Bubbling with ideas, Léa Coutureau is a young, French embroiderer passionate about everything. Embroidery is modernizing!
Photos – © Léa Coutureau – photos protected by copyright – thank you
Interview – Claire de Pourtalès
In the beginning
Léa has lived with a culture and creativity since she was very young. Literature, cinema, museums, music, drawing, her parents surround her with a rich and varied universe. With her grandmother, she also learned to knit and crochet. Her toys were never enough – she needed to be able to “create things”.
With her father she discovered the cinema of Hitchcock, Kubrick, the New Wave and became interested in photography. She also designed clothes.
When it came to choosing a direction, it was easy for her to turn to an STI Applied Arts baccalaureate, with the idea of ”becoming a stylist or something like that.”
“During these three intensive years of applied art, I had the opportunity to do a lot of drawing, sketching, and photography. I also continued music and watched more and more movies with my Dad. I continued to knit and sew with my grandmother. Then, one day, one of our teachers showed us a documentary by Loïc Prigent, I think it was about Dior. I saw the embroiderers and how they work and it was like a revelation! I knew this was what I wanted to do and that I would never get tired of it. And, when I have an idea in my head, I don’t let go easily… It was truly an eye opener because, despite being creative, I didn’t have any particular talent in drawing. On the other hand, I loved to manipulate color and material. In fact, I found out right after that my great-grandmother (her first name is my middle name) was an embroiderer for the Church. She embroidered altar tablecloths etc … I guess, it is in our DNA! “
After the baccalaureate, Léa enrolled in various training courses: BMA, DMA, professional license in product design. “Anxious and nervous, I am unable to live in the city. I need the peace of the countryside “. She moved to the Landes (a region in South-West France) to be able to finish her license. “With few possibilities to work in embroidery in this corner of France” she has difficult days. Then she found a subcontract for Chanel in Bordeaux with Capucine Herveau. She has to become a freelancer, a new administrative step that Léa took. There, she met people who gave her back her faith in her passion.
She then continued with odd jobs to finally finish her license.
Léa is hyperactive with a “brain seething with ideas”. Impossible for her to work for someone else all year round – she needs to create, to express herself. She resolves not to be able to live on her passion alone, which is the price to pay to live in a restful environment.
Nevertherless, she launches collaborative projects, creates jewelry and accessories, learns about markets, fairs, shops that could help her. She is part of an association of artists with which she can participate in exhibitions.
Everything is a source of creativity for her, a few wild flowers growing in a corner, a baroque work, a book, a film: “For me, everything is subject to creation and any material can be valued. “She is particularly sensitive to the work of Dutch designer Hella Jongerius for her “mastery of color and material”. She likes the chiaroscuro of Rembrandt, the colors of Vermeer, the contrasts of Chagall. Impressionism too, and the Japanese and Chinese aesthetic (from prints to films – “I was blown away by the films In the Mood for love and 2046“). She has a “crazy love for the movie Lost in Translation, which tries to portray Japanese culture in a calm and melancholy atmosphere that touches me a lot.”
Her creative process continues with “visual, lexical and functional analogies.” She thinks about the materials and the techniques and after a very quick turn through the drawing, she moves to the embroidery, “I leave my instinct embroider as it comes”. She also attaches great importance to words. Her training taught her that “words make a universe resonate.” She therefore chooses the titles of her works with care. “In general, with the CNRTL (National Center for Textual and Lexical Resources), I look for lexicography and synonymy so that my titles are relevant in their meaning but also so that they sound good to the ear! I believe in a global form of art and creation, where everything comes together to create a rich and exciting universe.”
Her passion for photography allows her to put her works into images, and the macro is “perfect for capturing materials and textures”.
If her workshop is like “Ali Baba’s cave”, it is on the other hand very tidy.
“Formatted by the applied arts, I like to create by constraint, so I love to create with what I have, to revalue materials etc.… I am concerned about the environment, I avoid overconsumption and I am convinced that creating with constraint reinforces the meaning of a work. The possibilities are so endless. It allows me to contain myself a bit! In addition, I love to pick up things, go to flea markets or to Emmaüs (Second-hand shops).
I have been able to collect a lot of supplies that belonged to my grandmother, and I am fortunate to have family and loved ones who think of me when they travel or collect materials that they don’t need. So I have threads that must be 30 years old, others which come from Armenia, etc … Of course, I also do buy threads or pearls that I love! When I worked at Pascal Jaouen and managed the store, I admit that I sometimes fell for beautiful glass beads or others… I am also in love with the work of Bart and Francis in terms of threads !! Also, having done my very first BMA internship at Lesage, I was very lucky to pick up a big bag of wonderful supplies: threads, beads, sequins, etc. … “
When the pandemic came, it found Léa setting up her small business – meeting artisans and designers, registering to salons and shops. “It kinda cut the grass from under my feet.” To make a living, she worked for a farmer and then for a horticulturalist. These mostly physical activities left her with the mental energy to continue her works during the evenings. Her creativity has never been suspended: her projects for the day range from printing her photos that she wants to re-embroider to a collaboration to make costumes of light (toreador).
Her universe is tinged with the works of Jeremy Miranda, the Portrait of Dorian Gray (“it speaks to me about the art-reality relationship and includes this notion of karma to which I am very sensitive”), books by Emile Zola, the music of Bon Iver and cod with vegetables in chive sauce!