GUR was born in Porto when Célia was invited to an exhibition in her hometown, where the intention was to make a bridge between artisans of traditional handcrafts and young designers. Before she knew it, she was creating beautiful, and yet simple rugs, using randomly chosen recycled materials from textile factories.
mishmash got as passionate as Célia for her handmade pieces and decided to interview her to know more about her workspace and creative process.
When did you find out that the creative process of giving life to a rug was similar to the creative process of any other object?
C: It’s funny because it wasn’t right from the start, I just realized a little bit later. I was working at the University of Fine Arts as a printing technician, where I did illustration work, until I was invited to participate in a collective exhibition in Viana do Castelo with several designers and artists, to work in collaboration with local artisans.
The exhibition appealed to me because I always liked handmade processes much more than the technical part of the creative process. It was also the first time I worked with Claudia, who remains my weaver to this day.
At that moment, I began to realize the fascination I had for the technical aspects, which also implied creativity. As printing technician, I felt most accomplished to work with artists and see how I could achieve what they wanted or even add something to it by changing the final image during the process. I didn’t follow the rules very much and I did a bit intuitively and then I saw the result, which was always a surprise.
At GUR, I realized over time that I was using the same process applied to the reality of the loom. We started inventing techniques to see what answered best to the artists’ design and it was at that moment that I realized that I was really doing what I enjoyed, the technical part of the process, as well as working collaboratively. It doesn’t appeal to me so much to start a piece from start to finish that is mine alone. I enjoy working with someone who is “creative”, and then I can add something, or transfer that image to another object.
I think my creativity is more associated with the moment when I transform a traditional object into something more contemporary, trying to transcribe the artists’ drawings to that object. Creativity is in all these moments.
You have developed several collaborations with other brands and artists like Atelier Bingo, Casa Mãe or William Luz. How does your creative process starts?
C: I give the artist complete freedom. Although we have tried to adapt over the years, the fact that I work with the loom has many limitations. There is a selection of the work that can be produced. From there, I give artists complete freedom to do whatever they want, they don’t have to follow a specific kind of work I have seen in the past. There are artists who show me completely different proposals, which have nothing to do with the work I already develop, which makes the work difficult and at the same time challenging for me.
During the process, it is common to see changes to the artists first proposals. We work exclusively with recycled cotton leftovers, which can be a little tricky and make the end result always a surprise. I often say that a GUR is never a copy of a drawing, but rather a transfer of that drawing to a different technique, with all the limitations and surprises it can bring.
Is “pen and paper” important in your creative day-to-day?
C: I use them every day! Of course when I’m at the loom I don’t use it much but apart from that I always use the pen and paper, sometimes just to scribble anything or even to focus or take notes. Now I spend a lot more time at the computer than at the loom, and yet I’m a very disorganized person, so I always have to have a notebook by my side to point out the things I have to do during the day.
In the creative process I also take advantage of these tools, because I keep taking notes, despite doing the technical drawings in a digital software. Later, when the print comes out and before going to the loom, I take notes regarding the drawing so I can say that pen and paper are always the start of my process.
Do you have any special trick or technique, to ensure your workspace highlights your creativity?
C: I always wanted to have a collaborative space because, despite working with a lot of people at GUR, it’s all digital, there are few times when I have the opportunity to have artists working with me. It is a reality I was used to have while I was working at the University of Fine Arts since I was always surrounded by people, a very busy environment in collaboration, conversations, sharing experiences, techniques and knowledge with other people. Here we are a mix of work, creativity and sources because we eventually develop projects and ideas for the gallery – and it is this sharing of knowledge that appeals to me.
Considering you work with artisans, what is the process behind the products development and how do you manage the inputs from the artisans?
C: Craftsmen add a lot to each work. I learned everything I know on the loom through my weaver. She still knows a lot more than me and always advises me. When she sees a drawing in which I suggest using certain techniques, it always ends up helping me on the best path forward, so the opinion of artisans is always valued, even for their experience over many years. My main weaver started working on the loom at the age of 15, we must respect this knowledge and also take advantage of this wisdom she has. It is very important in the process to share ideas with her.
Your creative thinking involves putting the traditional and the modern together. How do you manage both when creating a new piece?
C: With modernity I would not say. Bringing in a technique that was a little stuck in the past and upgrading it to more contemporary and younger tastes. I do not identify so much with the word modernity but rather contemporary, because we continue to use the same techniques and materials that were used before, so the process has not changed itself, and it is in this sense that I associate more with the word modernity.
What production techniques and materials have you enjoyed working with most? Which ones would you like to explore further?
C: I would like to keep exploring weaving, looking for new materials and techniques. After a few years of always doing the same thing, you want to explore further. At the same time, I miss the printing techniques but I don’t know if I will follow that path. I wish I could have a small workshop, more for engraving, even. I recently started a new project called FAVA, where I explore goldsmithing. It is a desire that I currently have, so I am making the time to explore it further.
How do other creative fields influence your design work?
C: I believe that illustration is one of the creative areas that influences me the most, because I am surrounded by it here in our collaborative workspace, but also graphic design, other weaving techniques and, more recently, goldsmithing. In my everyday life I try to know other artists and different weaving projects inspired and curious to understand what is being done within the same level in terms of collaborations, keeping up to date in this matter.
How much freedom do you think being a creative gives you?
C: I no longer see myself doing anything else, honestly. I spent five years at the University of Fine Arts, where I had a fixed schedule, and then I knew I didn’t really want to be stuck in an office all day. Then I found more comfort when I went to the printing techniques, it was much more based in manual procedures and I didn’t get as bored as when I was at the computer all day.
Still, nowadays I spend a lot of time on the computer but I’m in a very relaxed environment, I work for myself, so there is a big difference, I can have financial stability, and I don’t have to try to do things that don’t accomplish me.
C: Célia Esteves.