So there I was, happily holed-up in a casa di campagna, a  country hideaway near Alba in Piemonte, Italy. Beautifully restored by Swiss friends, it was a rustico offered to me for a summer’s studio practice. They knew that my teaching work left little time for my own artwork; they also appreciated how important it is for a teacher in any field to be personally engaged with their subject.

I have written previously about a few works from that precious time at Casa Columbina.  See, for example, one Italian summer,  farfalle, and saying the unsayable.  Also see this page in the ‘nomad collection’: Italy

But this little piece stayed in the shadows – perhaps because, at the time, it was too personal, something made for my eyes only, something made to help bring a chapter to a conclusion.  You see, a long relationship had come to an end, and although it was a mutually agreed and (mostly) mature winding-up, there was debris.  It took many moons for the debris to settle, and making this piece definitely helped.

I simply couldn’t toss out my ex-partner’s letters.  He wrote beautifully.  We shared so much: questions, ideas, travel, art.  I wanted to honour both our years together and the traces left in his letters.  I wanted to make some kind of a container for these letters, something simple and rustic, only using materials found at hand.  

As I was playing with possible formats, my Italian neighbour popped in.  I tried to explain what I was doing and she tried to understand… she spoke no English and my Italian is beyond pathetic.  Eventually, she conveyed her understanding that what I was doing was “wrapping it all up”, making a dossier or file… and that Italian word for it was incartamento.  

Oh, I liked that word – it fit my purpose perfectly, and in true Italian style it rolls off the tongue like honey.

Fast forward a couple of decades.  My memento comes out of hiding and a dear friend who knows how to drive a camera expertly documents it for me: thank you, Carol Brandt.

Miriam Louisa Simons - Incartamento 1

salvaged cardboard
khadi paper
acrylic and oil paints
resin stains
the letters
old drawings and photographs
butcher’s twine and other threads
butterfly wings

215 x 240 x 65mm


Miriam Louisa Simons - Incartamento 2

It can be opened vertically as a book, or horizontally as a box.


Miriam Louisa Simons - Incartamento, detail of letter bundle

The letters, wrapped in khadi paper, stitched, bound with butcher’s twine and sealed with beeswax.


Miriam Louisa Simons - Incartamento 3


Miriam Louisa Simons - Incartamento 4


Miriam Louisa Simons - Incartamento 5

And now, all these years later, the quiet pleasure of having this memento matures like fine wine.  It gives off a bouquet of gratitude and appreciation for the experiences shared, the learning and depth of feeling that flowers within intimacy.  I prop it up and smile.  

The capacity to make is nothing less than alchemy.


15 thoughts on “incartamento

  1. What a very special post Louisa and a moving reminder of those magical days I so often shared with you.
    A perfect time for the Incartamento to come out of hiding. Thank you (and Carol), with love.

    1. Yes – it was impossible to put this post together without thinking of you my dear, dear friend and companion on so many adventures! (Such a shame you never came to the lovely Casa Columbina.)

      Thank you for your beautiful words…

    1. Marita – bless you for visiting, reading, and taking the time to comment. Revisiting the ‘incartamento’ piece has unleashed such deep appreciation for the way life unfolds itself in perfection. I’m hardly ever off my knees.

    1. Cara – what beautiful words, and wise and true; the piece is indeed a testament to love.

      Thank you.

      (Just think – if our correspondence had been hand-written and delivered by snail-mail, rather than email, we’d have a lovely bundle by now.)

  2. How lucky those letters must be now – finding themselves so thoroughly treasured. – My mouth and my eyes watered when i looked at this and read it through. Very moved by this – both your words and the images.

    1. Nina dear – your wonderful comment made me realise how fortunate we are to have lived at a time when letters were written by hand, placed in an envelope and sent by post… delivered to a letterbox that was checked every day… opened with keen anticipation (or dread) and savoured as something special. Kept in a pocket or under a pillow, bundled up for safe-keeping… Younger generations, for the most part, don’t know the delight of this tactile aspect of correspondence.

      Much love to you – be well, be well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s