Oct 10, 2012

Design + Craft, The Brazilian Path

Book Review

In her latest book, Adélia Borges explores what happens when craftsmen and designers collaborate. What works and does not work when creating products together. And although she shares stories on the 'craft renaissance' in Brazil, valuable lessons for designers and importers working in other countries can be learned, too. A Craftscurator book review.

Craft Boom
Brazil has gone through a turbulent development phase in the past 20 years. Its economy boomed and the crafts sector has been no exception. Currently there are about 8,5 million people earning a living by making things with their hands. In Design + Craft, The Brazilian Path, Adélia Borges describes how the process of craft revitalization has taken place in Brazil. Projects have been developed to improve technical conditions and make better use of local materials. Different directions have been taken, guiding artisans to become suppliers, for example, and the creation of identity and diversity in the crafts industry.

Design from Brazil
Great examples of handmade design can be found in Brazil. In the favela's of Rio, Coopa Roca is making rugs. They re-invented a traditional technique using nozinho (little knots), and are creating expressive carpets. With Dutch designer Tord Boontje, they created a magical chandelier. One of the icons of Brazilian design is the Multidao chair by the Campana brothers. They asked craftswomen in the Paraiba state to make thousands of traditional hand sewn dolls. Each chair contains about 100 dolls. Clever use of local raw materials is made by the group Amor Peixe (guess what that means ;-)). They use fish leather to create delicate objects.

Adélia Borges is the grande dame of Brazilian crafts. In the book, she shares stories and insights on many projects, and is not scared to point out failures. When craftsmen and designers work together in a project, the fact is that the craftsman is often uneducated and the designer is educated. It takes a lot of effort and time from both sides to bridge this gap. The two often have very different expectations and objectives. Designers sometimes have a fixed mindset from the beginning of a project, creating products that have nothing to do with the local meaning, functionality and aesthetics.

Luckily, there are also many good examples. Collaboration is all about exchange, Adélia Borges says. It takes time and energy to understand each other's perspectives and goals in a project. If designers are able to encourage innovation, and craftsmen are able to express their identity and use their skills, exciting new products can be created. Craft objects that offer a real experience for users, because they are unique, clever, age with beauty and tell us about a real place and real people who made them.

Ode to Crafts
This is one of the first books on the subject of merging design and craft. It does not romanticize the renaissance of the handmade, but puts the development in perspective. Adélia Borges specifically talks about Brazil, but her insights are equally important to countries worldwide looking to revitalize their craft industry. A movement also going on in Europe, where companies and consumers are merging, where industry and makers are merging, where the mass-made and the unique are merging. This book tells the stories of those developments, by telling the stories of handmade design from Brazil.

Design + Craft, The Brazilian Path by Adélia Borges. Publisher Terceiro Nome. ISBN 978-85-7816-084-5

Multidao Chair by the Campana Brothers
Includes hundreds of handmade dolls from Paraiba
Tord Boontje's chandelier
By a Coopa Roca maker
A Campana's Chair
Made of apuí fiber
The Book
Highly Recommended
Coopa Roca's Chandelier
Design by Tord Boontje
Nozinhos Carpet
Little knots using leftover textiles
Fish Leather
Beautifully crafted