Just days before our very last event from the series on sustainable practices and the role of design in reframing the narrative on the imminence of taking actions for saving the planet now, we present our special guests in consecutive interviews.

We look forward to seeing them and hearing their stories live at the event in Plovdiv, on Tuesday, November 22, at 18:00 in “Kapana” Gallery.

Paulo Sellmayer is a product designer and creative director of Vicara Studio, based in Caldas da Rainha (Portugal). He is experienced in coordinating teams on creative projects on new brand/collection/product design and development. He focuses on materials and fabrication processes, upbringing cultural change through narrative storytelling to all the stakeholders. He sees design as an engine for socio-economic and cultural progress.

Parallel to his studies in Industrial (2010) and Product Design (2020), both from ESAD.CR – IPLeiria, he founded the brands VICARA and Tasco tableware. Since 2010, Paulo Sellmayer’s products have been selected to be exhibited in São Paulo, London, Milan, Rhode Island, Paris, Madrid and Lisbon.

As creative director of VICARA studio he has worked with clients such as MAAT – Museum For Art Architecture and Technology in Lisbon, and established Portuguese brands including Sumol + CompalSovina and Amorim Cork Flooring

Our series of events on sustainable practices in design is grounded in the notion of local realities, sustainability and quality over quantity. Could you tell us more about your personal connection with this theme and your perspective and motivation to be part of the series? 

PS: Sustainability for us means being able to create projects within a local context, where the social and economic impact go towards a prosperous community.  Local designers, local manufacturers and local materials. The products we edit have this reach, where they are made within a 50 km radius, designed mainly by young designers coming out of ESAD.Cr, and where their materiality has this unique feel, making it possible to sell more quality for less quantity. 

This said, I am looking forward to sharing in the series you are organizing what we have learned and practiced so far, not only as an editing brand but also as a creative agency working with local institutions and companies. 

Could you tell us more about the range of projects that VICARA as a creative/cultural agency works on, how you approach a new project and is there a type that you particularly enjoy?

PS: Our range of projects goes from designing products, glasses for beer and wine companies or  gifts for museums, to consultancy and project management, for large companies and local municipalities. Our approach starts with research, getting to know the project before it starts. This is very important as we usually work as outside mediators. We like to have a narrative materiality in what we make, meaning we need to research the processes, the surroundings and everything that goes into the project to have a realistic and impactful perspective. Designing products that last, and projects that withstand the burden of time, contributes to a sustainable practice.And this is something that gives us joy, knowing that design can create mutually beneficial relationships. 

What is it like to run a cultural agency in Portugal? Are there any particular challenges or advantages?

PS: We are based in Caldas da Rainha, a small city where I, and most of the team, studied design at ESAD.Cr. We come from other cities originally so being based here gives the team a plural perspective, which is very important for a broad perspective. Aside from this, here everything is very local, the fruit market, the ateliers and workshops of other colleagues and the magnificent park, is all within walking distance. In our city the critical mass of designers and craftspeople is quite strong, with a great background in ceramic and glass, but also weaving and basketry. In Portugal even though the market is limited, population and interest overall in design is quite small, our scope of activity is very specific, and there aren’t many others doing what we do, so the main challenge now is how we can reach international audiences.

What advice would you give to a new design studio embarking on working as a community and wanting to hone their craft?

PS: Being grounded to a community means empowering its agents, whether they are designers, artisans or cultural and local political institutions. Knowing a craft is being a craftsperson. These are the pillars for a new design studio. Relate socially and have significant technical skills to develop a relevant field of work.

Our series promotes design production processes that harmoniously combine traditional craftsmanship with the contemporary. What is your opinion on the future of design?

PS: I think the design of objects, utilitarian/furniture/decorative, in Europe is shifting from a massilly industrial production to a more specially focused perspective of local crafts. The future is now. As a planet we don’t have time to postpone these changes any longer. So we see a lot of changes in supply chains, production methods and brand narratives. Let’s hope this is enough.