Nathalie Lété calls Paris her base for artistic creation. The ceramics, illustrations, textiles and stuffed animals she creates receive orders ceaselessly – not only in France but from clients all over the world. She also has many fans in Japan, with her work recently featured in a Parco department store campaign. Sweet and cynical, cute but mysterious, Nathalie’s distinct worldview is perfectly consistent. Her art’s stylish aspects hold up across a diverse range of platforms thanks to her detail-oriented quality control and her thorough management. The love she pours into every single piece of art is what enables her art to make people feel happy. Our first Saturday in Paris we visited her studio. The weather was rather inclement but our hearts thumped with anticipation as we entered the property shrouded in mist, each step taking us closer and closer into her world.
Artist Nathalie Lété’s studio is a renovated factory. Trees crowd the space inside the fence filled by a tranquil atmosphere, undisturbed by the noisy world outside. The yellow construction crane overhead leaves a lingering shadow of the old factory days.
Inside the studio, the sound of rain becomes muted and the chirp of a canary occasionally echoes through the large space. The lights have been turned off and natural light gently pours in from an entire wall of windows. I see East European furniture, a forest of trees, animals, mushrooms, bugs, empty boxes, toys, candy, dolls… The inhabitants of this imaginary world Nathalie lives in seem to be lined up at shoulder’s length, patiently awaiting their turn to be painted.
After graduating from art school, Nathalie and her friend Mathias Robert formed an art unit called “Mathias & Nathalie” and worked on ad campaigns and storefront displays for about 10 years. Following her marriage to Thomas, a fellow artist, and the birth of her first child, she left “Mathias & Nathalie”. She says she felt hesitant to work alone at the time. “My brush lost momentum… As I was grappling with this issue for quite a while, I decided, I’ll paint for my daughter Angèle!” Nathalie drew a picture of a toy that she used to play with when she was a child, which was something she planned on giving to her daughter. Many paintings were created while her feet gently rocked her daughter’s cradle. Nathalie was beginning to feel confident again when an old classmate at Chanel made an offer to collaborate, which is when she started getting offers from all over the world, including H.P.France in Japan, Anthropologie, and Godiva.
It’s important to approach each job separately, says Nathalie. “I must’ve gotten my perfectionist ways from my German mother. It’s almost neurotic. I always get worried about whether people will find joy in my work. It does get tiring sometimes to be under such self-inflicted pressure, but that’s always how I’ve worked and I don’t think that will ever change.”
Nathalie lets her dog Spike off of her knees. She starts to sketch as Spike curls up on the floor. “I was an only child so when I was small I made up stories in my head and painted or made my own dolls to play with. The work I do now is very close to making that world I imagined as a child a reality. It’s something truly magnificent to me. In the morning, I have breakfast with my loving family and send them off. Then I come to this studio and delve into my own world. A world no one else can enter, a world that is absolutely my own.”
Nathalie Lete was born in 1964. She lives and works in Paris. She works in many ways, mixing different techniques and mediums, illustration, ceramics, textile and painting… Her work is colourful, naive and poetic, sometimes strange, to the point of tending towards art brut. Her world is nurtured by popular and folk art from her both origins (her chinese father and her german mother). She produces children’s and graphic’s books, knitted and stuffed toys, glass pictures, patterned dishes, but also postcards, ceramic sculptures, silkscreen printed t-shirts, rugs and jewels in limited edition… both for herself and for commissions.