Jan 4, 2011

"I never met a piece of paper I didn't like"

As some of you might remember, in November Bergdorf's and Polyvore hosted a "day tripping" themed design-your-own-holiday-windows contest. Of course I engaged in some self-induced insomnia to dream up a couple of collages using Alexander McQueen shoes...and dresses combined with neat novelty travel pieces. While perusing the other entries, I came across Pettirosso's delightful vintage-y creations. Clicking through her sets (Polyvore lingo for collage-esque compilations of fashion/art/design images) is like happening upon a stack of wonderful ephemera in your favorite vintage shop. Behind it all is Robyn, the talented Philadelphia-based jewelry designer. Despite being a self-described Luddite at heart, she has produced hundreds of Polyvore sets with close to 60,000 views. Articulate and insightful, she acknowledges that although Polyvore is a certainly a "marketing tool" there is much more to it. "It's also an artistic community, a meeting of the minds, people from all over the globe sharing ideas and there is a tremendous amount of good will. For me that's the most important thing." Here is more from my favorite Polyvorian...

How did you first get into Polyvore?
I saw an article on Polyvore at nytimes. com, clicked the link in the article and was hooked immediately. I thought it was just for fashion, which every girl loves, right? But when I discovered the art, forget about it. I didn't see my husband for a week!

What are your go-to sites to find items?
I love vintage photos. One of my favorite sites is www.squareamerica.com. It's old photos of real people. It's history, art and social studies all wrapped into one. Another big favorite is digitalgallery.nypl.org. This site is huge, it's the NY public library. You could spend your whole life there.

How do you find all of the terrific wallpaper and letter backgrounds?
I'm always on the search for backgrounds that have a patina to them, that are worn and torn, stained or written on. The Japanese call it sabi, which relates to impermanence and imperfection. That's always a good starting point for me. Lately I've been scanning some of my own collection of collage items and clipping them to use in my sets.

Which of your sets is your favorite?
I do like the series of altered playing cards I did based on a deck of Engineering playing cards from the William Barclay Parsons collection. The cards themselves are amazing, I got such a good vibe from them. And I was very pleased with the way the altered versions turned out. ("Bird of Hearts," "Five of Hearts" and "One of Hearts" featured above. View the series here).

Who or what inspires you creatively?
Inspiration? Nature, birds, paper, I never met a piece of paper I didn't like, ephemera, colors, handwriting, faces, family photos, found objects. And the work of Joseph Cornell has been an enormous influence on me. I'm constantly going back to look at his incredible boxes and collage, they have a lightness and transcendence to them that I strive for in my own work.

Who's your favorite designer and/or artist?
Well, Cornell of course. But anything from the cave paintings on up to this minute, as far as art goes, I've loved and learned from whatever I've been fortunate enough to encounter. As far as fashion, I do love it as well. My mother was a seamstress and her father was a tailor so making clothes is in my blood and I did want to be a designer for the longest time but my sewing is awful! So since I can't design my own I would love to have anything from Vivianne Westwood. Her clothes are classic but there is a lot of asymmetry going on, I love asymmetry.

What 3 words would you use to describe your creative style?
3 words, let's see... messy, intuitive and spirited. But ask me tomorrow and I might have 3 different words!

Do you collage with real paper?
I do collage with real materials, yes. I make cards and tags (a few of them have been published in Stampers Sampler and Take Ten magazines) and also small assemblages. And while working on Polyvore really helps sharpen my eye for design, I do miss the tactile aspect of actual collage elements.

You're a jewelry designer?
Yes, I make beaded jewelery and recently started working in metals. Working with metals is a real physical undertaking, a complete 180 from making paper art or doing sets on Polyvore, so it's a nice counter point. You can view my latest work on the "trinkets" page at my site www.robynfuoco.wordpress.com. If you click the art link or the crafts link there, you will also see examples of my works on paper. And http://art-money.org/user/1804 will take you to a great site in Denmark where I have some examples of artmoney.

What do you think about the Bergdorf's-Polyvore window contest winner?
I have to give credit to anyone who wins a contest run by Polyvore because they get thousands of entries. It's a great set! She managed to balance the glossy and the artsy, which is not easy to do.

And just in case you were wondering (I know I was), "Pettirosso" is Italian for "robin." Robyn's sisters visited the mountain village where their grandfather was born and discovered family still living there. Their Italian cousins translated her name as Pettirosso.

Thanks Robyn, for taking the time to so thoughtfully answer my questions. I can't wait to see what you make next...


  1. How neat to find out the story behind these gorgeous sets! My personal fave has got to be the one of hearts, although they're all delightful so it was hard to choose! Great post!

  2. Happy New Year! Good post...lovely interview pics. Pettirosso is a wonderful Collage leader...always encouraging everyone's talent. Thanks the Bergdorf Goodman contest-win is beautiful.In Appreciation, Augustana (polyvore collage member:)

  3. Beautiful interview, and I am glad that through it I have discovered Pettirosso's blog and yours. Great find! Alexandra - from Polyvore