He took over the family business, and it’s a real resurrection that has been going on for 15 years, giving the Ateliers Pinton its former nobility. All this time, the program has been to train, develop, rebuild on the foundations of the company, which is rich in history, know-how and its team’s expertise. Innovative and visionary, Lucas Pinton is a young business whose secret is to modernize, with instinct and humility, the precious heritage of Maison Pinton. And everything he does is a success: from custom-made carpets to excellent rugs with modern patterns and designs, to this alliance, at the heart of the brand’s identity, with renowned artists, to revive the colors of the contemporary tapestry.
A familial heritage
“I am from the fifth generation of Pinton’s family”, and the only son among three sisters. Lucas Pinton was born and raised into a family which is specialized in textiles, carpets and tapestry. He will grow in the suburbs of Paris, far from the company based in Felletin, in the Creuse region of the Limousin. “In my early childhood, I did not know this job well because I did not go there often; however, there was an unconscious link connecting me to the family business.” They loved the tapestries and the beautiful paintings in his family. “My eyes were probably sharped at that moment. He keeps an unforgettable memory of the encounters and artistic exchanges of his father and grandfather, while making unique pieces of wall tapestries. A flourishing period in which Pinton Ateliers will produce works of art in very limited series, collaborating with famous artists like Jean Lurçat, Sonia Delaunay, Fernand Léger, Marc Chagall or Alexander Calder. “I have found a lot of letters and photographs, and they all used to come to the family property. So, I understood that we had a legitimacy and a unique story to pursue.” He will undertake studies of general economics at the University of Paris Assas; then an internship in Ateliers Pinton where he will discover the diversity of professions involved in tapestry business. But nothing yet predestines him to carry on the family tradition. The switch will come due to circumstances.. His father had offices in Paris where he made carpeting. In 1999, he decided to sell them to focus on the tapestry and carpet only. Financial problems do not work out; and in 2002, he filed for bankruptcy. “Would you like to take over the business?” That’s when Lucas Pinton, who was only 23 years old, will say yes, a personal and family challenge awaiting him.
Revitalize the company
“It should not be seen as a tragedy. The 150-year-old companies have all had good times and difficult times.” It is with this state of mind that the young heir is involved in the world of carpets and tapestry. Founded in 1867, his house has a long past behind. Its founder, Jean Pinton, was an entrepreneur who wanted to develop an economic activity in the catchment area of the Aubusson region. And there was all the elements gathered to build a tapestry business: a quality workforce at competitive prices, wool and the technique of dyeing, in addition to the historical heritage of the city of Aubusson known worldwide for his tapestries. His paternal grandfather, whom he will not know until very young, will make his mark on society. “In 1929, he had only one employee. And he was able to revive the activity by associating with artists.” He will also diversify products and techniques, leading up to 150 people in the late 1980s. Lucas Pinton wants to build on that success. He starts with courage, developing his market. “At the beginning, I went commercial by responding to calls for tender from big luxury shops.” Then he focuses on the genes of the company, namely the realization of tapestries art. “I started to associate with artists because this segment has a future and this is our identity.” Hope and passion bear fruit. From 7 employees initially, the company has returned to full activity, with a diversification of its markets and a worldwide presence. Today, it is the reference in custom-made carpets and tapestries from Aubusson, with partners, suppliers and employees who participate fully in its outreach. In 2009, the Ateliers Pinton awarded the EPV label (Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant), for the excellence of their know-how, innovation and their concern for transmission.
Rugs and carpets of excellence
The company is organized in two areas: Pinton Manufacture for luxury decoration, and Pinton Edition dedicated to contemporary art. Together, they highlight the age-old techniques of a hand-crafted traditional trade, such as the low stringer technique (basse-lisse) or hand tufted design. “The carpet is at first a product that goes to the ground, and we walk on it. It delimits a room or a space; and for the carpet, it’s wall to wall.” The decorative side is important, but also all the technical qualities to enjoy this use. “A cotton canvas is stretched over a frame, and using a hand-held needle gun, wool is stranded into the base. It can also be leather, natural fibers or gold threads, depending on the models drawn beforehand on a cardboard box.” This technique of hand tuftage is therefore an art that requires a high level of expertise at each stage of carpet creation. It provides a multitude of possibilities in terms of patterns and shapes, “and especially to allow customization of materials, colors and sizes”. 90% of Pinton’s production is bespoke, with prices for all budgets. And that’s the added value for customers, in addition to the signature. Ulrika Liljedahl, the brand’s flagship designer, has contributed to this modernization. Since 2007, she has launched several collections bringing a Haute Couture touch to the carpet. “After the rain” for example is a great success. In the Paris showroom, some of her creations will be exhibited in January at the Deco Off 2018 event.
For the carpet, the manufacture is more mechanical, but they still use old methods as the weaving process Wilton or Axminster. Raw material selection is crucial, giving preference always to local production and French manufacturing. “We use a short cycle. Everything comes from France: the leather and the rubber, the wool and the cotton from the Creuse area, the gold threads of Lyon and for the silk, we will get it in Switzerland and in Italy.” Yam and Spinning preparation are done in Felletin itself, in a place that is 5 minutes only away from the company. This reveals a very strong relationship between the company and its suppliers. As for carpets, an in-house design office creates collections and lines are renewed each year, depending on the exhibitions. “This makes it possible, from a sample, to personalize the offer with private customers, interior decorators and architects.” Beyond the Residential segment, Pinton Manufacture also works for specific markets such as yachts and private aircrafts, or institutional environments such as embassies and ministries. Today, it exports to Europe, the United States, the Middle East and Russia, with future developments such as the opening of showrooms worldwide for a local presence.
The ambition for a modern tapestry
“The tapestry is a more mural and artistic. It is a fixed panel that warms and gives an atmosphere to a room, but it’s only visual.” The weaving technique is different and we use the low-warp weaving technique, the same used for the Aubusson tapestry. It dates from the fifteenth century. On a loom positioned horizontally, we tend a pure cotton warp. Then we put the paperboard (the carton) that represents the work of art and the lissier (or weaver) weaves entirely by hand, working on the reverse side of the tapestry “I very often compare this to an opera, where there is the composer who is the artist and the sponsor of the art work. Then the conductor who is the artist cartonnier. He enlarges the model to the execution size of his loom. Finally, the musicians who are the weavers. They are the ones who realize the tapestry with yarns that are hand-dyed in house, interpreting the paperboard for colors and gradients.” Lucas Pinton has always bet on the development of this art market, which can be speculative. Today, this activity has become a showcase for the Ateliers Pinton with galleries, artists and collectors coming from all over the world. The house also makes edition rugs in limited copies that are exhibited to show the know-how, aesthetics and put forward a four-handed collaboration with an artist. “In the collective imagination, we often think of greeneries when we talk about tapestries. It is up to us to show that contemporary tapestry has its place, with modern designs and contemporary artists.”
It turned out to be a successful wager as the tapestry has become trendy, thanks in particular to the creations of the Ateliers Pinton which knew to work with remarkable artists like Enzo Cucchi, Joe Tilson, Lionel Jadot or David Tremlet. The last loom state even concerned Fernando Botero and Etel Adnan, two of the most expensive Contemporary artists. All the daring touches as speculative regards are permitted here, but Lucas Pinton keeps a cool head. His only desire is to continue his involvement with the company by making new progress towards the development. And who knows, may be having one day the Pinton signature near the artist Anish Kapoor.
Interview held by Carine Mouradian on December 8, 2017, in Paris
Link to the website of the Ateliers Pinton
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