Interview with Mario Guzman (27), an emerging industrial designer maker based in London.
HomeSquare: How did your journey to become a creative professional begin?
Mario Guzman: I completed a BA course in Industrial Design back in Peru and after graduation I worked for two years in the only design studio in the country. My work consisted of designing homeware using upcycled materials. I did projects for the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Education, designing installations and playgrounds in remote areas of Peruvian highlands. At that time, I noticed that I needed a wider vision in my work and that I had enough experience to apply for a Master’s degree abroad.
Mario Guzman in the studio
HS: And you got accepted into UAL, London. What was the course like?
MG: In 2015 I received a scholarship to study MA Visual Arts: Designer Maker at Camberwell College of Art, part of University of the Arts London. Unfortunately, the course was meant for students with no industrial/product design background and I felt the lessons were just anecdotic. Due to the ongoing construction works the class was forced to take place at a parking lot during the two years the course lasted. The lack of resources also made me narrow my project just to ceramic products. And the lack of connection with the industry made the entire experience forgettable. I am positive that the rest of the UAL colleges offer impressive programmes but due to my scholarship and international status I was told it was impossible for me to transfer to a more suitable course or a more suitable environment. I learnt most of what I know from my work experience back in Peru and a three-months internship I did in London.
HS: What are the main differences between the creative industries in Peru and in London?
MG: The difference between design in South America and Europe is the size of the industry. My home country, for example, is mostly known as commodities exporter, just like many other South American countries. This means that all the economic efforts goes into mining, agriculture and fishing. The product/industrial sector in my country is limited to areas such as display furniture, decorations and ceramics. In some cases the need to find an easy and quick to produce style forces the sector to use the same elements repeatedly. This was the reason I was so excited to finally have the chance to compete and collaborate with designers in London. London is known for being one of the best places to study design in the world.
The marble tableware collection Hexagonale was developed from upcycled marble in collaboration with a query in Tuscany. The design reflects the stunning surroundings of Montalcino.
Hexagonale tableware collection can be used to display appetizers.
HS: What do you focus on in your work?
MG: My focus has changed a lot in the last two years. Initially, I was planning to move from furniture/homeware to a more service oriented design. For now, however, I am developing ceramic pieces in an industrial way – that means a medium-scale production using molds and involving third parties in the fabrication process.
HS: How does your creative process look like?
MG: I take a certain cultural element, strip it down to its simplest form and introduce it in a different context. I always start with a necessity the target consumer may have. It could be the need to transfer and promote their culture or the need for a more efficient tool. From then, I begin the research on how to improve people´s lifestyle, what changes to introduce in accordance with their customs and values. Once I have the necessary parameters, I compare them with the brief and start coming up with possible solutions. Before I contact the client or before I start manufacturing pieces for my own collection, I check how practical and satisfying these solutions are. This usually takes a long time because I am always trying to make improvements in the process and find new solutions to overcome limitations the workplace or client presents.
HS: What’s the most inspiring part of the designing process?
MG: I have been inspired by the people I worked with at projects outside university, from doctors to engineers. Everybody has a valuable point of view and knowledge that enriches my work. A multidisciplinary effort always creates a better long-term solution for the most important needs.
Anden collection inspired by the landscape of the Andes proposes a new way of displaying food. Its smooth interior contrasts with a curved and elevated exterior.
The idea behind the collection was to avoid stereotypical thinking about foreign culture. The end product is a practical, inclusive tool for a broad use that exceeds its local origins.
A piece from the Anden collection.
HS: How has London been an influence in your practice?
MG: Right now, as a homeware designer, I see myself representing the idiosyncrasy of a city like London in an adventurous way. All of its social and cultural diversity has had a profound impact on my work and I would like to show it through my pieces. The principal aim of my work is to reach a high level of functionality that results in comfort and creates a new way to appreciate tools of daily use. I don’t believe in aesthetics just for the sake of aesthetics; if an object does not serve its propose, a beautiful look will not make it important for the society. I’m currently trying to encapsulate this concept in the vase collection I’m working on.
HS: What is the main challenge young designers face at the beginning of their career?
MG: Because of my experience in the past two years, I strongly believe that all emerging designers and artists should be granted access to appropriate resources and means to be able to show what they are capable of. That is why one of my plans for the future, besides working on my own projects, is to create a space where new talents could launch their careers by connecting directly to an interested audience. Many great artists remain undiscovered due to the lack of support and network at the beginning of their career. The struggle to support themselves and the need of expression they face have motivated me to find a solution to this problem.