In the Studio with Monica Pisilli

In the Studio with Monica Pisilli

I first met the ceramicist Monica Pisilli through a mutual friend, who had a hunch that I’d love her work, and of course, I did! One of the best things about starting Interior Monologue has been the outpouring of leads like this from friends, or friends of friends, who know that I am always on the hunt for artisans like Monica. After seeing some small  samples that she brought along to show me of her amazing tile work, I just had to meet with her at her studio and find out more about this intricate and beautiful process. I also had to see the massive mosaic tile floor in her family home that she described to me. It sounded too unreal to be true. Why was it unreal? Read on.

Monica she suits up for action. All photography by Tory Rust for Interior Monologue.

Monica was gracious enough to invite me into her Williamsburg home, where I met her and her husband, the Italian chef Giancarlo Quadalti. On the top floor of the sun-filled apartment, Monica has brought a little bit of Italy with her to Brooklyn. So I am now able to confirm, it’s an entire marble tile floor that is SO stunning! The white and grey tile masterpiece, which extends on the entire sun-deck like room, was pieced together by hand in Italy with marble tiles she cut also by hand from her favorite supplier. Upon moving to Brooklyn in the early 2000s, she shipped the floor in 10″ tiles to the new apartment, where it was installed, and stays today over ten years later. For anyone who “has a thing with floors”, this floor takes the cake. I fell so deeply in love that I had to lie down and take it all in! But this is just the start of Monica’s brilliant ceramic installations.

Here I am acting on my “thing with floors”! I kinda had the crazy idea to have the both of us lie down on her masterpiece to fully appreciate it’s splendor.

Growing up in the Ravena region of Italy, you could say ceramics ran in Monica’s blood. The region is rich in history, and carries the tradition of Byzantine-era mosaics everywhere you go. Almost any church you wander into is most likely filled floor to ceiling with the most intricate and remarkable tile work. At just thirteen years old Monica began her training at the Arts Academy of Ravena, where she learned the traditional art of mosaic. Since then, she has continued working on mosaic arts, transforming the craft from decorative arts, like floor tiling and murals, to 3D sculpture, like her ‘Cactus,’ which won a prestigious award in Italy.

Here are the bits of colorful glass that go into Monica's pieces.
Here are the bits of colorful glass that go into Monica’s pieces.

Hands on approach. Monica teaching me more about these age old techniques!

Chiseling each little fragment of glass, one piece at a time. What patience and skill this takes.

Now, Monica has her studio in the sun room of her Brooklyn home, where she hand cuts and places each of her mosaic tiles, using glass and ceramics from Ravena (she originally shipped bags and bags of tiles over from Italy, afraid she would not be able to find the same quality in NY, but thanks the internet, she now orders all her most trusted glass, stone and marble online). It is absolutely amazing to me how she creates these absolutely exquisite commissions, entirely by hand!

A work in progress. How much do we just love these beautiful, intricate designs?

She really liked my lying down idea! Just kidding. But this is Monica on her masterpiece marble floor, pieced by hand and shipped all the way from Italy.

I can’t get over the details in her pieces. This is a close up to show you how much effort one area of a table top can take! It looks like a Klimt painting to me.

I just love getting to peek behind the scenes to see these magical compositions come together. With plans for Farmosaico, her design company, to work on a larger scale and get more collaborative, I also can’t wait to see what Monica will do next! If you are in the market for a floor that will stop people in their tracks, then she is your woman. Or you can contact me, and I will see if I can at least arrange for you to lie down and see it for yourself!