Caro Ettore by Gala Fernández Montero

New York

27 May 2015

Gala Fernández Montero’s Caro Ettore collection comprises a series of handcrafted, totem-like objects made from veined Mexican marble and onyx. The collection features as part of This is Not a Duet, an exhibition hosted at New York-based design gallery Chamber.

Originally from Madrid, Fernández Montero is a multidisciplinary designer whose work typically utilises natural materials such as glass, wood and stone. Between 2000 and 2004 she worked alongside Jaime Hayon at Italian studio Fabrica, before establishing her eponymous design studio in 2005. She now splits her time between Madrid and Mexico City.

It was Mexico, and the materials native to it, that informed Fernández Montero’s design for Caro Ettore, which breaks down into two constituent collections: 16 Little Sculptures and Adult Game. Three years ago Fernández Montero began collaborating with craftsmen in the village of Tecali de Herrera near the Mexican city of Puebla (68 miles southeast of Mexico City), a pueblo that specialises in working with onyx. A type of translucent stone which naturally forms in different colours, onyx is the dominant material used in 16 Little Sculptures.

“Seeing the craftsmanship, the craftwork and the materials in Mexico from a European perspective is a fantastic discovery,” says Fernández Montero. “Somehow, in Europe we have lost this kind of ease of working with people, whereas in Mexico it is natural. In every single little village you find people working with their hands in an amazingly skilled way. I just fell in love with the handmade craft.”

16 Little Sculptures is a series of stackable polished onyx shapes. The simple shapes include a cross, cylinders and a small bowl, all of which vary in colour, although the collection is dominated by jet black, golden yellow and a natural, stone-like cream. “In the beginning, the objects were shaped like little pieces that I just found, sometimes even on the floor. Pieces I was just collecting like somebody on the beach gathering shells,” says Fernández Montero. “With these compositions I began to create more precise shapes like cylinders.”

Adult Game is a continuation of the forms established in 16 Little Sculptures. A box made out of Mexican wood, Adult Game includes 32 objects in different stones, shapes and colours. The piece invites visitors to the gallery to create their own composition with the stones. Both parts of Caro Ettore sit alongside Mobi within This is Not a Duet, a collection of six modular structures created by Chicago-based designer Sung Jang. The structures, which include a 16ft bench and a small building, are formed from the repetition of thousands of tripod-shaped, polypropylene modules.

Caro Ettore is dedicated to late Italian designer and architect Ettore Sottsass (1917-2007), the founder of the postmodernist Memphis collective. Memphis formed in 1981 around a group of young architects and designers who gained a reputation for brightly coloured, liberated, irreverent post-modernist designs that elevated surface treatment and anarchic construction.

Fernández Montero says that 16 Little Sculptures was not consciously inspired by Sottsass, yet it is easy to detect a kinship to the Italian designer's work in its totemic, sculptural forms; throughout his career Sottsass designed stacked ceramic totems and his work played heavily upon iconography. “I wanted to dedicate this collection to him because it consists of very simple, geometric shapes and fantastic natural colours with different patterns which are absolutely random by nature.” says Montero. “I did not set out wanting to do something consciously Memphis or Ettore Sottsass, but when I saw the pieces it reminded me a lot of his work. Somehow, if not super directly, he was one of my masters.”