Location: Paços de Ferreira, Portugal
(smow)blog: Why did you decide for a career in industrial design?
Rui Alves: It was more or less a natural decision; I grew up, and indeed am still, surrounded by family members who work with wood. And so I’ve always been surrounded by materials and tools and thinking about making things with my fathers and grandfathers tools. In addition I‘ve always loved to draw, and so in a way it was natural progression.
(smow)blog: Are there any specific influences in your design?
Rui Alves: My influences come from everywhere really, especially from everyday objects or just observing everyday life. And then also from the work of other designers, such as Charles and Ray Eames, Jean Prouvé, Dieter Rams – I really love the work of Dieter Rams – Konstatin Grcic, Stefan Diez, Jasper Morrison…
(smow)blog: …It’s interesting you mention such designers, because when we look at your work, we don’t see such influences.
Rui Alves: It’s less that I’m directly influenced but more, for example, I really like the work of Hella Jongerius, and especially the craftsmanship in her work. And so looking at her work inspires me to reach for the same. Or I really like the last chair that Stefan Diez created for Thonet with three dimensional elements. It’s not trying to copy what others do, but more being inspired through what others achieve.
(smow)blog: You also lecture at the local college, is that also something that influences your work?
Rui Alves: Of course, of course I learn all the time. Often the students come with questions or suggestions, for example, why we don’t try working with this material in this way; I really enjoy it and I learn a lot. And at the end of the day it’s good to spend a few hours a week hearing new ideas and seeing new approaches.
(smow)blog: And so you learn as much as your students…
Rui Alves: …Definitely.
(smow)blog: Geographically Portugal is quite far away from the main European markets, how easy is it as a designer in Portugal?
Rui Alves: It’s very, very difficult. We are a small country, and although we have good food and good weather – we don’t have a long history in industrial design. And for young designers it is especially difficult because here in Portugal we have a small market and only have three or four national producers. And so I travel increasingly to other countries to show my work.For example, I have exhibited at the last two DMY Berlin shows and it is incredible because I get so much more feedback outside Portugal than inside.
(smow)blog: Are there any design trade fairs in Portugal where you can show you work?
Rui Alves: We have Experimenta Design, which takes place every two years but there there is no realy opportunity for young designers to show their work. And I live near Oporto and recently they started a new design show, but the costs are so high that it is easier and cheaper for me to go to Berlin than 20 kms down the road.
(smow)blog: And how healthy is the Portuguese design scene?
Rui Alves: We have a lot of really good young designers here in Portugal, I think that we have a different approach to work than in other countries. I think it’s related to the light, Portugal is a country that has long periods of daylight all year round and we love color. But we really need more opportunities here in Portugal.
(smow)blog: Color is a good word. When we look at your work, be it Fiss Family, MIU or Welcome to the Jungle we notice the color. Is that a deliberate characteristic of your work?
Rui Alves: Yes and no. I try not be afraid of colour. Portuguese art and design has a tradition of using lots of colour and so for me it is natural to use colour. However I do notice that some of my students are afraid to use too much colour.
(smow)blog: And what are your future plans?
Rui Alves: I’m currently working on a couple of new projects and next year will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the establishing of My Own Super Studio. And so I am planning to show my work in Milan for the first time and am also hoping to organize a retrospective in Berlin during DMY week.
(smow)blog: Excellent. Looking forward to it.
More information on Rui Alves and my Own Super Studio can be found at http://myownsuperstudio.com/