Sunday, May 19, 2024

Héctor Esrawe, the Mexican designer you need to watch

Héctor Esrawe is a Mexico City based industrial designer who fuses different trades into his design. His products range from furniture to interior architecture and museography, all created under a multidisciplinary dialogue that he has passed on to his design studio – Esrawe Estudio. 

Multidisciplinarity, Esrawe Estudio and Héctor’s philosophy

Héctor Esrawe (Alejandro Ramírez Orozco)

Héctor founded Esrawe Estudio in 2003 and has operated it for almost 20 years now. Esrawe describes their design pedagogy as a “living process of dialogue, linking the users with their surroundings. It is all about feeling the evolution of design, which stems from an understanding of basic physical and emotional needs of a given moment, and in each context.”

Primarily, Esrawe Estudio is a multidisciplinary practice, fusing artisans, designers, architects, and artists together to develop furniture, interior design, exhibitions, museography, and other architectural solutions. 

This seems to be what moves Héctor: being able to wander into different disciplines and stay awhile, finding spaces that can do more than simply add knowledge to his portfolio. Spaces that will stimulate his creative curiosity and nurture his work, consequently nurturing the world of design.

Héctor didn’t always know his study would be multidisciplinary but says industrial design is nothing without all of its parts. “In some ways, they are elements of curiosity that materialized and became tangible when I decided to study design.  Almost a year before starting I didn’t know what I wanted to study … I found a profession that somehow incorporates all these different activities and has the possibility of visiting them all,” he explained.

Solsticio XL -XXXL. Brass with patina finish, blued steel or natural aluminum. (Alejandro Ramírez Orozco)

Variety of projects 

Héctor’s creative restlessness and love for the chameleon-like nature of industrial design have led him to become involved in a variety of projects, such as design houses EWE, MASA, and VISSIO. These three aim to give a platform to Mexican collectible design. He is also a part of Xinú, a perfume brand, and Casa del Agua, which collects rainwater and filters it into alkaline drinkable water.

He described his participation in multiple projects as “discovering new muscles as I go.” 

Héctor remembers when he was 18 years old and first dipped his toes into the world of industrial design. As he began to develop his creative and intellectual ambitions, he realized he was hungry for exploration.

“It’s like I opened an umbrella towards the areas that I would like to explore and these projects do that. I’ll be a businessman with Xinú. I’m an interior architect in my studio. I will explore and visit collectible editions with EWE and my limited edition collection. I’ll promote art with MASA,” he listed. “This way I come full circle from that 18 or 17-year-old kid who had the curiosity to explore all these fields, right?” 

Teaching and good relationships

Héctor studied industrial design at the Universidad Iberoamericana and graduated in 1992. Five years later, he returned to be part of the faculty as a design professor. He taught from 1997 to 2003 and then became a part of CENTRO University as Design Director. He speaks positively about his time as a teacher and describes his relationship with his students.

“I broke the traditional classroom scheme… I’d bring in different people to the class, administrators, artists, and people I admire. So that [my students] would see that there was a world outside of design and that the design sector had to understand the different patterns in different professions and minds.” 

He stopped teaching once his son was born, but nowadays he still teaches workshops and speaks at conferences.

When discussing feelings of success in his career, Héctor talks about the importance of the people he surrounded himself with as he first embarked on his professional career.

“I have been very fortunate about the people I have encountered along the way in my creative path. On a creativity level, at a learning level, at a mental level, and even in understanding what I did not want to do,” he explained. 

Gear side table. Cast polished bronze or cast aluminum with patina finish. (Alejandro Ramírez Orozco)

First career steps and Mexican identity 

Growing up in Mexico has influenced the way he understands the world of design and his work within it immensely. Aside from the highly stimulating Mexico City, which he called his “emotional axis” and his “creative platform,” Héctor is drawn to the craftsmanship and mastery of Mexican artisans. 

“This is where my work has located itself,” he explained. “With this admiration towards artisan dexterity and the understanding of generating new languages and new possibilities. (…) With the profound heritage we have, and profound I mean not only in the level of what we recognize, what is seen and sometimes even a little stereotyped.” 

“There is a dexterity and artistic depth that we still have much to learn from,” he said.

After graduating from UIA, he founded a small design firm called DIMO alongside a friend.

“It was one of the first Mexican high-design stores. (…) It had a special dynamic because people weren’t used to consuming design, especially not Mexican design. There was a series of judgments around what could be done or what could be achieved,” he said. “There was an ignorance, in some cases even a dislike or disdain for things that were made here.”

When asked how Mexican identity fits within his work, Héctor answered: “What I do is Mexican because a Mexican does it. I’m not looking to indulge in the expected expression of mexicanidad which comes from a stereotype. For me, what I take from mexicanidad has to do with the techniques I use, the material, the trade, and the dexterity. I search to transform the expression and to generate new possibilities that stem from those characteristics.” 

Héctor’s pride and legacy 

Recently, Héctor has transitioned towards limited edition collections. These works are what he is most proud of at the moment, and he enjoys the change of pace. “I wanted to focus on closer contact, changing the velocity in doing things more one-on-one, more personal,” he said, underscoring his need to connect with his design on a more intimate level.

Thanks to this creative shift, he recently signed a contract with a New York gallery to exhibit his limited collection in March. He intimated that it’s especially exciting as it’s a gallery that was on his list of places where he “one day aspired to exhibit his work.” 

“I’ll tell you how it goes!” he told us excitedly.  

When it comes to his legacy, Héctor seems unbothered. “I honestly don’t have that ambition,” he said. “I think the challenge I had when I was an 18-year-old kid was I didn’t understand why we got design from all over the world but there was no Mexican design in the world. And my goal was to… put the voice of Mexican design out there. I think it’s [a goal] that will always continue to be. … It’s not my epitaph, and it’s not what defines me, really.”

“Maybe what defines me is perseverance, the non-conformism, the not assuming. But I don’t have the ambition to be remembered. My ambition is to keep opening that door, and the excitement of what I’m doing while I’m alive,” he concluded.

Montserrat Castro Gómez is a freelance writer and translator from Querétaro, México. 


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