The Florence Years:
As a child, I was very shy and kept to myself a lot. I still consider myself shy, actually, but I try to present myself outwardly as friendly and outgoing for the good of my business. It’s crucial to connect with people in order to be successful. I don’t remember much about my childhood, I think because my family lived in lots of different countries, including the United States, Spain and the United Kingdom. Recently a journalist friend of mine wrote an article about me for a Canadian magazine. She told me she remembers me being very creative and always painting and drawing.
I’m a very ambitious person. I have worked a lot over the past nine years building my brand. I’m also very stubborn, which makes it hard to let go of an idea once I get it in my head. I remember frequently being stuck in school and then getting inspired at the end of class. At some point I also went to art therapy. The creative artist has always been a part of me.
Privately, I’m caring, loyal and eccentric and carry a blend of Italian and British attributes. Having grown up in London, I gained certain British ways of thinking, living and being. Now a resident of Italy, I’ve picked up Italian sensibilities as well.
I received my art foundation in textiles and fashion and took painting courses before moving on to earn my Bachelor of Arts in Sculpture from Camberwell College of Arts. I did not receive any training in business, however; all of that has been learned on the job. I find that trial and error is the best way to learn. I’ve learned more working than I have studying. Studying gives you skills and ideas, but there is no point in having wonderful ideas if you don’t know how to put them into action.
I do get in creative ruts from time to time. Usually a bit of surfing on Pinterest and Instagram is enough to free my head. I try to go to art shows and design fairs as much as possible, especially when I’m in London. One of my favorite inspiration meccas is the book department at Selfridges.
My artistic style is organic, floral and colorful. It’s also versatile, adapting to whatever projects or themes I’m working on at the moment. I’m drawn to nature and organic forms. I love experimenting with different materials and textures and have always been interested in seeing what happens when I mix things up. That trend has continued steadily through my career, as I continue to experiment and push boundaries to this day.
Fabric and Florence
I started my business in 2009 with my business partner Karl Jorns. Karl and I met while working for Elio Ferraro Vintage, a dealer and artist who had three shops in Rome, Milan and London. I worked in the Rome shop and Karl the Florence one. I had been living and working in London prior to the Rome job but was feeling somewhat lost due to personal changes going on in my life. I decided I needed a fresh start. I came to Florence, which was familiar to me from the handful of holidays spent at a local family home. Karl and I were officially set to embark on our new joint venture.
One day I was sitting on the palazzo of my family’s house, gazing at the property’s neighboring greenhouse. It occurred to me that perhaps this could be our studio space. Karl and I got to work converting the space into our atelier, La Serra MK (back then it was known as Marka Studio). The space dates from the 18th century and is attached to the even older Palazzo Pandolfini. It faces the palazzo’s private garden, which was converted to an English garden by Eleonora Pandolfini in 1806. It is a unique location that can be visited only by appointment or during the annual “Open Gardens of Florence” event.
This studio is sentimental to me. It has mutated and changed so much through the years, it’s almost like a growing child. Karl and I like to change it up regularly so that it never feels stale. Its energy is magical and dreamy and has a serene, calm feel to it, especially on sunny days. Everyone who visits is drawn in by it. I like to think it’s in part due to the love and work that Karl and I have invested in it.
I manage and run the studio, deal with clients, production, sales and marketing. Karl works on the production and technical side, in addition to sourcing fabrics and other materials. Our business is not only about creative design but also about selling and marketing. We occasionally restructure in order to improve our processes, but at its core, our mission is to create one-of-a-kind, limited-edition textiles for home and outdoors. We create and design all of our products, from runners to place mats to cushions to lamp shades, here in the studio. Standard materials include linen, cotton, gauze and jute, all of which are sourced from the nearby town of Prato. Our showroom houses a small collection of product to show off to clients.
“It’s a never ending journey of trials, failures and accomplishments. In the end, it’s about staying persistently true to your creative mission.”
— Margherita Pandolfini
As beautiful and inspirational as Florence is, it has proven to be a challenging location for our business. Florentines are conservative by nature, which makes it hard to both take risks and earn a place among the city’s established, native artists. Still, I have managed to create a name for myself in the local contemporary art scene, an accomplishment I take great pride in given these cultural hurdles.
The best part of my work is getting to meet and work with all the lovely, talented people in this industry. We have worked with Bergdorf Goodman to create a collection of runners and place mats. We worked with a Saudi prince to design the textiles for his 2015 Burning Man camp site, and the following year we decorated the conservatory of his family home in London. Currently we are working with Airbnb to develop textile workshops as part of their “City Trip Experiences.” We’re also teaming up with Kino Vino, one of the most exciting supper clubs in London, to create tableware for their pop-up dinners.
Looking ahead, I hope to be able to spend longer periods at my individual bases, (Florence and London), and to develop and expand my brand. I’d like to connect with interior designers in the field and am considering dipping my toes in the wedding market.