Urs&Heidi and Favorito Studio. Can we compare paper products and ceramics?
Hi there! This is the first article of Pot-pettas column issued in 2015. During the last two months we carefully have choosen creatives that we think you are going to find simply amazing! Today our guests are Urs&Heidi from Switzerland and Favorito Studio from Spain. The first duo is based in Lucerne where it creates paper products that are not only what they seem to be (they have around 110 products if you count every single postcard!). Favorito, is on the other hand, a small studio that produces ceramics. Those are the result of passion and time both wisely mixed up.
We let them speak!
Who are our guests?
Urs&Heidi: you have to know that these are only names of art. Behind them there is us, Mette Skouhus and Aldo Bombelli, respectively from Denmark and Switzerland. I (Mette aka Heidi) studied Graphic Design in England gaining my MA in Basel. Aldo (aka Urs) studied Multimedia in Switzerland and learned his trade as an apprentice in a respected office in Zürich. We are married and we have a daughter. We met on a Sunday morning in Zürich where I returned from rowing and Aldo was out for a breakfast with a friend. Aldo developed a growing interest in rowing… the rest is history!
Javier: Favorito is us, Susana and Javier! It’s a strong and well-equilibrated team: my role (Javi) is dealing with selling, orders and website… the commercial and more boring part, so I leave Susana speaking!
Susana: It isn’t true, you’re so important! Well, I studied Fine Arts and then I worked a long time in television, with many different technical tasks. When I left the job I realized that I hadn’t been working “with my hands” for long and I really missed, I needed a return to something that involved manual skills. I’ve always liked ceramic but never learned to handle with it, so four years ago, or so, I studied ceramic. Ceramic has a very specific technique, so I spent two years studying ceramic, how to use a potter’s wheel, above all, and the enamel process.
When were born Urs&Heidi project and Favorito Studio?
Urs&Heidi: our project was born in 2013, after we designed a calendar for our SKOUHUS&BOMBELLI design agency clients. The feedback was quite overwhelming and we grabbed the possibility to found Urs&Heidi. We are very glad we did it! We are not the only designers behind the brand: our team is also composed by Eva and Emel (previously Steff) and all contribute to create Urs&Heidi products.
Susana: Favorito came about in 2013, in January we launched the brand and from June we started to sell through shops and design markets. Some friends of mine invited me to take part in an exhibition of paintings and installations, so after my ceramic course I quickly had to get started, to do something, and from there I started to do more and more. I searched for the perfect mix between my style and commercial pieces, and so we came to Favorito.
Let’s talk about your products: what are their features and where do you find inspiration?
Urs&Heidi: we produced mostly paper products. In our 24/7 hours online shop you can find calendars, postcards, wrapping papers, placemats, memory cards and much more. All the products are expression of our graphic design skills and have a focus on usability. Some of the products, such as the placemats, are also eligible to become wrapping paper.
We produce all by ourselves, taking care of all the phases from design to production and selling. That is why we have a very small inventory as we simply not have space for ten of thousand products. All paper scraps or test products are donated to schools and institutions that need drawing paper for kids. In creating our products we find inspiration… everywhere, really! We wander through life with an open mind and tend to be interested in details. This often helps us come up with new ideas some of which work and some fail miserably. Flexibility and honesty are paramount. If the idea does not work… scrap it and move on.
Javier: Favorito comes from the need of hand made objects, so what we try to do is to create something special, almost unique, a different piece for each different customer. Ceramic is always strongly linked to tradition, and we don’t wanna take distance from it but, in a way, start from that point to take our own direction.
It all starts with good taste, and Susana has an incredible good taste! So it’s easier working like this, even if things evolve a lot during the process: the pieces have to have “a little soul”, and sometimes you discover what really works at the potter’s wheel, and not before starting. Maybe you just realize how you can change some details at the end, and there it is, you have soul and details!
Every single work is the result of slow but hard work, love for what we’re doing and the calm of our landscape, far from the city.
How works your production process?
