Under the brand maestrokatastrof, Silvie Luběnová interconnected two subjects that have been occupying her since her studies. After graduating from a ceramic school in Bechyně, she continued her studies at the porcelain atelier at UMPRUM, from where she crossed to illustration. As maestro today, she doesn’t do pottery but she prefers ready-made porcelain pieces with a story, which she finds at various charity shops and flea markets.
She customises old motifs and decorations with her own illustrations so that they could compliment each other. She often uses cutouts from old portrait photographs. Most of the time these are photographs of strangers but, from time to time Silvie dusts down her own family album and you can see her cute child self smiling at you from porcelain plates and bowls. Apart from porcelain collections, Silvie has a range of interesting custom-made illustrations in her portfolio. For example, you may notice her handwriting in the Aero cinema bar, where she decorated the interior lights with her playful illustrations and signs.
Maestrokatastrof has two workspaces. Silvie goes through old albums from charity shops, cuts out portraits and invents new motifs in her apartment in Holešovice. The rest happens in her workroom in Nusle. We were welcomed in Silvie’s beautiful apartment, which is full of her original and unique work and immediately caught our attention with its perfectly tuned interior.
You graduated with a degree in illustration from VŠUP. How come you ended up working with porcelain?
Yes, I did. I studied at the ceramic high school in Bechyně, which was great, but a bit too brown for me. Then I continued my studies at the porcelain atelier at UMPRUM, however, I found out shortly after that I wasn’t careful and patient enough for porcelain (I have many jokes, stories and neologisms on this topic…). So I crossed over to illustration. That was better for me. The medium is quicker and more flexible. I got to working with techniques, processes and, generally, in a way that I enjoyed. Then, a long time after my studies, I interconnected these two subjects. Because I was never good in coming up with and making a new shape I started using existing, and what’s more, beautiful and unique pieces from charity shops. I add another layer to them - my illustrations.
You pick a piece of porcelain in a charity shop and what happens next? Could you describe the whole process for us?
I buy porcelain that I find somehow interesting in charity shops, flea markets and ‘weird’ shops. It could be its decoration, shape or execution. According to what I am working on at the time, my interest shifts from trays, sugar shakers, and bowls to the most incredible plates… I make changes to an existing decoration with illustration, painting and collage. I use glazed paint, gold and ‘hazenky’, which are basically stickers – only that mine are little heads, arms and photograph segments. I call them the most expensive cutouts in the world.
You get your motifs from old photographs, mainly portraits. What is it that fascinates you about them?
Hmm, they are somehow mysterious and have a strange poetic nature about them. Most of the photographs are of people in studios - in staged positions, expressions and looks that are not real. Today nobody does it the same way, It’s no longer possible. Family photographs from charity shops are an interesting insight into lives of strangers about whom you can make anything up and use them for any story. Actually, the pictures can be sad sometimes, even melancholic. I often hold them in my hand and don’t use them at all, but put them away. It’s fear or maybe respect.
How much time do you spend on this project? Would you like working on ‘maestro’ full-time?
I couldn’t do this full-time and, for now, I don’t even want to. But I’m spending with maestro more and more time, it’s true. It’s a good thing because it all evolves, crystallizes, and starts to make sense. And I like having on and off projects, jobs and places.
Where can we find these pieces designed by you? Where do you have your biggest sales?
From the very begging they have been available at DOX by Qubus. A special series is available at Praguekabinet and in the collection of commemorative plates at Cihelna Concept Store. Since October there has been one whole window dedicated to maestro in the Czech National Bank passage! The biggest sales are generated by my private clients.
How did you come up with the name maestrokatastrof?
It’s the title of my dissertation at UMPRUM. It included thirteen large format drawings, really huge, questioning who needs illustration, when, and if we even need illustration at all. The format was meant to stress the question. I dust off, framed and displayed them - and patted myself on the back… Ha. Anyway, the series was called Maestro Katastrof. So that.