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Rising above a tree-shaded avenue perpendicular to Mexico City’s cultural center, Bosque de Chapultepec, behind a monochromatic facade pockmarked with porthole windows, Studio Moisés Hernández operates as a placid promontory for a team of young designers led by its founder and studio namesake, Moisés Hernandez. Working diligently together since 2014, the team has helped establish Mexico City as one of the most exciting and compelling design capitals in the world today.
Crafted yet modern, identifiably regional yet appeasingly global –– Moisés Hernandez’s designs explore the razor’s edge between the contradictory and cohesive, with his city prominently the muse to his maker. “Mexico City is chaotic,” says Hernandez, “Especially in the center area where my studio and home are located… it is a very creative place with a wide range of disciplines, such as contemporary art, music and design. Moreover, it is an area full of improvised expressions and eclectic architecture; in the same street you can see modern buildings, classical architecture and self-built houses, which are very unique and represent the idea of creating something based on your instincts and personal tastes.”
As the first Mexican to graduate from Ecal, Ecole Cantonale d’Art de Lausanne in the Master Product Design program in Switzerland in 2013, Hernandez would return to Mexico City to open his own studio. With a refreshed perspective, the young designer immediately began recontextualizing the deep seeded traditions, textures and chromatic expressions unique not only to Mexico City, but numerous surrounding regions characterized by their own distinct arts and crafts, then applying them to projects as diverse as jewelry, bathroom hardware and furniture.
“I came back from Switzerland with the idea to create everyday Mexican objects and aesthetic solutions for national and international clients based on two principles — efficiency and perfection — but always considering my own context.”
Alongside his studio, Hernandez would immediately create a website to complement the launch; the site has evolved over the years and now sits on Squarespace. “I opened my first website ten years ago when I was 26 years old, and I remember only a few designers my age had one then,” recollects Hernandez, “Today, I think having a website is a must for every designer or creative person. It is a tool that helps you to show your work as a business card, and you have more chances to be reached from different people, clients and companies.”
While chaos may reign supreme outside his studio doors, Hernandez’s work is observably serene, a trait identifiable in his most recent work for French modern furniture company, Lignet Roset. With subtle references to Mexican folk art, the double-sided Máscara throw blanket is executed with a precise patterning softened by a woven warmth; the result would look equally natural wrapped around your abuela as draped across a perfectly staged sofa in Silver Lake.
Similarly, No vase, a reductive amalgamation of stainless steel, brass and copper designed to display flora with serene singularity offers a Mexican counterpart to the Japanese concept of Ma (間),the observation and utilization of negative space.
This chaotic environment in Mexico City forces me to seek the opposite: slower and quieter. Oaxaca is very similar to Kyoto, Japan.
While a passion for the vernacular tradition plays prominent, Hernandez notes a disinterest in over-romanticizing traditional craft. Instead, Hernandez relies upon technology to enhance traditional craft, a “whimsical dichotomy” of past and present.
“The dishware we designed for Enrique Olvera’s restaurant Pujol was based upon the traditional Mexican talavera. We cut the jigs with a laser cutter, then the artisans used them to neatly and efficiently create all 42 ceramic forms. I think Mexican designers should be able to understand and master the possibilities that both worlds give you in order to make clever decisions.”
Hernandez’s secret weapon and key collaborator is Mexico City’s vibrant population of skilled woodworkers, metalsmiths and glassblowers. “These workshops represent an opportunity where both parts, designers and makers, and the result can be very fruitful… establishing authentic relationships based upon trust and honesty.”
The reality of COVID-19 has dampened some of Studio Moisés Hernández’s planned projects for 2020, but Hernandez is enthused to point out visitors can check out Diario (Spanish for diary), one of the designer’s side projects which he built on Squarespace and used to transcribe seven years of personal notes into an online journal documenting craftspeople and their techniques discovered while traveling across numerous parts of Mexico.
Some of the [Diario] projects enhance the beauty of the traditional crafts, like the textiles that we created in collaboration with Felipe in Oaxaca or the Palm Woven, a tribute to palm where we collaborated with women from Tlamacazapa, Guerrero. While some others are a contemporary version of some everyday objects made by local makers in Mexico City – the Mercado Bag, Mexico Map or the glass tumblers.”
Additionally, 2020 still offers a forthcoming collaboration with Mexican manufacturer, Mexa translating vernacular seating forms into a contemporary form, alongside mention of a more mysterious project for 2021 “based on color and its different possibilities” informed by “massive research about materials, techniques and pigments.”
Despite all of the trials and tribulations of operating in the midst of a global pandemic today, Hernandez harbors high hopes looking forward. “The future of the Mexican design scene seems very exciting and positive. Young designers, skilled crafts people and creatives coming from all over the world now form Mexico City’s creative community, and events like our own Design Week Mexico, alongside Abierto Mexicano de Diseño and Zona Maco Diseño celebrate it.”
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