Clareira project by Emma Cogné and Mariana Campos

Clareira is the result of a workshop at Museu de Arte Popular, Lisbon made by two designers: Emma Cogné (French) and Mariana Campos (Portuguese). In collaboration with basketry weavers, such as craftswoman Ana Paula Abrunosa, they learned the braided techniques and created Clareira – an object portraiting a space of intimacy with soft borders.

The Beginning

Emma and Mariana: Clareira was developed in the context of a workshop in Lisbon, Portugal. There we had 4 different fibers to work with and two different techniques taught by local craftswomen. The main point of attraction when working with «junça», or sedge plant (Stipa Gigantea), is the smell, as well as the long thin shape and the sound (sensory aspect). It is, in fact, a local and invading plant that grows around water and needs to be taken out of the earth in a responsible way.

The main Concept

Emma and Mariana: The concept of this project was to design co-living and co-working areas that can help to provide a more sustainable way of living in the future. Clareira was born to create a space of intimacy as an invitation for lounging in a shared environment. It refers to the idea of an open and light place, Clareira means clearing in Portuguese. Within these common areas, we wanted to acknowledge the importance of your own personal space. Instead of having harsh borders, we wanted to create soft borders where you can escape the outside work going into a meadow.

Clareira , 2019 junça, linen 173 x 115 x 51 cm
Museu del Arte Popular, Lisboa | Photo credits: Jenna Duffy

Braided Technique

Emma and Mariana: We used two variations of the braided technique. There is the braid that goes around in a spiral and the normal braid. The normal braid is traditionally only made by men; here is important to know and feel how to add fiber so that the thickness of the braid stays the same throughout the braid. The spiral one is made by women, called the «ponto» technique, traditionally used for making a filter to press the olive oil in and also as a cushion for workers not to have to sit in on the stones warmed by the sun. It’s a very repetitive technique where you need to have the sensitivity to know when to add more knots to the braid, so that it stays flat and with the same thickness. The fibers need to be put in water for 4 hours before using so that they can easily be bent.

basket weaving
Summer School 2019: Lisbon Portuguese Basket Technology Museu de Arte Popular, Lisbon.

Main Challenges

Emma and Mariana: The main challenge was to learn the technique. We took a lot of time to observe the gestures of Ana Paula, to understand the ponto technique. The second main challenge was to find a way to appropriate the technique – we choose to add long fibers in the braid to show the raw aspect of the fibers and create «soft borders».  The timing to produce the piece was short and managing the production was the last challenge. The technique takes time and needs patience and the pieces should also dry in the sun. We don’t know how the piece will evolve with time as it dries and gets used yet but we are excited to find out.

Interview with Emma Cogné and Mariana Campos.

Photo credits: Jenna Duffy