A/D/O by MINI | Mexican craft shines in Davidpompa's lighting

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Product/Industrial/Furniture

Mexican craft shines in Davidpompa's lighting

Lighting designer David Pompa sources his materials from across Mexico, while working with local craftspeople to help build their businesses. sources his materials from across Mexico, while working with local craftspeople to help build their businesses.

Mexican-Austrian designer David Pompa both aims to push Mexican contemporary design forward, and breath new life – and economic stability – into Mexican crafts. At 33, he’s been running his own binational studio, Davidpompa, since 2013 and designing new ethical production models along the way.

Partnering with local craftspeople, Pompa renders elegant contemporary light fixtures from native Mexican materials like barro negro (black clay), cantera rosa (pink volcanic rock), handblown glass, and recinto (black volcanic rock) which has been used for housewares like molcajetes and buildings in Mexico for centuries.

He launched his latest collection, Origo, this year at the Euroluce fair in Milan and showed it in October in a shipping container as part of the two-day festival Diseño Contenido during Design Week Mexico. The light fixtures in the collection comprise pairs of glass and recinto orbs. With such simple forms and an absence of color, the materials, their textures, and their contrast take center stage. Materials themselves are Pompa’s primary source of inspiration, the source from which all of his studio’s work flows. 

“There’s huge beauty in these materials and they haven’t been considered or used for contemporary design objects,” he told The Journal. “There’s inspiration in all of it: the process of working with them, seeing how craftsmen work with them. There’s no need for anything else.”

Pompa aims to “bring the essence of materials to a shape.” He calls his materials “honest,” meaning “they’re not trying to hide anything.” He works with limited colors because “in a way color is a distractor and we wanted to play more with texture.” He tries to keep processing of materials to a minimum, “to leave the material as-is and play with its particular essence.”

For example, when working with handblown glass, Pompa wants people to see the bubbles of air that are created in the recycling process to be able to appreciate “the whole craftsmanship,” he said.

On the other hand, Pompa also seeks to “create a completely new language to change the preconception of the materials.” Lately he’s been working with recinto, taking it away from its traditional chunky forms. Pompa’s work is about materials, process, and possibility. He thoroughly researches each material he works with; its region, history, properties, processes, and possibilities.

While staying true to their nature, he wants to bring them to their limits. “We are working with incredibly talented craftsmen that are able to shape really thin tubes, which are totally absurd for such a material because it’s always been used in such bold objects,” Pompa said.

Studio Davidpompa started in 2009 on a family vacation to Oaxaca, the first time Pompa saw craftspeople working with barro negro. The beauty of the material arrested him. He stopped to talk with the craftsmen, asking if it had been used for any contemporary design objects had been made. He couldn’t believe it hadn’t.

It took three years for his first line to launch, partially because Pompa’s ambition was grander than designing beautiful objects. He wanted to forge ethical relationships with the craftsmen he so deeply respected and also wanted to work toward bringing production back to Mexico: “When I started asking about where the tequileros are produced, I found out that now they’re made in China and imported and that was shocking. Crafted objects that were so popular for years are not popular anymore. There was a lack of interest and a huge potential for production.”

It took three years for his first line to launch, partially because Pompaâs ambition was grander than designing beautiful objects. He wanted to forge ethical relationships with the craftsmen he so deeply respected and also wanted to work toward bringing production back to Mexico: âWhen I started asking about where the tequileros are produced, I found out that now theyâre made in China and imported and that was shocking. Crafted objects that were so popular for years are not popular anymore. There was a lack of interest and a huge potential for production.â

So Pompa made a strange but generous business decision. He told his suppliers he would buy everything they could make every single week. “With barro negro, people would go to these towns and buy what they wanted, but there were no established working conditions. So what we did was revolutionary at the time, which was to buy everything these families could produce each week, whether it was 30 or 100 pieces.”

This allowed craftspeople to grow their businesses. Now they produce about 200 pieces per week. “By giving them more work, they got more professional, developed more tools, and bought more machines. We changed those families’ lives.”

Davidpompa studio works with craftsmen all over Mexico. Handblown glass comes from Hidalgo. Barro negro comes from Oaxaca. Cantera Rosa comes from Zacatecas. Craftspeople in each material’s home locale work with centuries-old processes that have been handed down through generations, and send objects to Pompa’s studio in Mexico City where they are assembled, packaged, and sold for surprisingly reasonable prices because again, Pompa’s goal has always been twofold:

“We knew that our prices needed to be fair. There’s a lot of designers working with Mexican crafts that have ridiculous price ranges that nobody can afford. It doesn’t help bring production back to Mexico at all. We don’t want to make elite objects for a small margin of people. We want craftsmen to have steady work.”

Text by Zoe Mendelson.

Images courtesy of Davidpompa.

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