(by Taissa Buescu & Winnie Bastian)
It wasn’t by chance that Fernanda Feitosa decided to precisely now inaugurate, in the 12th edition of SP-Arte, an area dedicated to design. We are experiencing a moment of ebullience in the country’s design, with signature furniture, luminaires and objects, drawing the attention of not only insiders, but the public in general – and industry too. We are witnessing an increasing participation of Brazilian design at key events in the global scenario: Milan Furniture Fair and its Fuorisalone, NYCxDesign, Design Miami and the very new Maison&Objet Americas are just a few examples. Our creative designers are becoming better known – and recognized – in Brazil and abroad, particularly in the last 10 years.
More and more, Brazilian designers are becoming convinced that their true power resides in inventiveness and creativity to overcome eventual difficulties – such as the lack of resources, especially in the beginning of careers – and technical limitations. Fernando and Humberto Campana are, without a doubt, precursors of this movement, having, in the 1990s, taken advantage of day-to-day items like garden hose, bubble wrap and shower drain, moving them to the furniture universe and subverting their nature: going from finished product to raw material. Thus, surfaced a new and poetic language, which would come to conquer both industry and design galleries.
But green-yellow creativity transcends experimental projects. Over the last years, industry has recognized the potential of design as a competitiveness factor and invested in original creations. An emblematic case of inventiveness fostered by the crisis is the Spirit ceiling fan, created by Guto Indio da Costa in 2001. Called in by a cassette-tape manufacturer on the verge of going bankrupt, since its product had become obsolete, Guto developed an innovative project that would take advantage of the company’s existing machinery. As a big seller, Spirit also conquered international recognition with the IF Design Awards.
In the field of signature furniture design, veterans Gerson de Oliveira and Luciana Martins, with their OVO, have been consistently working on the production of pieces of functional rigor with an artistic touch, such as the line of modular seats Campo. With a distinct style, youngster Jader Almeida has stood out for his detailed and systematic work in industry, with excellent technical and aesthetic results that has aroused public interest around the world, thanks to his exposure at important events of the sector, like the Milan Design Week, and international awards such as if, which in 2016 awarded his Clad chair. And even the Campana brothers themselves, who until recently were only recognized by foreign manufacturers, now have a line of locally mass-produced furniture: Estrela, by A Lot Of Brasil.
However, since industry’s recognition of design and the actual investing in signature projects is still a recent reality in our country, it is natural that many designers – especially younger ones – end up opting for independent productions to make their ideas viable. Such is the case with Pedro Venzon, who creates furniture made of iron with great levity and elegance, using simple iron-working techniques. Another example is duo Marcelo Alvarenga and Susana Bastos, from studio Alva, who opt to produce their projects independently, such as the Gui benches, made with a wooden structure and leather seats, and presented at the last Design Weekend, in São Paulo.
Many times, independent productions are the path for approximating with industry. Such was the case with veteran José Marton and his well-known Entrelinhas line, initially produced by the designer and later manufactured by Allê Design. Today, several designers are experiencing this reality, such as Ana Neute and Rafael Chvaicer, who created the Beijo lamps for La Lampe, and Guilherme Wentz, who designed the UM wall light for Lumini, both projects also presented at the last Design Weekend.
The more handmade niche, with direct involvement of the designer in production, continues very present in the current scenario. In this field, the work with wood still prevails, thanks to the – direct or indirect – legacy of masters like Joaquim Tenreiro, José Zanine Caldas, Jorge Zalszupin and Sergio Rodrigues, who use it as their main raw material. In the hands of veterans like Claudia Moreira Salles, Etel Carmona, Morito Ebine, Fernando Mendes and Marcelo Ferraz (with his Marcenaria Baraúna team), or the new generation of designers like Ricardo Graham, Rodrigo Calixto, Guilherme Sass and Gustavo Bittencourt, traditional woodworking techniques are used to build furniture with a contemporary aesthetic. From the totally handmade beginning, the works of names like Carlos Motta and Zanini de Zanine extended to industry, but without compromising warmth of the result, having crossed new frontiers and conquered the Northern Hemisphere with the bossa of Brazilian design. And let’s not forget Hugo França, who boosted the natural beauty of wood in its raw state, elevating it to the status of international renowned art.
Within the handmade context, there are other materials skillfully explored in our country – keep in mind the work of Jacqueline Terpins with blown glass (and, more recently, with Corian), as well as the works of Kimi Nii, Elisabeth Fonseca, Gilberto Paim and Heloisa Galvão with ceramic.
Regardless of the type of production, experimental creations have also gained space. There seems to be greater understanding on the part of people in relation to conceptual projects that seek to question the status quo, in some cases, almost flirting with art. A rich ensemble of creative artists, such as Rodrigo Almeida, Guto Requena, Brunno Jahara, Carol Gay and Leo Capote, have increasingly taken advantage of experimentation, sometimes in the exploring of materials (new or reused), sometimes in the utilization of innovative technologies, always in proposals where instinct, feeling and poetry are the main thrust.
Signature work, however, does not place the designer in the position of solitary creator. In the wake of sustainability, grows the interest of Brazilian professionals to develop collective creation products with communities or individuals using the expertise of old craftsmanship techniques. Renato Imbroisi was one of the first professionals to combine the expertise of design with grassroots arts and crafts. In 2015, with project A Gente Transforma, Marcelo Rosenbaum and designers from Fetiche (Carolina Armellini and Paulo Biacchi) and from Nada Se Leva (André Bastos and Guilherme Leite Ribeiro) delved into the local wisdom of the Várzea Queimada community, in Piauí state, and the Yawanawá tribe, in Acre state, to give form to contemporary products executed in partnership with the natives. Even the Campana brothers trailed this path and, last year, traveled to Nova Olinda, inner Ceará state, to create the Cangaço collection with master craftsman Espedito Seleiro.
It is difficult to label the country’s production, since many of our creative artists trail more than one – or even all – of these niches. And it is precisely in this multiplicity that the strength of Brazilian contemporary design resides: a large, rich piece of patchwork that reflects the country itself, with its diversity and cultural miscegenation, where tradition and cutting edge continuously blend in a creative and poetic manner.
Taissa Buescu is editorial director of Casa Vogue since 2010. With a degree in Law, she worked as an attorney until 2003, when she moved to Italy. There, she lived seven years and fell in love with design, having collaborated with interior design, design, architecture and lifestyle magazines.
Winnie Bastian is design editor of Casa Vogue since 2011. With a degree in Architecture, she has worked as a specialized design journalist since 2000. She was chief editor of magazine Arc Design and editor of L+D magazine, having also collaborated with other related publications in Brazil and abroad.