and dedication. And at times we do realize that we are still happy aliens. But we think that with respect and lots of humility, on both sides, we have learned so much about healthy contamination, and what it means to be better to the people around you.

Can you describe the initial stages and processes when you first embark on a project with an artisan?

When we started out, we quickly realized how drastic the situation in the workshops was around the island. And at that point we had to make a choice – do we back off or do we adjust what we do to work on the problem. We thought we would find lots of active artisans and would serve more as consultants to getting their work out into the world. What we found instead was that these workshops had been active for generations, sometimes four or even five, but that just the last generation is facing the effects of a failed globalization. They had been opened up to a new world of new opportunities but it was still an intricate, complex world, and no one had given them the tools to access it. Even upon our arrival, very few were ready for this passage.


We’ve now created a pretty clear process through which we try to understand the trajectory the artisan is trying to put into action – where they want and hope to be ten years from now, and how they are able and willing to get there. Then we learn a bit about the limits and the particularities of their techniques and the materials they use. Once we have a clearer idea of which direction they can and want to work in, we figure out which project and which designer/project is the right match. So we always have more things going on in the background than we can put into action!

We researched techniques, colors and patterns from all over the island and proposed four designs that could begin to showcase classic Sardinian textile iconography. There is such a rich tradition of textiles on the island.

– Kyre Chenven


Can you tell us a bit more about your collaboration with Mariantonia Urru.

When we began working together, we saw that Mariantonia Urru had already put into action many of the theories and attitudes that we were working on with our other artisans. They focus on quality, chains of production, circular economy, investing in workers’ development. They also already studied what was going on in contemporary rug design globally, which is one thing we often spend a lot of time on with our other artisans.

What we decided to do together, then, was to strengthen the traditional pieces in their catalog. We researched techniques, colors and patterns from all over the island and proposed four designs that could begin to showcase classic Sardinian textile iconography. There is such a rich tradition of textiles on the island – so this is only the beginning of an ongoing collaboration.

Once we did decide to bring in a designer, we all agreed it needed to be someone who could understand the material question behind their textiles. Roberto Sironi is an incredible designer who really gets into the craft behind what he is creating, so we invited him to come to Sardinia and work with Mariantonia. Together we were able to create two tapestries, the Nuragic Satellitaria Collection, that visually presents the complex prehistory of the island and also pushed Mariantonia Urru to create new practical solutions for their creation.

What makes Sardinians craft so unique? Can you tell us a bit more about how this translates in Sardinian textiles and rugs.

Definitely its geographic position – Sardinia is an island, surrounded by water. For millennia, people from all over the Mediterranean Sea came to the island and with them came their narration, their beliefs, their customs. This process made Sardinian craft and heritage much richer, even at times when the visitors were colonizers.


This can be seen specifically in the textile craft, where there are myriad techniques and styles that co-exist on the island. These are not the result of individual choices as much as huge influences from other cultures from Northern Africa, Spain, the Middle East. The particular result of color use, geometry and contrast between styles is very unusual and striking. When you see one Sardinian textile, you might be tempted to classify it from another place. However, once you get to know the entire gamut of classic designs and techniques, they are unmistakable.


What’s it like working with local craftsmen? And what do you enjoy most about the process?

We love it. First we are deeply in love with workshops – their tools, their mess, the atmosphere, their super specific knowledge. There is so much narration that comes from those spaces. Our collaborators are tangible witnesses of an ancient society, which is so inspiring. Production processes are always different, every process is so related to the personality of the artisan and the designer. Our role is like that of curators, working to bring a balance between these two figures, to give them the condition to be a real collaboration based on understanding each other’s necessities and skills.


Can you take us through a typical day in Sardinia?

We have so many different typical days here in Sardinia. We work in our studio in our tiny rural town, or we drive to a workshop to follow production, or we’re hosting, through residencies, creative minds. We photograph the island and the workshops constantly. And we have days where we dedicate time and energy to our rural property where we live and where we grow native olives and fruit trees. That said, we do have something typical – a sort of constant companion – the nature that surrounds us, from forest, cliffs on the coast, grazing land, beaches.


What projects are you currently working on that you are particularly excited about?

We have some beautiful new collections coming out this summer where the pieces are growing in size and importance. We also concentrated a lot on the materials and their relationship to the land.
We also have started working with a local association called Museo Diffuso dell’Insediamento Sparso (MuDIS) that works on preserving and requalifying the particular types of settlements from our area in Southern Sardinia. They have a very ambitious project to intelligently and sensitively preserve and promote the territory so we are working with them on defining concrete actions that support the work they’ve already taken on.

What are the future plans for Pretziada?

Next month, we are going to begin the renovation of some ruins from the 1800’s on our property. These new spaces will host part of our collection, future residencies, new projects and new experiences, and hopefully grow the international community we’re a part of. This last year has really motivated us to create spaces where people can connect and reflect.