B Y AR WEN O’REILLY GRIFFITH
High design plus artisan production equals global good.
Artecnica, the Los Angeles-based design
house steadily gaining renown for its elegant
and slyly funny work, also has a sensible
side. For founders Enrico Bressan and Tahmineh
Javanbakht, good design is as much about functionality as it is about enchantment. And to this
pair, sensibility goes beyond even function.
The company’s handcrafted product line Design
With Conscience pairs international product
designers like Dutch superstars Tord Boontje
and Hella Jongerius with artisans in developing
countries who use eco-friendly materials, to create
avant-garde pieces that are sustainably produced.
Artecnica has “always believed that creating
artisan-based design makes social, ethical, and
business sense,” Bressan says. The company’s
work with local artisans has resulted in delightfully
droll designs such as bowls made of repurposed
scooter tires laced with wicker, designed by Brazil’s
Estúdio Campana and handmade in Vietnam,
and a suite of kitchen accessories called Witches’
Kitchen, designed by Studio Tord Boontje in France
and made in South and Central America.
Though Artecnica’s ultimate goal is to execute
sustainably made design, it’s not always easy to
use green materials, especially in communities
where survival is a priority. But collaboration
between the designers and artisans helps smooth
the process, and the company works to educate
local artisans about environmental awareness. To
that end, Boontje recently traveled to Guatemala
and Brazil to speak directly with the artisan groups
responsible for handcrafting his pieces.
“The artisans themselves contribute a great deal
to the process by identifying and recuperating some
of their earlier, traditional sustainable practices
that then become crucial to the product’s success,”
Started in 1986 as an architectural and design
house — Bressan is an architect by trade and
Javanbakht an artist — Artecnica designed everything from movie sets to interiors. As the workload
increased, “we sought out our favorite designers
to come help us keep the concepts rolling,” Bressan
says. Eventually, they focused on the lifestyle
products they’re now known for.
Most of their designs revel in a sense of playfulness and delight. Take, for example, the WirePod,
whose organic shape and graceful curves can’t hide
the simple brilliance of the solution to the problem
of ugly, twisted electrical wires.
“Minimalism is beautiful and has contributed
greatly to the modern experience,” Bressan says.
“But reintroducing forms that are more deliberate
and expressive is very much in need now.” Gnarled,
hand-carved serving spoons and fantastical fabric
chandeliers characterize Artecnica’s aesthetic
more than sleek and sober lines.
Part of Artecnica’s magic is that they appeal to
both brain and heart. “Enchantment in modern
design is the rare mingling of immediate attraction to an object and a strong mystery or curiosity
about the objects’ conception,” Bressan says.
By building high-design enchantment on an
ethical foundation, Artecnica is proving that
sustainable design is not a fairy tale.
Arwen O’Reilly Griffith is a staff editor at CRAF T.