A self-taught multidisciplinary artist, Jose Zanine Caldas (1918 – 2001) was born in Belmonte, a small town in southern Bahia, situated on an inland plain between the Jequitinhonha River and the Atlantic Ocean, where mud and wood were the main materials of the local housing. Belmonte’s houses are made of rammed earth and adobe, covered by terracotta tiles made in clay ovens powered by burning wood. It was exactly there, by looking at the process of making – mostly houses – “ that I also learned the practice of making.”
At age of 20, he started an architectural scale model workshop, and worked with some of the architects responsible for bringing Modernism to Brazil such as Oscar Niemeyer and Lucio Costa and in the early 1940s, it was during this period, Zanine started the bespoke “Z Artistic Furniture” line.
The structure of Zanine’s pieces consisted of plywood, which was often cut into a Z or amoeba-like shape. He sought lightness in the furniture, allowing for its mobility and flexibility in the space layout.
The architect insisted on the need to enjoy life and live well, which for him depended on a harmonious coexistence with the environment.
This concept led him to experiment with other furniture making techniques. Inspired by the local craftsmen who carved canoes and rowboats from felled trees, he began to experiment with this more elemental approach of chiseling furniture directly from forestry wastes such as tree trunks and roots, and honed them one by one into those organic, sculptural pieces - the notable Moveis Denuncia series.
A pioneer of sustainability and a protector of mother nature, Zanine developed a design connected to local knowledge as an effort to value and preserve regional techniques, rather than importing procedures and machines from industrialised places.
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