What do Brazilian bombachas – the traditional pants of Brazilian gauchos – have in common with a walk in the park?
Though it may not immediately seem so, there is a fairly straightforward answer to this question. Both may serve as design inspiration, especially when you are a passionate designer of textiles, and constantly on the lookout for new ideas to integrate into your work.
Vera Behs, a native of Porto Alegre (Brazil) and the sister of a good friend of mine, recently shared some of the secrets behind her refreshingly colourful and beautifully textured fabric designs with me.
Vera is a textile veteran, and has been working out of her design studio (Atelier Cama-Mesa-Banho) for over twenty-five years. Her work is guided by the principal idea that the pieces she creates should fit in well in their intended surroundings and be practical!
Quando crio uma peca a vejo como um membro pertencente ao local e nao como um destaque; ela deve ser adequada e prática ao ambiente onde será colocada.”
Her father, a textile salesman, used to bring home fabric remnants and samples which she already back then eagerly turned into her own pieces of art. She later studied art history which introduced her – among other things – to a wide range of works by European artists who came to inspire artists and designers around the world. While certainly tempted to do the same and follow in the footsteps of the Europeans, Vera quickly realised that it was the incredible richness of colours, patterns, shapes and textures of her own native Brazil that moved and inspired her even more.
Eu já observei que muita gente se inspira em artistas de nome internacional, mas acho que se pode criar com o que se tem aqui já que possuimos riquezas , qualidade e estética…..o Brasil é rico em cores e tradições……
Thus it is traditions of her home country, in particular those of the southern region of Rio Grande do Sul (a breathtakingly beautiful part of the country which shares its southern border with Argentina), that are her favourite inspiration.
From details in the traditional dress of gauchos, over the shape and design of Cuias de chimarrão (thermos jars made of dried gourd, which have been hollowed out and dried, and are often beautifully carved and ornamented. Cuias are used to drink erva-mate, an infusion made from the erva plant), to the white goods introduced to Brazil by German immigrants, including the macramé fringes on traditional table linens, everything goes.
Apart from that her work and ways to look for inspiration is deeply influenced by the Bauhaus philosophy stipulating that art can find its expression in many different techniques and any combination thereof – e.g. weaving, painting, photography, and architecture to name but a few – and that there should not exist any distinction between the so-called “fine” and “applied” arts.
No doubt – Vera loves colours. Certainly, this is something one could almost expect given her South American background.
A passion for colour can mean different things to different people, and she prefers those one tends to find in nature, including but not limited to those of Rio Grande do Sul’s stunning landscape, or, more simply, the nearby city park.
Aside from colour, she also has an eye for intriguing textures and patterns. This led her to experiment with many different textures, such as smocking (favos, Portuguese for “honey combs”) and lacy decorations.
In the process of making these patterns her own, she either directly applies the original technique to her work (e.g. by embroidering the fabric with favos), or replicates the patterns using entirely different media. To do so, Vera usually copies the designs onto paper (this way, the shading created by a three dimensional texture turns into a two-dimensional pattern), then draws them on fabric for subsequent printing. Among her favoured techniques are silk screen printing and hand colouring.
Of all the fabrics at her disposal, cotton is her favourite: it absorbs colour well, it’s pleasant to the touch and easy to handle. The downside being that colour on cotton fades more quickly than it does with other fabrics. But in Vera’s opinion that may not necessarily be that negative as faded fabric can have its own very particular charm.
In addition to her tradition and nature-inspired work, Vera develops designs for bed, bath linens and white goods (table linens), where she does her best to incorporate the client’s ideas regarding choice of pattern and colour in an as aesthetically pleasing way as possible.
To learn more about Vera and her unique designs, just visit her on Facebook!