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 companys 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 companys work with local artisans has resulted in delightfully droll designs such as bowls made of repurposed scooter tires laced with wicker, designed by Brazils 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 Artecnicas ultimate goal is to execute sustainably made design, its 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 products success, Bressan says.
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 theyre 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 cant 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 Artecnicas aesthetic more than sleek and sober lines.
Part of Artecnicas 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
Where are they now? Artecnica won the 2009 ATA (Aid to Artisans) Innovation in Craft and Visionary Design Award, and their Garland Lights were named one of the most innovative products of 2000-2009 by Design Museum Helsinki in Finland.
Photography by the artists and Jerry Garns (Witches' Kitchen)