Coffee Creations

How Art Can Triumph Even In The Most Unlikely Circumstances

As humans, we are notoriously resourceful: we can build things from nothing and find solutions for problems that at first seem impossible. This just what Carolina Maggio did while travelling in Mexico, like the human’s will to survive, the artist’s need to paint was too strong to be subdued. With only coffee to hand, she began to experiment – splashing the caffeinated substance onto napkins and using only her breath to spread it out and create natural shapes.


“I love the innocence of this moment, when all I am doing is looking into the coffee like a child observes the clouds, trying to spot animals”, Carolina muses. Finally, she would use a black pen to trace out the images she saw in the coffee, describing it as, “bringing order to the beautiful chaos of the organic shapes created by the organic substance”.


Today, she is far from the simple village existence of her travelling years, however her coffee art remains. Combining memory and moments to create a nostalgic collection of coffee stain art, Carolina expanded her flimsy napkin designs into a series of wearable art: each unique, each pure and each a testament to the phrase: where there is a will there is a way.


The Plus: How did you get into coffee art?
Carolina Maggio:
Drinking too much of coffee!
But mainly travelling. I was in Mexico when I started painting with coffee simply because I was travelling with just my rucksack so there was no way for me to carry my usual painting materials. This meant I had to be resourceful and when coffee was the only thing to hand, I just thought ‘why not?’.
It was near Teotihuacan, I was living with a small Nahuas community who shared many wonderful traditional practices, as well as delicious coffee. When some drops of coffee fell on the wooden table I begun to see intriguing images in it, perhaps because inspired by the magical atmosphere and spirit of the place. The images I saw in the stains of coffee became increasingly more vivid and the spilling of coffee and drawing on the actual stains became a fundamental creative process for me.


TP: What is the inspiration behind the different figures and images that can be seen in your art?
I never think about what to draw, I simply look into the stain of liquid and paint what I see. However, the shamanic practices of South America have hugely influenced my imagination.
I continued painting on coffee stains for several year from that time in Mexico, loving the simplicity of the use of such organic material and its warm, sepia tones. However, it was only when travelling to Peru and spending time with a Cusco’s shaman that I started to see in this artistic practice something that helped me to see deeper inside myself.
I then discovered that what I do in this technique is called ‘paredoila’, a psychological phenomenon involving a stimulus wherein the mind perceives a familiar pattern of something where none actually exists. This fascinated me and this phenomenon continues to be the inspiration for my work, which started with coffee and now continues with all sorts of materials and medias. It is always a surprise for me.


TP: The collection can be purchased in scarf-form – what attracts you to wearable art? How does fashion tie in with art, in your opinion?
I think it started with the very fact that almost 100% of my wardrobe is stained with paint! I guess that in an era where ‘bespoke’ seems to be the magic word of the fashion world it is easy to see how art ties with it, as it adds something to the fashion design that is irreproducible and therefore ever so precious.
It was in 2014, when I created a project called ‘Send Me Your Stains’ – where people around the world sent me their stained clothing items and I returned them turned into a piece of ‘wearable artwork’. I realised that people were okay about wearing something stained if it meant they were wearing something unique. I really felt the importance of making this artistic process interactive and I was fascinated by how my technique could perhaps help people to see that what they perceived as a mistake – a stain, something negative – had the potential to be something unique, bespoke and artistic.
The concept of Up-Cycling became then the heart of this art-meet-fashion venture. I began to buy clothes in charity shops – particularly if they were damaged – and turning them into my very first Wearable Art collection. The response from the public was amazing and it gave me the enthusiasm to develop and refine my technique.


TP: How does this collection differ from your other work?
The coffee stains collection is something I consider the very bones of all my other collections. I am an artist who works through a wide range of medias and practices, including street art and oil painting, but I feel that the inspiration in my other work is always influenced by my coffee art. This is something that I now apply to a variety of materials and not only with coffee but with anything liquid and colourful. I always strive to challenge myself and to go a bit deeper, discovering more of who I am and the reality I live in.


TP: What’s next for you?
Aside from trying to drink less coffee? I am preparing a new collection of paintings on different fabrics, which I am planning to exhibit in the summer 2016. The main material I am painting on at the moment is faux and real leather and am working on a variety of commission from interior designers, something that has started at the London Design Week 2016 and of which I am very excited about.