Designing Spatial Experiences: Studio Visit with Sculptural Designer Nazara Lázaro.

This week we dropped by for a coffee with Spanish-born designer Nazara Lázaro. We discussed her sculptural design practice, her affection for 3D, and her reverence of Japanese craftsmanship.

Nazara’s canal-side Kreuzberg studio is a warm and welcoming space which we were delighted to discover is tastefully populated by her Crooked Collection her first furniture collection. Nazara may primarily be an interior designer, but to her, furniture design offers new possibilities of exploring how we interact with space.

“I have the freedom to do exactly what I want… In interior design it’s very limited — you have to follow your client’s needs — but in furniture design I can explore more creative ways of designing.”

It quickly became apparent, though, that the rigid identity of ‘designer’ might not encompass the breadth of Nazara’s vision. She expresses an interest for “something between design and art”.

“I like the idea that all the objects we use in our daily life can be art by themselves… I think the furniture is also part of this. [She gestures to the Crooked Collection table we’re sitting at]. This table is not symmetrical. It gives you a different experience of what you would expect from a table. It gives you a different vision of the space.”

“We spend most of our life indoors, so my dream is to create a space that itself is like a sculpture. Like an experience.”

I was curious whether the pursuit of furniture design was an enduring aspiration in Nazara’s mind, or whether it was more so a graduation from interiors.

“I think it’s a graduation. I’m interested in all aspects of space, but unless you can really invest money in building a space, the easiest way to have a free exploration of this is through furniture.”

“If you want to really show what your style is, but you’re not able to because you didn’t get the clients that wanted you to, 3D is a very useful tool. That’s why I started doing 3D — and because of that I got in contact with Dello Studio. I help with the 3D and get a little bit of visibility of my own work. That’s how Sight Unseen contacted me and I ended up producing [the Crooked Collection].”

We then went back to the beginning and talked of her origin story; tracing back to the seeds of her current practice.

“I studied in Madrid at Istituto Europeo di Design, but after my studies I wasn’t so sure I wanted to do interior design. I wasn’t sure if this field was really connected to me. In design schools they teach you a very common way of designing and I wanted to explore a more artistic way. So as soon as I finished, I wanted to do something completely different.”

So she took an artistic detour and spent time experimenting with other forms of expression.

“I tried painting for a while, I did some installations, I did some performances. I tried a lot of different things.”

Nazara’s artistic explorations soon led her to Japan, which became a defining period in her life.

“I fell in love with the country. I wanted to stay there as long as I could. I spent almost two years in Japan and I think it was a very important experience.”

But Nazara’s Japanese story was not defined by the neon metropoleis of Tokyo or Osaka, rather the tranquil lowlands of the countryside.

“I didn’t like the idea of living in a city because I was very interested in the traditional Japanese lifestyle.”

“I met a lot of very interesting artists and craftsmen… There was a couple living in Shizuoka a peninsula close to Mount Fuji. I spent a few months with them. He was a pottery artist and I was helping them with building a studio… Their process of working was so inspiring. He would go to the mountain to get clay and then make pottery out of this clay. They had a vegetable garden and lived a very simple but poetic lifestyle.”

This idyllic existence offered Nazara a much needed period of reflection on her practice.

“When I was studying design in a big city, I missed the authentic side of things. Because, in design, you spend so much time working with the computer that you’re not really in touch with the essence of it. So [Japan] was an inspiring experience.”

“Traditional Japanese crafts are, for me, perfect design. Because it’s also contemporary in its own way but traditional at the same time. I think they found the perfect balance, because it’s timeless.”

But after a couple of years floating amongst artistic circles in the Japanese countryside, refining her carpentry practice, designing and working in an art gallery, Nazara concluded that her time in Japan had found its natural end. In 2014, she returned to Europe where she rediscovered her professional practice of interior design but with a renewed artistic vigour and an evolved understanding of space.

One might suggest that Nazara’s practice is defined by the interplay between traditional craftsmanship and 3D. Learning of Nazara’s artistic journey in the Japanese countryside shines light on this interesting juxtaposition.

“I’m very interested in traditional crafts. I’d like to do something in the future maybe with craftsmen. Basketry, leatherwork, carpentry, pottery - all these fields I’m very attracted to… But I’m not as good with my hands as I am with computers for some reason. I’m a computer nerd in the end so I’m trying to find a way of combining this.”

“I think 3D is allowing us to do a lot of things that we were not able to do before. Things are now developing so quickly and there are new designs everyday, each one crazier than the last, because we don’t have any borders, so you can go as crazy as you want.”

“I very recently started to explore these in a free way... Until 2017 I think I was just learning and researching and trying to understand what my direction was. And when I started using 3D and doing furniture designs, it was a point for me to try to express everything I had been digesting up until then, and see what I felt was the most interesting way to go and that was sculptural design.”

It was this realisation of her ‘sculptural design’ style which led to the Crooked Collection.

“All the furniture pieces are very simple, but the thing they have in common is just that the lines are crooked. This makes the most simple thing much more interesting… It’s also like this Japanese concept, that things are not perfect, but that’s what makes them interesting.”

And Sight Unseen apparently thought so too. Once they stumbled across the 3D renderings, they became intent on pulling them from the digital into the physical realm.

“It’s hard to say what my design style is. I’m always exploring this. For example, now I’m working on a new collection, all in metal, where I’m allowing myself to be more playful… This new one is going to be a little more sculptural, a little less functional. But still, I think for me in the end, the concept is to do furniture that is of course functional, but is more creative, more artistic, more sculptural, and something that hasn’t been done yet. Asking, what can we add to this design history that is new?”

Thank you to Nazara. You can find links to her work below.

Website -- Instagram -- Store -- Crooked Collection

Words & Photography by Ewan Waddell.