Textile Designer and Dyer in Residence
UMRU: Natural Dyeing Workshop
with Cecilia Ceccherini and Maïté Ouceni
Festival dei Due Mondi 2023
In partnership with the Ethical Fashion Initiative and Fondazione Carla Fendi, we welcomed Maïté Oucéni to our 2022 summer residency session, a French textile designer and dyer currently living and working in Italy and previously in Mali. Oucéni’s work, which includes experimental design and sculpture as well as the development of functional objects, combines traditional and contemporary eco-sustainable techniques — focussing, in particular, on natural dyeing methods using plants and minerals. Describing her practice she says, “My work take inspiration from the natural environment — not only in terms of its forms, but also the functioning of ecological systems. This idea of bio-inspiration has a sustainable ambition at its core: to innovate technologically and economically, creating a positive impact on the environment. Such initiatives have a name: biomimicry. It is an approach which brings ecological issues and commitments into the heart of my creative processes and influences my choice of materials. I will never stop asking myself — how will my chemistry fit with the rest of the living?”
During her residency Maïté studied with Alessandro Butta, an expert in natural dying techniques based in the nearby Marche region. It was with great sadness that, during the session, we learnt of Alessandro’s death in an accident on his farm. He will be dearly missed by the community of artists and makers who he inspired and with whom he generously shared his time and knowledge.
In 2020 in Bamako, Mali, with the mentorship of the Ethical Fashion Initiative Design Accelerator (supported by the European Union), Oucéni set up Maöta Studio, a community of artisans developing natural dyes and sustainable textile designs using traditional Malian methods with modern approaches, aiming to have a positive impact on people and the planet. The studio has a vision is to democratise and preserve different forms of traditional know-hows threatened in West Africa and accelerate the transition to a positive fashion industry in harmony with people and the planet. Due to security and political issues in Mali, Maöta Studios projects are currently suspended.
In Spoleto, Oucéni developed her practice in the context of the Mahler & LeWitt Studios ‘Materia’ program, a multi-year project which aims to map, with a macro lens, histories of material extraction in the valle Umbra: their use as resources, influence on cultural production, and how these histories can inform our relationship with local geographies today.
Oucéni’s residency was supported by funds from the Premio Carla Fendi, awarded to Carol LeWitt and Marina Mahler in 2021 by Fondazione Carla Fendi.