On a recent evening at the Carpenters Workshop Gallery in Paris, Fernando Campana offered to demonstrate the comfort of 'Bolotas', an armchair in chocolate brown sheepskin. The plush fur, sourced in Uruguay, surrounded him as if he had settled into the lap of a teddy bear. ‘It’s cozy,’ he declares, noting that the seat of fuzzy lumps was designed to resemble small balls.
Cozy isn’t a word that usually comes to mind when one thinks of the Campana brothers’ canon. But this latest show at the Paris gallery suggests their familiar themes with new twists. Titled 'Manufactura', the collection of ten new works elevates their artisanal techniques to even greater heights.
‘The idea is to make people think about the manufacture process in pieces that are handmade,’ says Fernando, whose brother Humberto is absent in New York.
To this extent, patches of reclaimed wicker from Thonet chairs have been rewoven with nylon to create geometric modules that stack into a striking bookshelf, or else a buffet that could be described as camouflage cane. Rope has been recast as bronze and coiled into a side table. It furthers the notion of ‘Brazilian baroque’ that they explored with 'Settimio', a curved cabinet in gilded bronze and bamboo from 2012 that also appears in the show.
‘Different processes of manufacture can still have the same language,’ he explains.
For Cédric Morisset, associate director of the gallery, these pieces express how the savoir-faire at the heart of their work translates, no matter whether the source material is humble or luxurious. Either way, it’s ‘instantly recognisable’, he insists. Having written text for a book about the designers, he notes how their first show in Brazil more than 20 years ago was called 'Desconfortáveis' ('Uncomfortable'). Today, he says, ‘the focus is on something softer, maybe easier to live with’.
Whether this applies to the 'Armchair of a Thousand Eyes', a piece assembled from the colourful ‘bag bugs’ created by Fendi depends on context. In shaggy, multicoloured fur, the unique chair registers as extroverted, whether the interpretation is freakish or fantastic. Certainly, it gives new meaning to designing outside one’s comfort zone.