Swiss designers collaborate with Mexican weavers on screens and lights

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Casa Wabi installations at Design Week Mexico

Swiss designers collaborate with Mexican palm weavers to create screens and lights

Swiss designers Julie Richoz and Nicolas Le Moigne have used their residency at Casa Wabi in Mexico to produce a series of woven lighting and furniture pieces with the help of local artisans.

Casa Wabi installations at Design Week Mexico

Richoz and Le Moigne spent five weeks at the Tadao Ando-designed coastal artists' retreat in Puerto Escondido, in the southern state of Oaxaca. During their stay, they worked with craftspeople based in a nearby village to adapt their palm-weaving skills for contemporary pieces.

Casa Wabi installations at Design Week Mexico

The results are a collection of screens by Richoz and a range of lamps by Le Moigne, all featuring surfaces with decorative patterns formed by weaving the dried leaves around frames.

Casa Wabi installations at Design Week Mexico

"We both decided to do quite large pieces, because the technique is quite rough – which is part of the beauty of it," said Richoz. "To have large objects, it goes well with the dimensions of the details of the palm."

The process involves drying the leaves, then removing certain parts before turning the fibres into rope.

Casa Wabi installations at Design Week Mexico

Although the artisans are used to working with wood, the Swiss duo opted to use metal frames for a more contemporary look. These were made in a workshop next door to the weavers' workspaces. Le Moigne also designed one floor lamp in wood for variety.

Casa Wabi installations at Design Week Mexico

The residency was intended to be educational as well as productive, and Richoz shared what she learnt through taking part.

"One thing that I discovered there is the way that the people are using craft in a different way than I know from Europe," she said. "There's a very direct relationship between the people that want to buy the furniture, and the people who are making it."

Casa Wabi installations at Design Week Mexico

The designer also spoke about the challenges of working in a remote part of a foreign country. "The [weaver] that Nicolas worked with doesn't speak Spanish, he speaks a local language: Mixtec," said Richoz. "So it was difficult to communicate, but that was also part of what made it interesting."

Casa Wabi installations at Design Week Mexico

The duo's designs were presented at Casa Wabi's space in Mexico City – a characterful restored house in Santa María – during this year's Design Week Mexico. Switzerland was this year's guest country for the design week, so collaborative projects between the two countries were highlighted as part of the programme.

Casa Wabi installations at Design Week Mexico

Casa Wabi residencies are usually reserved for fine artists, but through a partnership with the Swiss embassy in Mexico, Richoz and Le Moigne were invited to become the first industrial designers to participate.

Casa Wabi installations at Design Week Mexico
The screens and lights were installed at Casa Wabi's space in Mexico City during Design Week Mexico

Design Week Mexico took place from 11 to 15 October 2017, a week later than planned after a deadly earthquake hit the city in September.

Exhibitions and installations put on across the city included a pavilion that cast shadow patterns across itself, a series of wooden houses that punish their occupants, and a display of work by emerging designers and studios.

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Casa Wabi installations at Design Week Mexico
Casa Wabi installations at Design Week Mexico
Casa Wabi installations at Design Week Mexico
Casa Wabi installations at Design Week Mexico
Casa Wabi installations at Design Week Mexico
Casa Wabi installations at Design Week Mexico
Casa Wabi installations at Design Week Mexico