Urs&Heidi: sometimes sitting in front of a white piece of paper without having an idea can be daunting. That is why we only sit down after having had a vision of what we would like to create. Once the first ideas have been drawn up we sit all together and everyone is allowed to criticise, pull apart or praise the creation. It’s slamming time! 🙂 Colors and materials are tested to make sure they go hand in hand. As graphic designers we guess our biggest enemy is ourselves: we could continue working on the same drawing for years but… does it get better or not?
Susana: Actually, the first thing I do is making the original piece with the wheel, and from there take out a mold for the other works. Then I have to fix them by hand, because our molds aren’t like the industrial ones, so the pieces aren’t perfect just like that, I have to shape it by hand, getting each piece completely different.
At this level, the clay is still wet, so I can add the illustration, from the paper, transferring the drawing on the wet surface that absorbs the pigments. There are always many things to fix, add details that maybe in the passage from paper to clay got lost. And of course there are drawings that I do directly by hand, with brush and colors on the clay because more complicated and detailed. At this point there’s a first firing in the oven, then enameled and, last passage, a second firing.
I think a lot before catching up, I search for suitable models and illustrations. Very often, what I think, and imagine at the beginning results very different at the end: while I’m working I can see how it’d fit better, so many changes occur in the middle of the process. As everyday pieces, I have to check out if they result comfortable to use.
Do you have something special to share with the readers? A special product on which you are working on right now?
Urs&Heidi: we are cooking up some ideas and have a couple of non-paper products in mind but they are at a very early stage so keep checking out our website.
Susana: There are new pieces in progress, and also new drawings, keeping on the same technique. For example we’re trying new forms, like the hexagonal for the plates, and we’re adding something brand new, totally decorative pieces, like lamps and wall clocks, but I’m still working on the prototypes.
I’m always trying something new, always with a finger in the pie! I think it’s normal, to get the perfect shape and the perfect decoration.
It’s good to have our own workshop, to experiment until you’re hundred percent satisfied with the result.
What are current trends in stationery design?
Urs&Heidi: our brand is not trend follower and never will be. That aside trends within the stationery world depend enormously on taste. For some, watercololor flowers work, others need motivating sentences and a third person may prefer large, bold or swirly typography that wishes you Happy Birthday. All are absolutely fine within their own rigths but our brand is striving to remain somewhat independent. Our clients should come back in a year and be as surprised as they were when they discovered us. This is hard work that we still have to completely master.
How is your link to traditional ceramic?
Javier: Ceramic is always strongly linked to tradition, and we don’t wanna take distance from it but, in a way, start from that point to take our own direction. Furthermore, here in Spain, ceramic has been developed in certain small towns, and this fact adds a stronger sense of identity with that, besides tradition, like everywhere else.
What you can find in our pieces, still linked to tradition, is the classic cobalt blue, always used in ceramic, that we choose not only for a sentimental reason, but also for an aesthetic one.
Tell us a funny episode happened during the very beginning of your professional adventure.
Urs&Heidi: mmmm well… creating new products is always fun but we guess the most bizarre happening was during our first fair with only eight postcards and two calendars. A shop owner approached us with regard to our conditions. As unprofessional as it sounds we were not prepared at all but luckily she was very helpful and she placed an order too.
Javier: In our creating process there are very difficult passages, such as the decoration: transferring the drawing from paper to clay is not so simple, you have to be careful, use appropriate tools, and good skills… With some drawings, you need to play with light and dark/chiaroscuro, sometimes it’s complicated, and this is what Susana does, she does magic numbers!
But when we have too many orders, I usually help Susan in her job… and in this part, you need an artistic touch, so I admit I’m a little afraid to mess it up, what I can do it’s just “till here”: the art to the artists, I’m just a humble worker!
What about your agenda? Are you planning to take part in design events?
Javier: There are new stores that have asked for our works, in Spain and also abroad, soon you can find us in Paris, and also a design shop in London is very interested in our pieces. We’re also taking part in Spring in Palo Alto Market, in Barcelona, a design market very beautiful and sophisticated.
© Photos: Urs&Heidi, Favorito Studio and Giacomo Prestinari