For this Tastemaker feature we talk to Claudia del Olmo Russo, the designer and creative who, along her sister Isabella del Olmo and friend Cecile Deni, founded Casa Balandra, and is also a member of our Artist Open Call selection committee.
Casa Balandra is a creative residency and guest house based in sunny Mallorca. A light-flooded retreat where artists, writers, and creatives (including many Partnership Editions artists) are invited to partake in the Spanish customs of indulgence and relaxation while creating a fresh body of work.
Here we chat to Claudia about the core values of Casa Balandra, the art that fills its walls, and the importance of meaningful experiences and relationships.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how Casa Balandra came about.
I dreamed up Casa Balandra with my sister many years ago around the kitchen table in Mallorca.
Of course, at that time when I was only around 18, I didn't quite envision exactly what it is today, but our main focus was experience and community. We wanted to create something that would bring together people who were searching for common things, who wanted to be part of something and connect through creativity, exchange, and food.
What are Casa Balandra’s core values?
We are all about slow living and enjoying the small things we do in our day-to-day as much as we can. As I wrote this I woke up to a cloudy, windy, fall-like day in Mallorca and decided to take the morning slowly, having a good breakfast with my partner and friend who is visiting, listening to music, and lighting a candle.
Another core value we have is indulgence. When you're here we want you to be fully indulging in all these experiences, if you want to lie in, do it. If you want to cancel your meetings and enjoy the day by the pool, cancel them. Of course, I understand this isn't ALWAYS doable, but while you're here, we want it to feel like it is. Especially when it comes to food. Indulging in great wine, great food, late long dinners... that feels like Balandra.
We want people to leave having created a community and having met people that have added something meaningful to both their practices and their lives. We find that, by putting people together in groups, it encourages an exchange of knowledge and critique that can really help push your work to another level.
How do you select the artists participating in the residency?
We have open applications. We go through them and pay special attention first to the portfolio and then to the personal statements and what ideas they have for their time at Casa Balandra. We then interview the final selection so that we can get a glimpse of what they're like and if they're the right fit for the program. A lot of it has to do with how we think people will fit into a group setting and if it seems that that's something that interests them.
Talk us through some of the artworks in the Casa Balandra collection.
There are many! It's very hard to choose one in particular since I've built a very close relationship with the artists that have been here.
We've been very fortunate to have some beautiful donations. One that comes to mind from last year is Nadine Goepfert as she created a very situational piece that really embodies the residencies. During her stay with us, she would stretch out a piece of cotton that we´d use as a tablecloth for our Family Dinners. We have these once a week (technically, every night ends up being a family dinner) and it's a time for us and the artists to come together at the end of the day. Every stain left behind she would embroider, creating a map of our meals and moments during her residency. I love this piece because it embodies the importance we bring to community and conviviality.
Another from this year would be Mary Anne Herbert's piece, whose work particularly touches me every time I see it. To me, her work serves as portals into the worlds she creates. The piece she left behind is a smaller piece, which was one of the larger focuses of her time during her residency here as usually she paints larger scale. It's a dream-like, hazy landscape with soft lines and brighter focus points.
What have been some stand-out moments at Casa Balandra?
The first residency will always be a special one. It was November 2020 and after all the mess and loneliness that came with COVID, it felt surreal to have made it that far. It was truly the right way to begin. There were many open discussions about people's practices and some collaborations that happened along the way. At the end of the month, we hosted our first open house and it was very special to see how people from the island interacted with both the art and the space.
What excites you about the future of Casa Balandra?
I'm excited to grow into a bigger space, something we're looking forward to (if all goes well) this next year. We want to provide more opportunities for up-and-coming artists and create different funding opportunities along the way as well as bigger and better facilities for both practice and exposure of the artists that come on residency.
Current song on repeat in the studio? Bar Mediterraneo by Nu Genea
Your muse & dream dinner guest? I'm still figuring these ones out
Perfect day? A good book on the beach followed by a great dinner on a candlelit terrace
Favourite place? Currently love spending time in Lucca, Italy