My name is Stefania Morgante, I am an italian artist, I was born in Brindisi, southern Italy, at the end of 1967 (I was a bit early; apparently I was in a hurry to be born).
My mother is originally from Apulia and my father from Friuli: which means totally opposite colours, temperaments and habits, perfect to grow a nicely complex character.
My mother says that I started speaking late and I always had an expression of astonishment and reproach in my eyes. Its all true, and I can remember it vividly.
The world was way too articulate and confused, and I had too many questions that I was unable to express.
My generation was not entitled to receiving explanations: after much insisting, at best we received a because yes or because no, you are too young to understand, keep quiet when adults talk.
Therefore I kept quiet, with words. And I made drawings.
Drawing meant putting in order and placating the anxiety due to the thousands of questions I had in my mind the next step was revolutionary for me, before I was 5 years old, I decided to become an artist.
What that was, I did not know precisely, but I considered that was the only viable way for me.
When I broke up the news, the idea was welcomed by a general laughter, it was mad, for inconsistent people, I would be doomed to poverty and diversity.
It has taken decades to placate the shame of wanting to be an artist, and I ignored or often rejected the idea, but in the end, at last, I subsided.
I was lucky as I did not need to fight nor to choose a different school from the one I had chosen, which is my parent were very democratic about.
I attended the Liceo Artistico (Italian secondary school specializing in Arts) in Lecce (South Italy), Architecture section and, when I got my certificate, I knew one thing for certain: my teachers were convinced that I could do anything in life but moulding and then.
My writing was nice, why did I choose that school and not the Liceo Classico (Italian secondary school specializing in Literature)?
In a nutshell, during my last exam, the commission members agreed all clamorously: I had it all wrong, good luck, Miss!
I decided to follow a University course that was essentially theoretical and tackled different artistic areas. I graduated in the Theory of Shapes at the DAMS of Bologna in 1992-section Visual Arts with Paolo Fabbri.
I wrote a graduation thesis on a Sylvia Plath’s poem, inspired by a De Chirico‘s painting The Disquieting Muses (The iconicity rediscovered: the Disquieting Muses of S.Plath , thesis’s co-examiner Omar Calabrese).
This time I was truly convinced that I would never do anything artistic, at least not in practice and I abandoned paintbrushes, sheets and colours.
I wasn’t an artist, I did not want to become an artist, I had no talent whatsoever to be an artist, I was very good at the art of negation.
I wasn’t happier, but at least I had made everyone happy, me included. Or at least I believed so.
The first jobs
After a post-degree trip when I visited very dear friends, I offered my services as press office for the Cagliari theatre.
And I did so for over a year, cooperating also to the draft of the theatre season’s catalogues. During the following years, I taught drawing and History of Arts in some intermediate schools in Cagliari.
Appealing was the teaching, much less the school.
Once again, it wasn’t my path.
Later I taught other subjects, but the stiff mind-set of colleagues was so frustrating that I finally quit everything, with no regrets.
Internet and the return of Art
At the beginning of 2000, my father and my brother offered my first Mac. No, in fact, my first computer.
I still remember the noise of the first rudimental Internet connection and the first online surfing session on the site of an American university: I read some essays on Sylvia Plath.
In just half an hour I had obtained information material that, in a library, I would have obtained only through many written requests, authorisations and weeks spent waiting!
To cut a long story short, I had discovered the Internet, I resumed studying passionately anything artistic with no prejudice: paper, wood, painting, sculpture, graffiti, mosaics, History of the Arts.
The Internet eliminated the waiting times of the often unfurnished libraries, the lack of information, made relations, ideas, contacts faster.
To my generation, used to the slowness of libraries and the scarcity of information, discovering the Internet was like entering the Control Room!
During a summer trip, I discovered, hidden in a bookshop, a book on fabric dolls and I gave it to my mother. Once again I denied any form of handwork, but I pushed others to indulge in it, my mother has always been very creative and works with fabric and paper, she has always invented and created, but for herself and only was she felt like it, with no other objective other than the pleasure of doing it.
The Internet became essential, I started to relate with some doll makers who urged me to create dolls and, thanks to them, I created the Gufobardo shop in 2002, the first online handmade shop selling small fabric works, polymer clay buttons, brooches, witches, angels and anything that would cross my mind.
I had a fair success abroad, practically none in Italy.
Gufobardo retired in 2011, it was a fantastic adventure.
In short, the turning point is 2002: I went back to drawing and moulding and followed Marylin Radzat, Marlaine Verhlest and Bill Nelson’s online courses for two years.
In the meantime, I became a member of the Canadian Doll Artists Association (CDAA), I started writing some interviews of European doll makers and then I was their European reporter for their Newsletter for three years.
Simultaneously, I started to wirework copper and silver wire and followed the Eni Oken’s lessons, I created jewellery and became one of the teachers of Oken’s portal.
To me jewels have been a way to create small wearable sculptures, a really instructive experiment that I still practice for myself or some friends, when I have some spare time.
On top of the moulding and wire work, I tried bear making. I did not know anything at all about it and that allowed me to participate to the first international Teddy Bear Contest in Italy.
I exhibited the Ichnusa Bear which won the first prize in Novellara, Reggio Emilia (2005), and the following year (2006) the Casanova Bear which also won the first prize.
Ichnusa obtained the most votes and was considered as undefinable for the original technique and the final result.
I really did not know anything about the Bears World and I had never followed a single course! For some time, I created other Collectible Bears in order to understand the creation’s mechanism, then decided to move on and archived the experience as merely interesting but nothing more. I had obtained the most votes and the first prizes in a field I did not know anything about and that was enough to me.
The materials I use
I worked with polymer clays enriched with mosaics and Swarovski elements and recycled materials as well as with natural structures like pumpkins.
I used materials collected during walks and trips, fabrics, herbs for decoration, berries, wood, recycled materials, canvas, pens, watercolours, learning new techniques, experimenting every day constantly.
Lately I have been using mainly paper, on its own or associated with other heavier materials.
The paper, which has an ambivalent meaning: paper as a support for writing and paper for bending and creating 3D.
The path I have undertaken re-echoes a little O’Keeffe’s words in her memoirs
‘The meaning of a word has not to me the same precision as that of a colour. Colors and shapes have the power to assert in a more def
inite way than words
But when I am not satisfied to express myself with colour, I use words or I use both to strengthen a concept: there is no dichotomy, but a parallel search that often intertwines.
And against all my past certainties and those of the people who taught me, I mould, write, paint and draw proving wrong those who knew who I could not be and, above all, today I honour the promise I made to myself when I was 5 years old, at last.