Sustainable practices in design with João Bruno Videira

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.

João Bruno Videira is a self-taught artisan and furniture designer since 2006, when he created his own first brand: água de prata, with which he reinvented the use of a traditional and excellency raw-material in Portugal – the wool. Since then he represented Portugal in several international design fairs such as the London Design Fair in 2017 and 2019, the Dutch Design Week in 2019 and the Dubai Design Week in 2020. João Bruno used to work as a TV journalist, till he found in art and design his new way of expression.

João, initially you worked as a TV journalist. Tell us about your radical change from being a journalist to creating handmade objects.

JV: Apparently both worlds have no connection but in my opinion that is not so obvious and to be honest I do continue to communicate, to tell stories. I just changed the medium. It’s also visual communication, but instead of words and images now I use colors and forms.

Tell us something more about your working technique and how do you limit waste in your daily work.

JV: I work with wool, that’s my selected raw material and my creations are 100% handmade. I use
some traditional techniques that I adapted, such as the loom… because I transform the frames I use into looms, by weaving directly into the pieces. And there are other techniques such as sculpting, by addition, in which I use handmade wool ropes that I create depending on the object I am doing.

Limiting waste is always present in my work. Actually that’s how it all started 16 years ago, when I created my first object by giving a new life to an old chair. Since the beginning that is something I was completely aware and I knew I had to make something to fight it. We are garbage mass producers. Back then there was still no culture to promote reusing, the transformation of old objects into new ones… the upcycling.

Besides having my own design, since I started working in this field I always promote this philosophy, because most of the objects can be transformed into new ones or have a different function and last longer instead of being garbage. Not only I still continue to transform old objects every time it’s possible, but also I have a zero waste policy in my work. All the waste I create is reused in my creations… such as the wool stones or the tree sculptures. Inside they are full of my own wool waste. But I also reuse, for instance, old tires and transform them into wool sculptures.

What is your definition of sustainable/circular design and fashion?

JV: It’s a group of good practices that contribute to reduce our carbon foot print and promote a new model. A model that has concrete measures in all stages of production, from sourcing the right suppliers, to manufacturing, to packaging, all in order to preserve our environment.

What do you love most about being a textile sculptor?

JV: What I love most is the power of creating with my own hands, it’s a kind of magic. A real pleasure that is difficult to describe.

Your products are aesthetic, functional and minimalistic. Which are the main values, core concepts or style inclinations that, above all, will always represent your work and yourself?

JV: I’m very proud of having found my own language. Normally I don’t tend to follow trends, I just try to hear my inner self, being connected with my own essence. And that is reflected on my work I hope. Above all I believe that authenticity and originality are the keywords to define my work.

If you take someone who is interested in ethical design with you to Tomar, what places would you show them? What are the “musts” to visit (studios, shops, art spaces, galleries, etc.)?

JV: I’m very fortunate to work in an old factory that is now transformed into an art factory concept where different artisans and artists create and cooperate. So first I would make a guiding tour inside the building where I work, where people can also see other artisans in areas like pottery, basketry and tinsmith. There’s a very diverse universe of arts and crafts in this factory that is worth to see. Outside the factory that used to be an old mill, Tomar has a lot to offer although it’s a quite small city but still one of the most ancient and important in terms of Portuguese history.

The Templar knights choose Tomar as their headquarter in the 12th century, so the Templar castle and the convent of Christ on the top of the hill which is Unesco world heritage is a must see, it’s actually an art history lesson that we can have live. There’s also a contemporary art museum and a very unique one which is fully dedicated to a collection of matches from all over the world.

Another thing we cannot miss in Tomar which happens only every 4 years is the festival of trays. A very unique and genuine parade to honor the harvest and fertility where every woman carries a tray of its own size on the top of her head.

Sustainable practices in design with Paulo Sellmayer of Vicara Studio

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.