Interview with Carolina Melis

Carolina Melis is a Sardinian-born designer, art director and founder of Mio Karo, a brand of fine textiles based in Sardinia and inspired by traditional motifs. The Mio Karo collections are all hand made in Sardinia and currently include rugs, cushions, wallhangings and baskets.

INVERNO from FOUR SEASONS collection

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With Mio Karo the idea is to create pieces that can be found in shops and therefore be easily placed on the market. For this reason I have chosen to work with collections rather than unique pieces, and to focus on products that can meet people’s taste and be easily commercialised.

Working with handmade products requires a careful balancing of the demand and the actual supply capacity. However, what prevents the craft sector from taking off is the absence of a shared long-term vision. The sector also often lacks of professional skills such as marketing, communication, customer care etc., which are necessary to support the work of the artisans and therefore facilitate the commercialisation of the products.

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I believe that the narrative around Sardinian crafts needs to be detached from a general image of Sardinia like for example that of folklore or beautiful beaches, but can rather be built on the already long and distinctive tradition of high quality products and be associated with other sectors such as design.

I work with small Sardinian cooperatives which are very different from each other. During the production stage it is very important to communicate with the artisans directly and establish a trustfully relationship with them. I spend days in the laboratories working next to them so that it is easier to understand each other’s languages.

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With my work I am very careful to not alter what belong to the tradition either from the technical or design side. However, I want to take a step forward from the past. The artisans are very enthusiast to work with new ideas but it is essential to be aligned with them on the objectives since the beginning. Each cooperative has its own distinctive motif, for example in the village of Mogoro the carpets are characterised by floral elements and for being very colourful, in Ulassai by the colours black and white, in Nule by triangular motifs (‘Le fiamme di Nule’), that I reinterpret in my design. This makes the collaboration quite special and unique. The artisans feel responsible for each single piece of the production; they are the keepers of the tradition and the ones who know how to make the work.

I have been collaborating with an interior designer in London and in September Mio Karo is going to be part of an exhibition at The Hospital Club during the London Design Festival 2015 (19-27 September 2015). At the moment I have also started other collaborations with some small companies outside Sardinia; I would like to make other kind of carpets. Finally, I have been invited to a conference in Mexico, where I am going to talk about Sardinian carpets.