In the last three years that Noé Duchafour-Lawrence has lived in Lisbon, the French designer has immersed himself in his adopted country’s rich artisan culture and craft traditions, so much so that he has established Made in Situ there, a design studio dedicated to honouring Portugal’s unique craftspeople and practices. The studio’s first two collections are currently on view in New York at the art gallery Demisch Danant, in an exhibition that articulates the process of spending time discovering a place and then understanding its origins and its inhabitants. Comprising ‘Barro Negro’, a series of handmade black ceramics, and ‘Burnt Cork’, pieces of furniture made from cork, the objects are testament to cross-disciplinary, cultural exchange.

Cork table with black ceramic vase

‘The designed pieces are the fruits of my adventures, explorations of geological and biological textures, patterns, materials and their related techniques,’ says Duchaufour-Lawrance. ‘Above all, my inspiration comes from human knowledge and sensitivity, linking to and embedded in each specific place.’

Inspired by Portugal’s various regions and unique dynamic between land and sea, Duchaufour-Lawrance set out to investigate the relationship between the country’s historic crafts and its geographical and natural resources.

Black pottery on floor and cork furniture in background at Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance show at Demisch Danant gallery New York

‘Demisch Danant x Made in Situ’, exhibition view at Demisch Danant, New York. Photography: Adrianna Glaviano

At the gallery, from left, Noé Duchaufour Lawrance, Suzanne Demisch and Stephane Danant. Photography: Adrianna Glaviano

For ‘Barro Negro’, a recognisable, naturally black pottery specific to Portgual’s Tondela region, Duchaufour-Lawrance enlisted the expertise of local ceramicists Xana Monteiro and Carlos Lima to develop new forms.

Encompassing a set of 12 vases, each infused with a different persona in a nod to the sense of community Duchaufour-Lawrance experienced when he first visited; larger, unadorned vessels bearing the unique marks of the firing process; boulder-like lamps that remind the designer of the mountainsides of Brittany; and orb-like perfume diffusers, the otherworldly ceramics collection exudes a gravitas in its austere, yet almost spiritual-like appearance.

Cork furniture in New York Apartment

In contrast, the furniture in the ‘Burnt Cork’ collection pays tribute to the warmth and tactility of Portuguese cork. In a celebration of the material’s malleability and resilience, Duchaufour-Lawrance has created a sculptural dining table, a chaise longue, a stool, as well as low chairs and coffee tables in articulated forms that almost appear to be carved by hand.

Inspired by an encounter with burnt cork after a forest fire, a material that’s typically discarded, Duchaufour-Lawrance worked with a family business in the Algarve that was salvaging the damaged material and transforming it into custom gradient blocks that are then carved by CNC machine by master technicians at Granorte, a cork company in Rio Meão in the north of Portugal, into the grounding forms of the furniture. Each piece is a combination of horizontal and vertical forms.

Back of cork chair

’I had seen some of Noé’s “Burnt Cork” collection from afar, but everything was enhanced when I experienced it in person. To feel the material and appreciate its tactile character is to understand the innovation of the craft – an ultra-contemporary design born from something honest in its materiality,’ says Demisch Danant co-founder Stephane Danant.

Fellow co-founder Suzanne Demisch adds, ‘As a gallery, we’re interested in presenting various dialogues and uncovering the stories behind each work. I was attracted to Made In Situ’s point of view as well as it use of local and natural materials. While cork and clay are not new materials, Noé’s unique design process and aesthetic are innovative.’ §

cork furniture with large burnt clay vessel