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Q&A: Diego Olivero Talks Craftsmanship and Collaborations

Diego Olivero

The Guatemalan-born designer highlights Latin American artistry in his latest collection for West Elm

By Joseph Cicerone
Photography by Roberto Mendez Valladares

Diego Olivero is a creator by nature, but he credits his drive to the global artisans he calls his collaborators. “When I travel, it’s the people and the cultures of the places I visit that spark ideas for my work,” he says. “It always comes from a passion for artisan techniques that exist around the world.” The multidisciplinary designer launched his studio in 2010, and, over the years, has honed his craft, which spans sculpture, furniture and interior design. A taste of Olivero’s work has reached the Toronto market by way of a new collaboration with West Elm. The newly released Andino collection spotlights the designer’s ongoing work with artisans in Peru—boasting a perfect-for-spring selection of handcrafted ceramics, textiles and woven art.

In an interview with Designlines, Olivero discusses the new collection, forming relationships with artisans and retailers, plus, exciting projects in the works.

West Elm, Andino Collection
Diego Olivero’s line of Wool & Cotton Envelope Embroidered Pillow Covers boast bright colours and Peruvian-inspired designs.

Designlines: What was your vision for the Andino collection, and what was the creation process like for you?

Diego Olivero: At the centre of this collection is a love for Peruvian artistry, craftsmanship and culture. My favourite place to work there is in the town of Chulucanas, where they produce a lot of ceramic objects by hand using a potter’s wheel. The process, for me, was a very special experience since I was able to work with thirty artisans there. I’ve been working with this group, specifically, for around seven years. So, this collection was an opportunity to celebrate them, their sense of place and the culture of their craft.

DL: How is this collaboration representative of Diego Olivero Studio?

DO: I think my style of design is always focusing on the handcrafted. Pieces like the ceramics and knits in the Andino collection tell a story because they quite literally have the fingerprints of the artisans on each of them. I approach my work as a producer—connecting consumers and collectors with the individuals who inspire me.

DIego Olivero, Andino Collection
Designer Diego Olivero (above); The Terracotta Chulucanas Rope Vase has a modern silhouette but is crafted using a technique that dates back 1,500 years.

DLWhere else have you forged relationships with artisans, and how did those projects come to be?

DO: I began my work in Guatemala, making textiles and woven rugs. This artistry is a cultural patrimony in my home country and for a long time it was being lost. So, this is why I began to assume a new role. With my studio, I became a bridge to connect the artisans I learnt from, and had worked with, to an international market. From there, I’ve lived and worked in countries like Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, the Philippines, Kenya, Madagascar and Congo forging similar relationships with local artisans and finding new ways to create together. I’ve been lucky to build a career this way and have the opportunity to work with so many talented makers working with so many different materials.

DIego Olivero, Andino Collection
Handmade in Peru, the Andino line’s Terracotta vases add a warmth and earthy appeal to any space.

DLIs there one type of medium that you gravitate toward most as a designer?

DO: I love glass. I think working with glass is an amazing experience that is constantly in motion. You start with a liquid, incorporate extreme heat and witness the transformation process happen quickly in real time. It also requires a lot of hands working on one object at the same time. So, collaboratively speaking, it feels like an orchestra creating something together, which makes it interesting and different every single time.

DL: What’s next for you? Are there any special projects you currently have in the works?

DO: I’m always on the move and ready to start something new. I’ll be in India very soon to begin working on a glass development collection for a new client. I’m very excited to also be launching an India collection with West Elm in spring 2024. I always really enjoy working with brands like West Elm because it serves everyone who gets to engage with the project. Our work is able to access a wider audience, for sure. But also, it provides sustainable work and exposure for the artisans who have devoted so much of their lives to keeping tradition alive and celebrating beautiful forms of art. This is what keeps me going.

Categories: Stuff

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