Interview with Miguel Palma, designer of the Calathea collection

January 2022

Calathea is a native plant species of the tropical rainforests, an exotic world and full of life, and branches into more than 20 sub-species. The goal was to conceive a design evocative of Calathea’s natural habitat, an ecosystem of unquestionable importance for planet Earth, not only because it produces large amounts of oxygen and captures a lot of carbon dioxide, but also because it is home to an enormous biological diversity. They are veritable sanctuaries of life.

What is the reason behind the choice of the Calathea plant as an inspiration to the new collection of Serip? What distinguishes it from other plants?

The leaves of each of the Calathea species have different shapes, distinct curvatures, that best suit their needs of sunlight.
Many species in the genus Calathea are known as “prayer plants” because their leaves open and close throughout the day, in a movement reminiscent of the joining of human palms in a prayer or meditation posture.
The pieces of the new collection intend to transmit this subtle, elegant, and delicate movement, through the different curvatures presented by the leaves of these plants. It is these curved lines that, as in Nature, make each of the pieces of the new collection unique, that give movement to the pieces and bring them to life. They are reflections of the uniqueness produced by Nature, in which each leaf carries its own “fingerprint”, unrepeatable.
Our intent was that this collection would serve as a model of awareness and example as to why we should not think of Nature as something infinite and endless, but as a living organism that, if not properly cared for, may end.
More than the inspiration for the collection, we want Calathea to be an inspiration to a new beginning and an environmental awareness that should be part of our daily life and existence.

How did the creative process for this collection develop?

In a time when all the news showed that Nature was recovering in the absence of humans, with the reduction of air and road traffic, Calathea came to my mind, as a symbol of strength and resilience, but also of delicacy and sophistication. And, thus, blossomed the idea of creating a collection that would have Calathea as the protagonist.

The creative process began with a few sketches. We wanted, above all, to capture and replicate the movement of the foliage, instead of having something flat and static. We decided to complement and support the Calathea leaf with some branches, whose shapes came from samples taken in the same forest where the inspiration for this new collection first came to me.

From the initial concept until the prototyping and materialization of the product, between scanning, modeling and 3D print, 2 years elapsed, a process that, like all artistic creations, was marked by advances and setbacks, always in a search for the most perfect forms.

What are the distinguishing features of the pieces in the new collection? What colors and shapes make up this new collection?

I think the most distinctive features are fluidity and movement. The constant interweaving and segmentation into thinner trunks give the pieces an uninterrupted sense of continuation, as if the form is continually growing or being born anew. It’s curious, because the name Calathea conveys the notion of a “fresh start”, “turning over the leaf”, which is what Calathea does naturally when it’s dark. It’s customary to give this type of plant to those who are starting a new stage in life. The name of the plant evokes the notion of a new beginning.

To better understand which shapes are more aesthetically pleasing and appreciated, we did a market study, which laid the groundwork for conducting several tests until arriving at the perfect shape. The possibility of creating unique structures, the versatility of the works, using various modules and arranging them in multiple ways, was one of the main conclusions that were drawn from this research. Therefore, the client can have unique and personalized pieces. Calathea’s pieces work isolated or in compositions that best serve the spaces that the client intends to enrich.

Our pieces are more than just lamps or works of art: they are a fusion between the artistic, the beautiful and the utilitarian.

For Serip, the natural element is the essence of its identity. How does Serip look at the environmental degradation that is ever clearer to our eyes?

The elements that underline every single Serip models are Nature and the organic. We have always tried to work upon these inspirations, and one of our ever-present concerns is that our pieces are mainly constituted of recycled and recyclable materials, such as glass and foundry.
The respect for Nature is deeply rooted in Serip’s history, it’s part of our identity. As such, Serip considers itself responsible for showing the world the most beautiful things of the natural world, seeking to amplify and sow in every conscious mind the urgency of protecting the environment and all forms of life. We want to inspire others towards the protection of Nature, an essence that is transversal to all of Serip’s collections.

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