“We try to achieve an identity by making combinations inspired by materials, mixing geometric and organic forms, playing with the initial functionality of objects, all the while preserving the connection to the earth and to our Latin roots.”
– Joana Valdez & Karim Molina of Ayres MX
As a design scene, Mexico places great focus on artisanal techniques, craftsmanship, and the continuity of tradition. In opposition, the artistic movement of modernism from the turn of the twentieth century sought to defy previous aesthetics, techniques, and ideals in favour of a new, more abstract vision of art and design. It is at the intersection of these two styles that we find ourselves – presented with a mixture of traditional materials and techniques from pre-Hispanic culture in combination with modernist visions of abstraction and innovative design processes. It is also at this intersection that we find the influence of individuality – functionality aligned with aesthetic craftsmanship; handmade objects evidencing the touch of their maker; experiments with form and material creating a new, yet recognisable, visual language.
Through their studio, Ayres MX, designer duo Joana Valdez and Karim Molina bring their respective backgrounds in industrial and textile design together to create objects inspired by pre-Hispanic culture. Their practice is characterised by a common aesthetic which uses natural materials, including wood, marble, lava rock, and leather and makes reference to historical techniques and forms. Ayres works together with skilled artisans across Mexico to create unique, handmade pieces, emphasising the intimate craftsmanship and story of each object. Through their simple lines, natural colours, tactile surfaces, and reminiscent forms, Ayres’ pieces merge the historical and the modern to create a collection which is both unique and recognisable.
Which aspects of your design process are (especially) influenced by traditional materials and/or techniques?
Our processes are completely artisanal, we incorporate different types of stones, woods, and natural fibres – we like to combine materials. Firstly, we design all of our pieces ourselves, then work together with communities of artisans from all over Mexico, they are the expert hands who bring our pieces into fruition. It is a very special and enriching process and we believe that people are able to see this aspect of our work shining through in each piece.
We start by investigating forms, materials, and techniques in our studio in Mexico City. In the cases where we see it necessary, we create models of the pieces, then we begin the process of soliciting samples to the artisans who we know dominate the specific material and technique needed to complete the design. The truth is, at this point we have been working with the same communities and have a symbiotic relationship with them, they teach us about the materials as well as their techniques which are built upon generations of work – it is from this that we are inspired to create the new form we present in our designs- starting from their traditions. These pieces then travel from these communities and distant villages to our studio where we prepare them and assemble them with other materials to be sent to the lucky person who purchases it either inside or outside of Mexico.
When using or viewing your pieces, what story do you want your audience to connect with?
With our pieces, we want to achieve a connection with our primitive forms, basic yet with a grand sense of usefulness and beauty originating from the pre-Hispanic era of Latin America. While at the same time, with the natural materials that were used, creating a link between these antiquities, creating spectacularly unique forms which inspire us and we have adopted as part of our own roots.
In this age of mass production and serial production, we are elated each time we encounter a new person who values our objects, which are uniquely made by hand just as each human being is unique and beautifully imperfect.
How do you maintain a sense of individuality in your design, while also working within a practice with such a deeply rooted history?
We investigate; we study primitive forms; we bring these designs into a modern era. We try to conserve this thread connecting the modern and the primitive, but with truly unique forms. We try to achieve an identity by making combinations inspired by materials, mixing geometric and organic forms, playing with the initial functionality of objects, all the while preserving the connection to the earth and to our Latin roots.
In reference to your work, what is your interpretation of “authentic” Mexican design?
Mexican design is rich in many senses of the word. It is truly incredible what Mexico and Mexicans have contributed culturally to the world; all of the artisanal techniques that we have experimented and perfected, but it is very difficult to say exactly what is “authentic” Mexican design, because during each period of time, Mexican design has been influenced by waves of artistic styles from other countries as well as their technologies and resources. We believe that design cannot encapsulate “authenticity” because it changes for each time period. It enriches itself, that is what is exciting about art and design – it doesn’t remain static.
How have your own backgrounds, in industrial design and textile design, influenced how you approach your design practice?
Being two women from the coastal regions, we take advantage of our taste for the earth, for the woods, for the sea, and for the exotic. At the beginning, it was very surprising that two women were working with a material as rustic as stone, but our intention is always to soften these materials, to create organic forms, mixing stone with wood, natural fibres and new materials.
Thanks to our studies and experiences, we have been able to complement each other perfectly in our creative processes, while having each our own unique background, but the same desired aesthetic.
We are Joana Valdez, Industrial designer from Yucatán, México and Karim Molina, Textile designer from Caracas, Venezuela. We design utility and simple objects with a primary aesthetic. Our basic shapes are unique, remembering prehistoric utensils. Inspired by our historical, natural and primitive roots, we highlight the beauty of the materials, design and quality. We work with natural materials like Guayacán and Tzalam woods, lava rocks and natural leathers.
Our processes are completely handmade allowing each object be a unique piece, love to always explore new tecniques and materials. We work our designs in several states in México, one in Yucatán, where we produce wood designs. We seek to establish fair terms of trade with artisans and that can allow us to offer objects 100% handmade with high quality materials and the most beautiful hand craft work.
Our philosophy is that all we deserve special objects that tell a story and a purpose within our spaces, that is why we personally seek the materials and the artisans we work with, these gives a sentimental and totally intimate side to each of our designs. We design and create simple handmade objects with the finest materials and a great story behind, proposing a simple, natural and personal life.