Oh, so charming, beautiful, enchanting, distinctive — Nathalie Lété’s art! I was attracted to her unique style upon first seeing her decorated plates at Anthropologie.
As you probably know, I’m a ceramics freak, and loved her flowers, birds, and folkloric motifs before I actually knew who she was. Until I did a little research, I HAD NO IDEA her designs were everywhere, and I mean on everything from clothing, rugs, fabrics, children’s toys, greeting cards, postcards, and lampshades, to jewelry, linens, totes, and in children’s, graphic, and coloring books.
She’s a global brand extraordinaire with huge markets not only in Europe, but also in Japan and Australia. Mixing various media and techniques, she is that rare artist whose work has enormous commercial appeal. She’s worked very hard to establish herself in a highly competitive field.
Nathalie is a Paris native, the only child of a German mother and Chinese father. She credits her mother with reading extensively to her as she grew up, claiming that the themes she loved from childhood — flowers, animals, textile patterns, fairy tales, toys, folk art — are what continue to inspire her work today. She loved the children’s book illustrations she saw and spent lots of alone time drawing and living in her imagined world.
She spent her holidays with her grandmother in Bavaria, where she enjoyed exploring the forest (her favorite fairy tale is “Little Red Riding Hood”). Even now, when she is in nature, she recalls those good feelings and tries to convey them in her art.
She also credits her father with influencing her artistic sensibility. Though he was often absent because of work, she remembers her home being filled with lots of silk paintings.
She describes her paintings as “mosaics” — a patchwork of her favorite themes; she often uses contrasting elements to create a personal vision where she can feel happy and confident. She’s often motivated by stories she makes up in her head.
She loves “the vibrations of colors” and always tries to convey strong emotions in her pictures. One could describe her work as both nostalgic and kitsch. I would add poetic, romantic, fanciful, sometimes mysterious/strange, undoubtedly original. When you see a Nathalie Lété piece, you know it immediately.
Nathalie had always hoped to make a living as an artist, but was told it was impossible. Undeterred, at age 18 she sought an astrologer’s advice, who predicted she would indeed become an artist. Though she received formal training at two schools in France, she finds it important to do “rough work” — striving to keep her pieces “naive” with a childlike freshness. She likes surprises and a feeling of harmony.
How did Nathalie build a following? She began with postcards and painting shop windows. She likes the large canvas of windows and finds them easy to paint. She gradually received more commissions and over the years has collaborated with notable brands such as Gucci, Meri Meri, Chronicle Books, Vilac, Mon Petit Art, Unicom, Inka, Blue Illusion, Disneyland, and Issey Miyake.
Today she lives in Paris with her French artist husband and her son and daughter (both in their twenties). Years ago, they purchased a home next to an old metal factory which had once manufactured pieces of the Eiffel Tower. This large studio space affords her the quiet she needs to feed her creative muse.
I love Paris, because as a nostalgic person, I really feel the past, and I enjoy to imagine myself at the 19 century. I particularly like it in the morning very early, when the streets are empty and just the first people begin to work and open their cafés…
Nathalie is constantly driven by the need to create, to “do something,” and her well deserved success attests to her commitment to all facets of her art, whether painting, ceramics, or embroidery.
Enjoy this video interview of Nathalie in her studio (wish my schoolbook French was a little better so I could understand more). Even if you don’t know French, it’s still fascinating to see her workspace and the breadth of her oeuvre.
Also this one of her painting a shop window in Tokyo:
And finally, here’s Nathalie reading one of her pop-up books:
Here are a couple of her books (click images for more info):
*Copyright © 2020 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.