José Roberto Paredes | Canasto Lamp, 2013 | Steel wireframe, powder coat finish, laurel wood handle
New Markets
Claudia Washington & Harry Washington | Ikono Chair, 2010 | Laurel Wood, metal structure, white powder coat paint, PVC string
New Markets
Carlos Bobonis Colorado | Joint Coat Rack, 2012 | Pine wood, ash wood, steel, brass plated steel, ABS plastic
New Markets
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New Markets

Developing New Markets for Design | Focus: San Salvador, El Salvador & San Juan, Puerto Rico

Latin American designers are actively promoting their work inside and outside of their countries of origin. They recognize the ongoing need to participate in global forums such as the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) and Wanted Design in New York City, Salone del Mobile in Milan, Design Days Dubai, and the Guild Design Fair in Johannesburg, in order to showcase their work to the international public. The nascent design scenes in San Salvador, El Salvador, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, are based largely on collectives aiming to create a local and international market for Salvadoran and Puerto Rican design through exhibitions, marketing, education, and social interaction. The collaborative The Carrot Concept in San Salvador, the promotional initiative Design in Puerto Rico, and the collective Two Squared Studio in Puerto Rico are made up of designers who work to create new business opportunities for their members. The products they present reflect the ambition and vibrancy of emerging design centers, while drawing inspiration from quotidian life.

The Carrot Concept is a physical space that serves as a common home for art and design. It provides a physical space for the exchange of ideas and trends among local designers and a commercial outlet for Salvadoran products. There are many crosscurrents of local and international influences in the collective’s design work: Roberto Javier Dumont found inspiration in Japanese origami for the faceted geometry in his Fold Chair; in describing their Ikono Chair, Claudia and Harry Washington reference mid-twentieth-century chair designs by Hans Wegner and Yngve Ekström; and José Roberto Paredes’s Canasto Lamp evokes the woven frame for traditional baskets. As their overarching objective, The Carrot Concept aims to “transform Salvadoran design into a disciplined and systematic method for developing projects” and to “elevate local manufacturing by involving producers in the design process.”

In San Juan, members of the creative sector have been moving through the global art market rather than leaving the island altogether. While this sounds an optimistic note for the arts of Puerto Rico, the recent economic downturn caused a movement of middle and professional class Puerto Ricans from the island, exactly the base that would be expected to support local arts. This indicates the fragile contexts within which designers and artists work in various locales. Puerto Rican designers still forge a strong connection to the island, however, in a design scene that reflects the fluctuation between local, national, and global aspirations, largely because of Puerto Rico’s particular relationship to the mainland United States.

The organization known as Design in Puerto Rico, under the leadership of Carlos Bobonis, has become an important nexus for designers, manufacturers, and distributors. Bobonis came up with the idea for a collective after visiting Wanted Design in 2012 and seeing how other Latin American countries had presented their designers. One year later, Design in Puerto Rico presented its first joint exhibition at the fair. According to their website, “Design in Puerto Rico is a business platform for Puerto Rican designers to develop, promote, and export their products. It seeks to identify the best that Puerto Rican design talent has to offer and strengthen relationships between those designers and their potential manufacturers, distributors, and customers around the world.” Vladimir García Bonilla, a member of Design in Puerto Rico, created Meteoro, a hanging planter that pays homage to the residential steel planting ornaments typical of Puerto Rican mid-century modern house-patio décor. Mexican Cecilia Leon de la Barra’s works also recontextualize garden accessories from a design perspective.

The embrace of everyday life and celebration of the quotidian can also be seen in the designs of another Puerto Rican, Eddie Figueroa Feliciano, a member of the collective Two Squared Studio. His 8 Lamp references the “exterior lighting solutions found in the Caribbean region.” The lamp’s design can be adjusted depending on the necessities of the space in which it is used and allows for the incorporation of more than one bulb. Figueroa’s Zanco, an object that can be modified to become three different pieces of furniture, references the informal building systems of the slums that dot Carribean islands, including Puerto Rico. Figueroa focuses his research on identifying original Puerto Rican craftsmanship techniques in order to incorporate them into the industrial production of useful objects. La Alfombra, the result of a project done in collaboration with students of the Escuela Internacional de Diseño y Arquitectura, Universidad del Turabo, in Caguas, Puerto Rico, consists of a modular tapestry, fabricated along with artisans at V’Soske (a company that has been based in Puerto Rico since the 1930s and has a long history of collaborating with artists). Much like The Carrot Concept and Design in Puerto Rico, Two Squared Studio relies on international fairs to reach a larger audience. Its other three members, Ana Cristina Quiñones, Joel Álvarez, and Elia Barreiro, together with Figueroa, represented the Escuela Internacional de Diseño y Arquitectura at the 2013 Salone del Mobile and 2014 Wanted Design.

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