by Jincy IypeAug 17, 2020
Brazil – the land of beaches, beauty, and a big, bright spirit. In the first of our multi-part series Made In: that looks inward to celebrate native design from all over the world, we present a carefully curated selection of five creative designers from Brazil, picked by Humberto and Fernando Campana, designers and brothers better known as the Campana Brothers of Estudio Campana, founded in 1984.
Estudio Campana, celebrating 35 years of disruptive design, is known for remarkable furniture designs such as the Favela and Vermelha chairs. The brothers are revered for their creative process that raises everyday materials to functionally poetic, static forms, bringing alive Brazilian characteristics - the colours, mixtures, creative chaos, as a triumph of simple solutions. Humberto tells STIR that prototypes of their new collection Meteoro were introduced at their latest exhibition Campana Brothers: 35 Revolutions, which opened shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in Brazil. Meteoro is inspired from outer space and comprises an armchair, a shelf and a sofa, constructed with upcycled Styrofoam and covered in metallic leather.
Fernando believes the essence of native Brazilian design comes down to a great wealth of handcrafting techniques and use of natural resources with minimal environmental impact. “This happens on a small scale due to poor policy to support small artisanal communities. Nonetheless, we seek to rescue what is in the process of disappearing in terms of manual crafting and sustainability,” he says. He is of the opinion that Brazil’s biggest challenge is to implement better working policies for these artisans, and a better environmental preservation policy, especially for the Amazon, which is their country’s greatest asset.
According to Humberto, Brazilian design seeks to rescue the bond between sustainable design and production systems, even when faced with the challenge of physical distancing.
We believe that design is a tool that bridges well-being and the object, and this could be approached in a more natural and not-so-industrial way. – Fernando Campana, Estudio Campana
For Made in Brazil, Humberto explains that the common thread between their chosen five designers is the craft, and the way they develop each process and end product. “They experiment and interpret the material with great respect and care. These materials determine the function of each project, imposing their own characteristics. Time works in their favour for each creation - we chose them because they saw similarities in the process and respect for the materials and nature, just like Fernando and I,” he shares.
In no particular order, here are the selections of designers and their works representing the product design industry in Brazil, works that are a subtle, clever balance between art, functional design and consumerism – works that are a ray of hope in reviving a post-pandemic economy.
Born and raised in the mountainous region of Maria da Fé, Brazil, Tótora is a self-taught designer whose material of choice is raw, recycled cardboard, his products floating effortlessly between art and design. Tótora designs vases, fruit bowls and furniture that echo nature’s earthy template – tones of grey and brown found in tree barks, stones and the ground. His works have been exhibited in galleries and shows such as the Sage Culture Gallery in Los Angeles (Âmago -The Essence of Time, 2019) and Maison&Objet in Paris (2018).
“I developed this material after realising the excessive amount of cardboard discarded by supermarkets here in my town,” he explains. Tótora’s pieces are developed in a completely manual process. The collected cardboard is recycled by soaking in water for 24 hours and then dismantled, forming a mass of cellulose where glue is added. This is then sundried and molded by hand to form his smooth, emotive pieces.
“It is very poetic - I deconstruct the cardboard, establish chaos ... I organise this chaos and the object that is born from this process expresses a content, an emotion of and for life.”
Tótora says that he doesn’t consider himself only a designer. “I believe that I am more of a sculptor, and design multidisciplinary…beauty is inseparable from function.”
Out of his ouevre, Banco Estrada (Road Bench) is a limited edition of 13 sculptural pieces where he uses natural ground pigment to dye the cardboard mass, referencing the dirt roads in his region. The solid seat of Poltrona Atalho (Shortcut Armchair) has a telluric texture, while its gravel shape is inspired by nature. This too is a limited edition of 13 pieces. Vasos Tijuco (Tijuco Vases) draws from the rural neighbourhood of Tijuco Preto (black land) in his region, its cardboard mass dyed a powdered graphite.
Tótora with his 10 artisans creates soulful products in his open plan studio that aim to send a message of becoming aware of the planet’s limits: “Sustainability is what you do and not what you say!”
Back in 2013, architect Inês Schertel decided to leave her big city life and relocate to a farm in the mountainous São Francisco de Paula, south of Brazil. Ines and her husband take care of a flock of sheep in the beautiful landscape, which also supplies her with the wool that she employs in her rustic, thoughtful, felt products. She picked up the 6,000-year-old wool felting technique from her travels across Europe and Central Asia. In this process, a non-woven, woolen fabric is pressed manually, with water and olive soap, until a compact piece is formed with juxtaposed layers. Schertel does everything on her own – from obtaining raw fibre to production.
“I build with my hands, and I create for the contemporary art-design market. I respect nature and its ways in my design production.”
Schertel’s handmade Buenissimo basket is created with felt merino wool and dipped in botanical dyes, where the pieces are steamed with elements she finds in the native araucaria forest that surrounds her, such as leaves, bark and moss. Bringing her imagination into felt reality, the frilly white Volteio vase has an unconventional form, much like all her products. With a tauari wood base, the Melena chair is also made from felted sheep wool and dyed botanically, its threadwork suggesting an incomplete weft that is left for the owner to customise as they please.
“Wool is completely natural, renewable, biodegradable and sustainable. As long as I have pasture for my sheep to grow healthy, they will provide me with all the wool I need, and I can keep my design process alive without harming the environment. Shouldn’t all designers be thinking the same way?”
