March 25, 2019
Bandido Studio Draws from Traditional Mexican Crafts in Its Modern Designs
The Puebla, Mexico–based studio works with local artisans to develop pieces that reference the country’s unique heritage of making while using clean forms that let their materials speak for themselves.
Bandido grew out of a rebellious collaboration. As undergraduates in Monterrey, Mexico, Alejandro Campos and Joel Rojas found themselves regularly defying the rules laid down by their professors. They discovered that their most inspiring and innovative work emerged from this defiance. Dreaming up their own design studio during their final year, they immediately knew what they’d call it: Bandido, or “Bandit.” Four years later, the designers have recontextualized and abstracted traditional Mexican design, working with local artisans to develop pieces that reference the country’s unique heritage of making while using clean forms that let their materials speak for themselves. Many of the small pieces in their products are handcrafted in Mexico, where local carpenters and metalworkers still abound.
Bandido’s MURA table, for example, grew out of a visit to the nearby town of Tecali de Herrera, where many families work with marble. There Rojas and Campos met the Meza family, who’d been working with the stone for over 50 years. The designers invited the artisans to collaborate on a table. It wasn’t easy at first. The Mezas had long-established traditions, while Rojas and Campos wanted to express a novel vision without seeming invasive or domineering. Gradually, they developed a prototype together, with Rojas and Campos learning from the family’s expertise. The experience reinforced Bandido’s values as a studio: building community, and generating opportunities and insight.
“In Mexico, we have a terror of the void”—un horror al vacio—Rojas says. This fear of emptiness, he speculates, drives the supercharged colors and patterns and forms in Mexican design: gold leaf ceilings! aquamarine and lavender and hibiscus walls! Rojas and Campos, however, embrace the void. They abstract as much as possible, in form and function. Their Puebla studio reflects this understated elegance: a wall of windows that casts warm light on a large oval community worktable; narrow shelves with tidy plants and Bandido pieces; a single low-slung, Barragán-pink sofa. And, of course, a cocker spaniel named Frida.
Campos and Rojas aim to evoke the sencillo: a Spanish word that translates as “simple,” but in Mexico has a more layered meaning. Sencillo describes an experience or a product that is satisfying even without complex or dazzling elements, and that as such is satisfying in a deeper way. Take, for example, a tortilla warmed on the comal, filled with homemade black beans and local cheese, dressed with a drizzle of bright, bitter salsa—or Bandido’s pendant lamps, bell shapes suspended in thin plumb lines from the ceiling, pleasant and atmospheric as rain.
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