One day in March, 2019, I was standing amidst old books in an antiquarian bookshop in Basel, Switzerland when I came across a bunch of postcards. No ordinary cards, no. These ones had a peculiarly nostalgic character, being composed and embroidered by hand. I bought some.
The shop owner I asked for the artist’s name handed me a note with a name and a street. I took it with me, keeping it in my bag. During those days I was living in Basel with my family. Months later, having moved back to Berlin, I unpacked the postcards and started to do a little research on that artist, Saskia Parisi. It was not before 2021 that I took a sheet of writing paper and dropped a note to Parisi, sending it to the Basel address the shop owner had noted for me. A few days after that, she answered. By letter. It was the beginning of a wonderful correspondence.
Voilà! Take a dive into Saskia Parisi’s art and get to know more about her life and work.
Saskia Parisi on creating her label, „bildersturm“
There is a label attached to Saskia Parisi’s postcards: “bildersturm” (which vaguely translates as “storm of images”). This was the first thing I noticed when I chose one of her cards at the antiquarian bookshop Libelle in Basel. The card is embroidered with green sewing thread.
How does Parisi choose and combine her motives?
„I launched ‘bildersturm’ due to my hobby, the plasticising of illustrations which I sewed up to etuis”, Parisi says. Her etuis came with a wide range of different motives, many of them showing floral elements she also used for the creation of postcards.
„Creating postcards is one of my dearest activities“
I have been fascinated by papers ever since I started thinking”, Parisi says. Due to that fascination she started collecting all types of papers, candy wrappers, old city maps, or the papers which can be found on markets to wrap oranges. „One day I started to create collages, just for myself, and time and again, I crafted birthday cards for some friends.” These ideas were followed by the plasticising of illustrations she found in old dictionaries and fashion magazines. She used them to craft her etuis and sell them in shops and museums in Basel until 2020.
Time and again, the bookseller and artist participated in the Basel Postcard Festival where a community of people crafting postcards displayed their art. Sometimes, it is an exhibition of more than 1,000 card motives.
„Creating postcards is one of my dearest activities”, Parisi says. „Whenever I have some kind of idea, I enjoy the flow and relax.”
She finds inspiration in her collection of antique postcards she found at several flea markets. „I am happy whenever I have some time and rummage around in them”, she says.
“Pasting and painting them over is some sort of recycling to me, it is something I really love.”
For many years, Saskia Parisi has been working in a bookshop of which an equal area consisted of antique books. „It was here that I gathered a great part of my paper requisites – damaged or unsaleable treasures I could cut and dissect and be uninhibited in that.”
„Interesting enough – there are times when nothing works”
Saskia Parisi uses to stick to originals in her craft. This means there are no copies she makes and sells. Each piece of art is unique. „It may be hurtful to cut a motive“, she tells me. „But my delight in creating something new is bigger than the pain. Interesting enough, there are times when nothing works. Nothing seems to fit together, and the next day, the pieces find their way to a match. Things straighten out.”
Parisi sells her postcards in two shops in Basel, at Buchhandlung Pfister, a bookstore she used to work at for years, and at Papeterie ‚Carte Blanche‘.
Her main characters these days: a 19th century Natural History of the Realm of Plants and a fashion magazine
Currently, Saskia Parisi is sewing embossed circles on postcards. Two antique paperworks are the main characters for this: The antique book Natural History of the Realm of Plants and a fashion magazine. „Both pieces are from the 19th century“, she says. „Apart from these, I work with an art-deco wallpaper I found 25 years ago. It was a piece of bulky waist that now, finally, benefits – and so do I.”
The animals you see on the following cards once populated dictionaries before, in a way, Saskia Parisi saved their lives. „Some days ago, I came across a waste disposal site in my city where employees of a library were disposing old volumes! Some of them were Brockhaus volumes. I started garbage picking, and one of the employees even helped me – she suffered as much as I did, witnessing all those paper treasures that were landing on the garbage.”
Paper as counterbalance to the digital age
For ten years, Saskia Parisi has been working at the media library of a grammar school in Basel. Here she experiences the pace of the ongoing digitization. „During work, all the change we see is very close”, she says. “I enjoy working with pupils though less and less of them read books. Many just grab the latest mangas, usually being in a hurry. So I love being around pupils who are hungry for books and curious.“
It is at home, in her atelier, that the bibliophile artist finds some deceleration. „My books and papers are stuffed in several drawers and boxes, but surprisingly, I often know where to find the thing I am looking for.”
She also likes old typografy and advertising.
Are you interested in Saskia Parisi’s postcards? Just let me know. I forward your request to the artist.
In Basel, Switzerland, please find a selection of Parisi’s postcards in the following shops:
Buchhandlung Anne-Marie Pfister, Dorette Paraventi and Corina Lanfranchi,
Petersgraben 18, CH-4051 Basel, Switzerland
papeterie carte blanche, Schreibwaren & Papierkultur, Susanne Krieg, Schlettstadterstrasse 50, CH-4055 Basel, Switzerland