"Natural materials provide the spirit of regions from which they hail that are one-of-a-kind."
Despite the ever-changing times, one subject continues to serve as a muse. Nature will never fail to provide the starting point for various works of art, design, literature, etc. From nature comes materials that possess characteristics of a place that descriptions or replications cannot recreate. Whether it be a specific texture, a certain smell, or a color that a human cannot mix, natural materials provide the spirit of regions from which they hail that are one-of-a-kind.
At Elysian Collective, we understand the importance of natural materials, and value the interconnectedness between person and creation they provide. In a world where sustainability is becoming more and more important, we recognize that the business of design is one that is inherently wasteful. In partnership with artists and makers who share our values of sustainable practices and ethical conditions, we aim to create positive impact through design. In honor of Earth Day, we’re taking a look at different artists who use materials native to their countries, in conjunction with time-honored and handwrought techniques, to craft heirloom-worthy pieces.
Clay Vases from Oaxaca, Mexico
In the central valley of Oaxaca, Mexico, one will find the town of Santa Maria Atzompa. Surrounded by luscious green hills, sparkling waterways, and ancient buildings from the Zapotec civilization, this Mexican town is rich in culture. Long before Spanish settlers came to Oaxaca, members of this community have created pottery from the natural materials that surround them. While the intricate pottery from Oaxaca serves as inspiration to many, it fuels Javier Reyes and his studio, rrr.es. After speaking with Reyes and learning more about rrr.es in our previous interview, we switch our focus to the significance of Oaxaca’s clay and the hundreds of years old technique.
In collaboration with the artisan couple Leticia Alarzón and Leopoldo Porra, rrr.es creates a series of vases that use raw clay from the surrounding environment. Potters hand-turn each piece, providing a personal connection to craft and culture. Once shaped to the desired look, the vases are sent to fire in a low-temperature wood-burning oven. When in contact with the fire and heat, the clay begins to change color, allowing Reyes and his team to provide an array of finishes for each vase. A material that’s often overlooked for its ability to create piece of varying complexity, Oaxaca clay carries tradition and allows modern potters to incorporate a piece of history into their products.
Soapstone from Brazil
Moving from Mexico to the tropical mountains of Brazil, we bring our focus to Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais. For us, Belo Horizonte is a gorgeous mix of metropolis and scenery, but for TAAT founder Tatiana Queiroz, it’s home. Queiroz looks to soapstone, a local raw material, as the primary resource for her design objects.
Soapstone’s natural finish showcases a harmonious balance between linear detailing and varying tones of colors. Queiroz highlights these variations through her designs, whether it’s by making a striking crack in the stone’s composition the center of attention, or by complementing the grey, taupe, blue, or warm pink shades of the stone with metal hardware. Queiroz utilizes the untreated pureness of soapstone to her artistic advantage, resulting in pieces that one can tell were made with intention and sophistication.
"Painted" Heritage Wool Pillows
Ending in California, JG Switzer combines English and American wool for pillows that will be passed down for generations. Milling wool in their California studio and at their mills in England, JG Switzer knows the importance of heritage and refined material. Wool is a natural fiber, meaning that it’s healthy for the skin and for the planet. Natural fibers last longer than most synthetics, allowing you and those after you to love these pieces for years to come.
The Milky Way, Genesis, Redwood and Shetland Cloud pillows feature a felted wool that comes from the brand’s heritage sheep. Using dye from natural plant sources and highlighting tones in the wool itself, each pillow showcases a swirling, wave-like pattern that make for an interesting addition to elevate any piece of furniture.
The world of design impacts the Earth in more ways than one. While it’s important to keep in mind the waste design creates, it’s also important to highlight the artists and makers who utilize natural materials in their practices. Natural materials are not only good for the planet, but provide a personal, grounded connection between design and the sectors of the world our pieces come from. This Earth Day, use design to connect with cultures while collecting pieces to pass down to the generations to come.