The Balsa brand was created with a focus on working with master artisan experts in natural fibres including rattan – a type of climbing plant with a flexible woody stem – to help preserve a knowledge that is at risk of disappearing in Mexico.
“Balsa is a young project that seeks to become a new platform to promote synergy between artisans and young Mexican designers through an efficient and sustainable conversation,” Vivanco told Dezeen.
For the brand’s first collection Vivanco designed 16 different pieces, including lounge chairs, mirror, tables and sculptural totems that reference both Mexican crafts and European influences.
“I love working with rattan for different reasons,” Vivanco said. “From the design field, it seems to me a spectacular material for all the personality and unique character that distinguishes it from all other materials.”
“It has a great history that goes hand in hand with the design history of the last two centuries, being a participant in great classics and an accomplice of great design masters.”
All Vivanco’s pieces for the Bajío collection use large amounts of rattan and were made together with Mexican artisan rattan weavers.
“Collaborating with artisans is not that different from collaborating with anyone else; the particularity that I find is that they live their trade and experience in a very direct way; they see themselves in their work, and as such, they are professionals par excellence,” Vivanco said.
As well as its functional pieces, such as a glass-topped coffee table, a coat rack and a bar stool, Bajío contains a selection of decorative sculptural totems that can be stacked for easy transport.
“The Guajes are a set of decorative totems that serve both in their sculptural sense and to divide spaces and channel behaviours,” Vivanco explained.
“Thanks to their light nature, both visually and in weight, they allow dividing without cutting spaces, and can be easily rearranged.”
In addition to being light, rattan has the benefit of being one of the most sustainable materials for furniture manufacturing in the world, the designer said.
“Rattan grows back in just five to seven years, making it a genuine renewable resource,” Vivanco said. “Rattan rods are similar to bamboo, although they are stronger in that they have a solid core.”
“Rattan furniture manufacture is low-tech, which means that it does not require chemicals or excessive energy consumption. And although quite durable, rattan furniture can be recycled after its useful life has ended,” he added.
“As it is a natural material, it is 100 per cent biodegradable.”
The material also helps keep forests in place, since rattan is a type of vine and needs trees to grow.
Latin American crafts and materials have a lot to say to the world, Vivanco said, adding: “I am fascinated to see how Mexico and all of Latin America have become a pole of inspiration for creatives from all over the world, and I can only hope for the near future where the definition of design includes the thinking of other cultures beyond Western Europe.”
Photography is by C129 and Christian Vivanco.
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