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Celia Esteves

Tell us. What is your name and where are you from?

My name is Célia and I’m from a small town north of Portugal, Viana do Castelo.

Why do you make what you make? How did you get started with rug design and execution?

At a young age in Viana do Castelo, I felt unfulfilled with the options that my small town presented to me. In order to pursue my interest in design and art, I moved to Porto to study. That's where I went to college for graphic design, and later took a masters in Drawing and Printing Techniques in the Fine Arts School.  I actually worked for five years as a technician at the school's print studio.

During this period, my job was to support classes, help students and work directly with artists in order to produce print editions. I feel that this influenced a lot of what I do today with GUR. Although I have always worked as a creative with drawing and design, the techniques and crafts behind the objects have always attracted me since a very young age. Probably because in my hometown, I was surrounded by handmade objects and I started to learn some handmade techniques on my own. The manual interaction of putting your body into the process of creating something - that gives me so much pleasure. At first, I found that pleasure when printing for other artists, and now I have that same pleasure while making rugs for and with artists.

I was invited to an interesting exhibit in my hometown where the intention was to build a bridge between handmade artisans and young designers. During this process, I worked on a handloom design with my current weaver and we made the first GUR rug. I was so happy with the result and found it so exciting and promising that I wanted to share the experience with some of my illustrator friends, allowing them to design rugs too. That's how GUR started!

You collaborate a bunch. How do you decide who to work with, and what is that process like once you lock in an artist?

I'm very lucky to be surrounded by very good and talented friends involved with arts and illustration. Two of them have an illustration gallery - actually it's the first gallery this area to appear in Porto with monthly exhibitions. 

Selecting an artists means we have to adapt his or her language to the actual handloom techniques. What will it look like as a rug? Once this is locked in, we work on finding a design that works for the consumer market. This process can take a week - or sometimes months - until we are satisfied and can go forward with the production of the first sample.

 

How does Rugs by Gur the bridges between authentic, modern and traditional?

I always remember having these handloom rugs in my house, and in my friends' and family's homes as well. They are very typical in Portugal, but have always been more or less the same style, beautiful in it's own way but very simple, using recycled materials from random textile fabrics. With GUR, I use the same techniques and materials, and they are very authentic to what they have always been. But now, they possess a more prominent design factor. I find it very important to keep these techniques alive, as they have been tossed aside over the years. I hope that adding a contemporary approach will attract people to these high quality handmade objects and keep them alive.

Since the start, we've been trying new techniques that better translate the artist's design onto the rug. We are very limited in a way, but part of the fun during the process is finding new solutions. A GUR rug is never a copy of the original design, in fact, it is the translation of the original design - which includes the mistakes and limitations. In the end, the final result is always a surprise, but usually a good one.

You play around with angles, shapes and edges in a way that’s really refreshing. Is this difficult?

Making these sharp and complicated forms is actually the hardest thing we do on the loom, but is also what challenges and excited us the most.

What inspires you in general?

My childhood surrounded by handcrafted goods my interest in art and design make up my inspiration for GUR.
I'm deeply and excited by the process of creating a new GUR rug, taking it out of the loom and waiting to have it in my hands. It's what keeps me going, almost like an addiction.

I love having the opportunity to meet new designers and collaborate on GUR pieces. With GUR, I have been working with many artists that I never imagined I'd ever connect with. The essence of GUR is sharing, collaborating on design and process to make these typical Portuguese rugs more fun.