Ricardo Graham Ferreira realised his love for woodwork while growing up in the seaside city of Rio de Janeiro. He took it further by studying its intricacies in Meda, Italy, and then in France. He set up his own workshop, oEbanista, in 2006 in Nova Friburgo, where he handcrafts products and pieces of furniture with tropical hardwood.
“The sheer process of working with my hands, the warm smell of wood, the joy and sense of fulfilment it brings is something that has affixed me to my practise all these years. This is also the reason why I call myself a craftsman more than a furniture designer,” Graham says. Many of his pieces are designed with reclaimed, salvaged wood from old houses and buildings, and various types of fresh timber in Brazil, home to the biggest rainforest on earth: the Amazon.
“I need to touch the material, to touch the wood, to use hand tools. Very often the piece of wood itself gives me the idea of the shape, or the piece that I'm going to develop,” Graham explains.
oEbanista’s award winning three-legged chair is crafted with only six pieces of wood, its backrest held with stretched rope that is twisted underneath the seat. The saddle stool has a beautiful hand carved seat, and a particular height that offers fine, comfortable position to the body. Graham tells STIR that he has started working on the Recordar armchair, working first on developing its elegant arms. “For this piece, I’m using not only cord to create the backrest but upholstery as well.”
Graham believes that the frenzy around producing quickly and producing in bulk is overrated, and it disrespects nature and the essence of time. “Trees take time to grow, take time to be treated. Furniture takes time to be created. Working on wood by hand makes one aware of this time frame, and respects it in the process. We need to understand the correct way to use and grow wood, understand the systems that manage the legal forests, keeping in mind its impact on the environment and local public.”
Born in Porto Alegre, Hugo França studied engineering, and moved to Bahia where he began developing his creative side. He noticed a lot of waste that accompanied the extraction and use of wood there, and that led him to shift gears in his career to focus on becoming an ecologically-oriented artist and designer. França’s sculptural furniture is created in a unique method from salvaged forestry waste. Bulky trunks and roots of dead trees found in forests or parks are his raw material of choice; their unique form and textures guiding the shape of his products, sculpted with chainsaws!
“By using a chainsaw - a symbol of deforestation - to sculpt objects, we embody the irony of the tool used to cut down trees not as death, but as a beginning. It is being used as a tool to create.”
One of his most challenging projects was when he was asked to create a ladder for a beach house doubling as a piece of art at its centre. He hunted for a fallen tree in the area’s vicinity and found an Angelim Vermelho, with striking organic features, and designed a circular stairway around its trunk. Another one of his projects that took eight years was the making of benches for the Inhotim gardens. “In total, there are 130 artworks, among which are the most monumental and daring pieces I have ever created,” he says.
Árvores Urbanas/Mobiliário Público was fashioned using the remains of city trees, turning them into furniture and playful sculptures for public gardens and parks. Projects like these require public and private partnerships between companies and enterprises, and these also allow França to hold workshops in environmental production techniques.
Speaking about his process, França says that his team searches and collect waste in the forest or in areas that have once been forests and are today pastures or plantations. “Of this rescue, 95% is of a very important species in my production, the Pequi-vinagreiro. This tree, originally from the Atlantic Forest biome, has the longest life span of tropical forest species and is typical of the south of Bahia, where my studio is located.”
The rescued tree is first inspected to visualise a form, along with recognising parts of it that have suffered decomposition in its lifetime. França then uses a chalk to outline the portions that will be used to make the sculptural end product using a chainsaw. His works stand as poetic records of nature, with woodsculpting being the only interference in the process. He is currently working in his Trancoso studio, finishing the rescue of a magnificient and millenary Pequi-vinagreiro.
Caldari is a textile and fashion designer from São Paulo with her own brand, and also works at Colcci, a Brazilian fashion brand. Her colourful, organic, almost irregular tapestry and rug designs are fueled by colours and elements of the big outdoors. These are produced using manual tapestry, old weaving techniques, familiar workings on a loom and simple materials like leftover wool. “I feel that the tapestry has an enormous power to comfort the eyes of those who see it,” she says.
Caldari believes in the process of slow design. “For me, speeding up the production does not mean better products. I take my time to finalise my concepts, add as much meaning as I can, because it’s important to be sure about the things that we bring into the world,” she explains. She is inspired by her own observations of daily happenings, especially when she is amid nature, which directly influences her style.
“Working on a handloom is almost meditative – it is rhythmic, it is intended repetition.”
The Tufted tapestry is a fun mix of orange, purple and red, arranged in an almost shapeless form, made using a tufting gun. “Working with the pneumatic tufting gun is not as simple as it looks, although it is something I love. A lot of physical and psychological preparation is necessary,” Caldari says. The yellow and beige Iris tapestry is bigger, a 100 x 150 cm handmade piece, created with needles, thread and wood. Opposing materials and techniques combine in The Interlaces lamp, an older piece made in collaboration with T44 studio - pops of mud yellow and red thread are woven around a metallic and circular form, bringing forth a challenging yet delightful production process.
“My greatest intention is that my work will stay generations within the homes they live in. Weaving allows me to make use of all leftover wool. Every designer needs to think about creating with more awareness. We owe it to ourselves and the planet we inhabit,” she deliberates.
Curated by Amit Gupta and Pramiti Madhavji, STIR X Script present Made In: an original series that features curated selections of product designers across countries, showcasing modern, sustainable, home grown design.
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