It's not often that designers confess their crushes but Gala Fernández comes straight out with it. 'I met Ettore Sottsass at a lecture he did in Milano in 1994. I was studying at the Istituto Europeo di Design at the time. I was already a fan, but that conference was so touching. I waited until the end and went to talk to him. I fell in love with him,' she laughs. Sottsass was 67 at the time, Fernández a young Spanish student who now runs her own studio, PioPio Design Labs in Mexico City.
Last year, in homage (at first, subconsciously) to her hero, Fernández started working on a series of 16 little sculptures that combine Mexican marble, onyx and stone. Entitled 'Caro Ettore', the objects form part of 'This Is Not A Duet' - a joint exhibition with Sung Jang, curated by Maria Cristina Didero and Juan Garcia Mosqueda - for Chamber NYC, a design art gallery that launched with a buzz during last year's ICFF. Fernández has also created 'Little Games,' a wooden box measuring 50x50x30cm that contains a further 32 pieces that can be arranged in various ways to create your own sculptures. Fernández is a self-confessed 'global nomad', who specialises in working with local artisans and materials; 'Caro Ettore' started out as an exploration into Mexican minerals.
Another of Fernández's heroes is German artist Karl Blossfeldt whose black and white close-ups of plants and flowers set a new standard in botanical photography. Taking his abstract, slightly surreal forms, Fernández has created a collection of nine vases in felt and marble for Mexican felt specialists Feltum, who are exhibiting at WantedDesign. Intricate, hand stitched petals and leaves in grey felt curl around black and white marble cylinders. Feltum's mission is to reinvent wool felt as an architectural material, and Fernández's felt petals make a surprisingly durable and tough argument for it. And like everything else that comes out of the PioPio studio, they are all hand made in Mexico.