I loved Nathalie Lete before I even knew her name. I had the most pure, almost childlike connection with her art; to me, it's the sort of art that leaves you defenseless and dumbfounded in the wake of its beauty, the sort of art that gives you new eyes with which to view the world, the kind of art that returns you to a state of wonder just when you've grown to be cynical.
Her work came to my attention via a collaboration with Anthropologie. I no longer believe in the distinctions between "high" and "low" art; I was not prepared to experience such euphoria walking into a retail store, but there I was, holding in trembling hands a little plate with butterflies and strawberries on it, my life philosophy quietly changed.
Alas, as is the case with most things, I did not have the funds to actually purchase any products with Nathalie Lete's art on it. But, to quote Osho, love is about appreciation not possession, and appreciating Nathalie's art was enough fulfillment. She continually stuns me with the paradoxical, complex simplicity of her designs and artwork. She creates like a child who has all the knowledge in the world, and still chooses to see the good in it. It's easy to see the influence of outsider/folk art-- Nathalie's work is unpretentious; it was created to bring joy to herself and others, no irony, no arrogance, no ulterior motives. The animals and botanicals she carefully pens are whimsical and charming, but lurking beneath their wide, sparkling eyes is a sort of melancholic self-awareness; sometimes it's painful to see the best in people.
What work are you most proud of?
I was specially proud when I exhibited in the Musee de la Piscine in Robaix (north of
France) in 2015. It was a retrospective of my work between 1995 and 2015,and my art was displayed in a huge space of ten different rooms. Each room had his own theme: the eyes,
Forest, mountains, the house of grand Ma, little red riding hood, under the sea, the
childhood, the meadow, the wolf, the butchery… I really felt a sense of accomplishment, and also it was very interesting to work on the display, and have a wide audience
view of all my work.
Who are your biggest inspirations and what lessons have they taught you?
For sure, folk art and outsider art are my biggest inspirations... all of the
craftsmen and unknown persons who made all these amazing objects, from
textile to ceramics, from religious objects to furniture. They me that you can create art with the idea of making something beautiful, or something that makes you happy, or art therapy which helps you to live better with yourself, using materials that are around you, taken from the
nature, like flowers, wood, stones, seashells, or pieces of fabric, wool, paint. I consider art exactly in that way: it is my therapy. I make art to be happy by creating beauty for myself, and for the others if I can.
Using a metaphor, how would you describe your creative process?
My creative process is like building my nest. I feel like a bird who brings little by little pieces of wood or straw to construct the environment which will protect myself and my family. That is why I like to try all kind of techniques, because I want to have the possibility of creating all parts of my house if I can, or be involved in each tiny part… then I think I will have the feeling of achievement.
How has your work changed over time?
At the beginning, I worked for ten years as a team, with my first boyfriend..we
made some painted cardboard sculptures,and we created all kind of 3D
animals, people, objects, under the name Mathias and Nathalie. Then I decided to work alone, and began to self publish some small editions of cards, stationary, silk-screened T-shirts.
Then later, rugs, silk scarves. And few years later, publishers and fashion brands came to me to ask me to collaborate with them. Nowadays, I paint everyday,and build a bank of images. With all these images, I create some designs for different companies, or let some others even
use them in their own way … so you can find all over the world different kinds of products with my paintings on them.
What is the best advice you've ever been given?
Some fashion designer told me long long time ago to work for myself under my own name, as a freelancer. Because at that time, 25 years ago, as I looked for some jobs as designer for
other brands, once I showed my art, people said that it was too personal, too strong, and that I couldn’t work for other fashion designers.
What is your favorite memory?
Two years ago, sitting in a restaurant for my birthday lunch, I received
an email from the brand Gucci, who asked me if I would be interested in
collaborating with them. It was the most beautiful birthday gift ever.
What motivates you to continue making art?
I cannot live without creating every day. It is my way of life.