For AW18, we are exclusively working with British artist and poet, Robert Montgomery & poet, actress and filmmaker Greta Bellamacina, who as a couple, act as the theme to our collection ‘Calidity’- the art of light, passion and spark.

As ambassadors to our brand, both have been inspired by John Smedley’s history and craftmanship. It is using the ‘Calidity’ theme, that had inspired Robert to create bespoke artworks for John Smedley which exclusively premiered at London Craft Week and are now on display in our London stores. Greta’s collaboration with our ‘Love Over All’ collection last season, was designed to challenge the perception of both our heritage & pre-conceptions of womanhood itself, embellished with her thought provoking poetry.

We spoke to Greta & Robert about their artwork and how love has inspired their creations…

When did you both start creating poetry and art, and what attracted you to it?

Greta Bellamacina: We started the first day we met. In a way it was kind of our first language. We decided that first night that we would write each other a poem but then we both got frustrated and ended up writing one together. I don’t think either of us thought about the importance of that moment until afterwards. Since we have published a collection of collaborative poems “Points for Time in The Sky” published with New River Press. They ended up being quite London poems- about the night bus, Tesco Metros, london fields, the urban landscape from the train… When you read the poems you kind of forget who wrote what and that’s interesting,
Robert Montgomery: Yes it’s almost that by writing together you can create a third voice.

Do you have a particular process/place where you like to work and create?

GB: I like to work from the floor of our flat. I also like to write poetry in chain cafes- the local Costa for example, I find those places universal and connected to the world.
RM: I work in a way where the written and visual aspects are connected from the beginning, for example I write in Adobe Illustrator, which is a drawing software. I think that’s the modern equivalent of Concrete Poetry, I think if Apollinaire was alive today he would probably craft his poems in Illustrator.

 How do you come up with ideas together when it comes to collaborating?

GB: From a kind of automatic conversation that we seem to have had naturally since we met. We actually started writing poems together the night we met. We’re both interested in the Surrealists ideas of “automatic writing” and they would sometimes do that together in groups- pets like Andre Breton, Paul Eluard and Rene Clair. We just took that principle and tried to do it in a modern way.

As the focal point to our AW18 ‘Calidity’ collection, based on two hearts and two art forms, how do you both influence each other’s work?

GB: I think we’ve kind of crashed together everything we know together into a family library or a big pile of family words- like the pile of shoes and children’s wellies that builds up in a family hallway.

What does love mean to you?

GB: Love is the beginning and end of the day. It is the silent understanding of being understood.  It’s the invisible energy that carries us through the chaos of the unknown. Having a family is like its own separate haven of sacred love, it gives you a home no matter where you are. Love is the music of living.
RM: I can’t say that any more beautifully than Greta just has. I also think having a child is quite mystical- the mixing of Romantic Love and family love, the creation of new life and the echo of love songs. Also strangely being a father makes me feel closer to my own father who passed away.

What people/love stories inspire you both?

GB: We have a favourite cafe in Paris, tucked away in the courtyard behind the Pompidou Centre where there is a pond with special fountains. Each fountain is a collaborative sculpture between Jean Tinguely and Nikki de Saint Phalle, who were a husband and wife. There is something very charming and childlike about the kinetic sculptures move, but why these artworks inspire is because they seem to be together more than the some of their parts. Love should be like that.

Your relationship seems to be connected by your shared love for poetry and art. How and why did you start your own press ‘New River Press’ together?

RM: We started New River Press because we like the idea of a writer led poetry press and we could see lots of new support emerging for spoken word but no so much for page poetry, and we wanted to give life to new literature which both challenged the times and reinvented the English language.  We always loved the story of how Virginia and Leonard Woolf started their Hogarth press from their dining room, but we lived in a very small flat that didn’t have a dining room so we decided we’d have to start it from our sofa. We found that a lot of other poets we respected felt the same, so it’s sort of been like an explosion of blank verse and blank hope.  We’re running the press a bit like an indie record label and trying to get the books out to a young audience, for example, we’re launching our next book in Urban Outfitters on Oxford Street instead of in a traditional bookshop.

 You’re approaching your wedding anniversary, has marriage changed your relationship and artwork?

GB: I don’t think it changes it just develops into a more cohesive way of communicating. I think one of the most beautiful things about marriage or long relationships is that you develop your own secret words for things, a private lexicon that stakes out a gentle kingdom of dreams.

 What are the wisest words you’ve heard about love?

“Love is home in a homeless world.”

What attracts you to each other’s art?

RM: Greta’s language is ascendant. She can start from something mundane and quickly rise into unexpected metaphors, and an unexpected use of words that makes the mundane suddenly magical. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do with language and she does it very naturally.
GB: Robert has the ability to talk everyone, his words are somehow always universal. It’s almost like poetry is a second language to Robert, it comes so naturally. He has an amazing way of looking at the sky and finding the sea in it.

Has raising your child inspired you to create in different ways?

GB: Having Lorca makes you more aware of the small things, the small joys in life, and it makes Robert more aware of the mornings. RM: Yes I used to write a lot at night. Now I get up at 7am every day and I enjoy the mornings much more.

 How do you feel you’ve evolved as artists over the years?

RM: I don’t know how much you notice that yourself, I think you have to have the honest courage of your direction and follow that. I don’t think you get to very interesting places if you’re constantly self-checking. You kind of have to put your head down and go for it.
GB:  I agree. You have to put your whole heart in to the world and only later is there any room for retrospection.

  How has working with John Smedley inspired your artwork?

GB: We were very inspired by the sense of time and continuity at Smedley. That the factory has been making essentially the same things since 1784 is quite awesome, and the sense of a continued tradition is really strong. Also the factory seems very at one with the landscape around it, almost in a slightly haunting way as though you can feel the friendly ghosts of generations.

What is the best experience you’ve gained through poetry and your artwork?

RM: Having a continued dialogue with strangers is the most valuable thing. A back and forth of language in the world.

 What can we expect from you both next?

GB: I’m in the process of making my feature film “Hurt By Paradise,” it’s the story of two London girls, and in a way also a love letter to London.  Also my selected poems is being translated into Spanish and will come out this autumn.
RM: I’m preparing for a show at the Aspen Art Museum and working on big project with the curator Barbara Polla for the Perama area of Athens. I’m also helping a bit with Greta’s film because I really believe in that project, she has written a fabulous script.

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