IN A HOUSE VERY CLOSE TO THE SEA IN CATANIA, A SICILIAN ARTIST/ARTISAN LIVES, IMAGINES AND CREATES. TRANSFORMING HER PASSION FOR “EXPERIENCED” THINGS INTO WORK.
words ELENA DALLORSO – photos FILIPPO BAMBERGHI
By chance, as they say. But it was really by chance that Stefania Boemi, 43 years old, from Catania, physiotherapist by profession, began – about a year and a half ago – to practice a second, “playful” profession based on beautiful objects she creates to give new life to old things: dolls, crystals, holy pictures, lace, Sicilian puppets. The first success was one of her moor’s heads, typical of the regional tradition, but monochrome in her personal interpretation, or painted with very modern patterns. An architect from Studio Lissoni saw it and bought it for the restaurant the firm was designing for Filippo La Mantia in Milan (where Stefania Boemi now has a whole corner, as well as her online space at the Artemest.com platform of Ippolita Rostagno). She decided to shift to a part-time job, transforming her home at the port of San Giovanni Li Cuti (a village in the city center) into an atelier. «I bought it in 2004, and it took a year to renovate the place, which had been in a state of abandon», Boemi says. «It is a “terrana” house from the early 20th century, with one level, independent, and an outdoor space with a terrace, a cistern, a garden and three cellars in volcanic stone. This space full of fruit trees, bordering on other wild gardens, was a decisive factor for the purchase. The rooms are all communicating and arranged in a circle, asymmetrical, with high vaulted ceilings, facing the terrace and the garden». The architecture and nearly all the finishes have been left intact, simply restoring them in keeping with the local crafts tradition, like the floors with colored composite tiles made with pieces of marble. Other features have been created to be “plausible”, like the majolica in the kitchen, made by hand by a local craftsman with the motifs of an antique Sicilian bedspread cherished by the owner. «I didn’t want to ruin the typical charm of an old house, of an epoch that now seems very distant from our reality. I love houses with encrusted walls, vibrant with the stories of other lives, other experiences», Stefania Boemi says. And she gives new life and new identity to objects, taking them apart, mixing them, with incredible manual skill: hammocks and big ornamental cushions made with antique bedspreads, chandeliers composed of other lamps, with the addition of handpainted crystals and votive objects. Her heads are made in painted clay, without the traditional fired glaze.