Updated: Nov 6, 2022
When I stumble upon something new that sparks my interest, I often become engulfed with fascination. A small flame quickly becomes a raging fire. I must pour my soul into learning all I can of said something until exhaustion. This instance was no different. Meet Clementina Zegna, the Italian-born globetrotter who turned her artistic talent, vision, and exceptional taste into a stationery empire.
Having spent her childhood surrounded by the beauty of Italy she developed a fervent passion for the natural world and a discerning eye for color. After attending Georgetown University, she fell for the Southern Hemisphere and packed her bags for Buenos Aries. Her nomadic spirit then led her to Cape Town and to New York where she pursued a degree in fashion design at Parsons School of Design (fellow Narwal!), and other far-flung corners of the world.
While exploring the globe, Clementina honed her skill eventually landing in London where Clementina Sketchbook was born. Spanning multiple product lines and numerous collaborations, Clementina's work evokes boundless emotion, the vibrance of life, and her old and well-traveled soul.
Not only does Clementina provide phenomenal products but has developed a community of "Sketch Bookers" through her watercolor classes, miniature painting kits, and transparent dialogue through social media. More than a successful company Clementina has harnessed a true brand with her heart at the center of it.
I had the pleasure of speaking with seasoned explorer about her work and life:
Is there a particular memory or experience that led you to become an artist?
My mother used to host an annual open-house pop-up at our home in Milan for a friend’s jewellery brand. At the time I was already painting with watercolours, and I was asked to create the artwork for the invites. I was 14 years old, and I remember painting hundreds of her earrings for her to choose from whilst sitting next to a graphic designer giving directions on how to set up the invite for printing, and being paid in earrings I still use today! At the time I did not think of it as a job, or as something I could be asked to do on more occasions, but here we are!
A book you cannot live without?
Shantaram. A story of adventure, crime, depth, philosophy, love, and India. I even had a passage from it read at my civil wedding!
Your work is highly organic and colorful, what do you attribute this to?
I am crazy about animals and nature and I have always had a keen detailed eye when observing it. I have always dedicated time to look at things, from how a branch unravels into leaves, how ladybirds move around, the shape of clouds, the tossing of grass, the poses of animals, and the movement of their eyes and furs. I think this has always inspired me to search for that natural and organic effect that feels right exactly how it is, rather than forcing shapes and colours into something
that feels odd.
A dream project to work on?
I have two. As an artist, I would like to create a collection of huge charcoal drawings inspired by my beloved Africa. As an illustrator, I would love to design products for Hérmes children!
You have studied, lived, and worked around the globe with many of the places being vastly different from one another. What draws you to a particular city, country, or space?
I am nomadic and adventurous at heart. I've always loved moving somewhere new and starting from zero, having just my curiosity and enthusiasm to conquer people and my new city. I would say that overall I have been attracted by the two opposites: bustling and exciting cities like London and New York, and secluded nature & adventure places like Buenos Aires and Cape Town.
I am so happy now in London, but I can feel the craving for an adventure creeping up already!
A person of the past you most admire?
Leonardo da Vinci, I am fascinated by his sketches and genius.
An adventure on your travel bucket list?
Orca diving in Norway!
A medium of art you rarely use but would like to experiment with?
I have been craving breaking beyond the precision of my current watercolours, and am determined to experiment with gigantic abstract canvases in oil or acrylic to express something completely opposite to what I am used to.
What was the pivotal turning point in the development of Clementina Sketchbook?
When I decided to create a ready-to-buy collection of stationery under my name, until then I had only focused on fully bespoke projects, and the collection gave a complete twist to my business model as much as a channel for me to create products I wanted to create for myself.
A cause you are most passionate about?
I am a proud Young Ambassador to the incredible wildlife conservation work that African Parks (@africanparksnetwork) does for the preservation and saving of ecosystems across the entire African continent. Their work comes from the heart, it’s extremely cleverly managed and their success rate is without equals. That’s why 10% of all my animal-themed products go straight to them.
Clementina's collaboration with Massimo Alba for African Parks. Signature handkerchiefs adorned with wildlife watercolors.
How do you anticipate Clementina Sketchbook developing over the next coming years?
My vision for Clementina Sketchbook is to grow into a leading illustrations company with expertise in anything children, bespoke, and otherwise. I am looking to explore further into this world of colours and creativity, and extend my product range to name & alphabet prints, fabrics for interior decor, bespoke wallpapers, one-off pieces like hand-painted lamp shades... I have millions of ideas and so much to paint!
With a long career ahead of her, I look forward with great anticipation to see what is to come from Clementina Zenga. A true adventure just beginning to unfold.
Thank you, Clementina.
Shop and discover Clementina's Sketchbook
Follow Clementina on Instagram: @clementinasketchbook
Follow Natalie on Instagram: @natalieealdridge
Images: Clementina Zegna
A special thank you to Leona Ajdan of Sophie Elliott for making this piece possible.