Mattias Rask and Tor Palm went to Peru simply because they’d been to a lot of places but never Peru, or anywhere else in South America, before. The Swedish design duo had founded Glimpt in 2010 with a love of travel and a commitment to working with, and learning from, artisans around the world.
The precedent that led them to Peru were collections they’d produced in collaboration with locals in South Africa and Vietnam. And what led them to the small Peruvian village of Yungay was a hot tip from someone they’d met in Lima, who introduced them to Artesanos Don Boscos, a nonprofit organization that’s supported the area’s skilled artisans for the past half-century, providing education, training, and employment opportunities to folks from teensy towns.
Though a bit of online research revealed that carpentry—tables, chairs, beds, cabinets—was a particular specialty of Yungay craftspeople, the Swedish designers, who speak no Spanish, went into the project with an open mind and no specific forms or furniture in mind. "Doing the journey, meeting the people, seeing them work, that’s what inspires us," Rask tells Co.Design. "It’s a big part of our process."
The pair managed to communicate using the universal vocabulary of design (and apparently earned two pretty hilarious nicknames: Gordo and Chato, aka Chubby and Shorty). Over the next six-and-a-half-months, they refined the results of their cultural exchange: "Prehistoric Aliens" is a series of stunning tables, lathe-turned and chiseled from lengha, a hard white cedar, then hand-painted in rich jewel tones.
The oversize ETs, which nod to Peru’s mystical heritage, were shown and much admired at Cappellini’s NEXT exhibition in Milan during Salone di Mobile in April. They will likely be available for purchase come fall from the Italian manufacturer, with proceeds being paid back to the artisans.
As for Gordo and Chato, they’ve already got their sights set on Mexico, where they’ll be teaching an orientation to craft at the University of Monterrey this fall.