A visit with Gala Fernández on the eve of her new show

Free as a Bird

For her latest collection, Out of the Cage, designer Gala Fernández worked with skilled artisans at Mexico City’s Nouvel Studio to blow liquid glass in and through found metal birdcages of varying shapes and sizes. Once home to colorful pets, the discarded cages are given new life thanks to the inventive Madrid-born, Mexico City-based designer.

Fernandez’s collection debuted with Marion Friedmann Gallery during LDF earlier this fall. Next week, Fernandez and Marion Friedmann present the series’ second installment for the festival Abierto Mexicano de Diseño in Mexico City. The show, Out of the Cage/Fuera del Guacal (Series II), will take place at the beautiful Librería Porrúa, in front of the amazing Templo Mayor (Great Temple), which was once a major temple in the Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan.

This time around, in addition to cages, Fernandez will incorporate new found objects, such as bake ware, as molds. We spoke with Fernandez about her lyrical work and Mexico’s vibrant design scene on the eve of the show—and even got a few pics of her preparing her newest pieces!

AC: What was the original inspiration behind the Out of the Cage series?

GF: I began working with the amazing glass crew at Nouvel Studio in 2009 during a workshop I led organized by Universidad Anáhuac in Mexico City. Glass was totally new for me at that point; I was introduced to both the complexity of fantastic glass craftsmanship as well as the luxury, beauty, and vast range of colors and shapes inherent to glass as a material. The cost of the molds was always a problem, so I began to research how to produce the cheap molds with the best possible performances.

In 2013, I did a second workshop with Universidad Anáhuac’s School of Design and Nouvel Studio. I continued researching the possibilities of using unexpected, existing molds, and I turned to Mexican crafts. I’ve always loved the beauty, simplicity, and honesty of their aesthetics. The folk culture, colors, shapes, and materials always inspired and fascinated me. It was a challenge to make a link between this humble yet rich world with the sophistication of glass, but the cages provided an answer. They allowed us the chance to give new life to an object ripe with symbolism—a beautiful and, at the same time, awful object that negates freedom.

AC: Tell us about the pieces that will be included in the new show.

GF: This time around, I found new iron objects that I really liked. Some of them are quite regular pieces, such as kitchenware—tin cans, cookie and pudding molds, trays. . . Others are very special and strange—as you will see soon. And I made some more pieces with cages; I just love them.

AC: Describe your process.

GF: The pieces are made by blowing glass directly into found molds. I choose a particular color that I feel suits the shape best, then I work very closely with the blowers, directing them to the shape I want to achieve. Beforehand, we discuss the difficulty or limitations of certain pieces, and then decide how to proceed. Afterwards, when the piece is blown, we wait until it is cold enough and then cut and polish it. Then the piece is ready.

AC: What's it like to exhibit these pieces in Mexico specifically?

GF: Mexico is an amazing country, full of energy and life. This country has hosted me for two years now. I’ve found incredible professional potential here, and I’m producing more than ever. I’m so grateful and happy to have the chance to work and live here; I can speak my mother tongue and yet I learn new, totally different things everyday. There’s a huge link with Spanish culture and, at the same time, the pre-Hispanic culture is so delicate and strong.

AC: How would you describe the Mexican design landscape today?

GF: Mexican design is dense and healthy, full of power and potential. Its greatest strength is the super skilled craftsmanship here, and its connection to the creative disciplines (architecture, design, graphics, fashion) and technology. It is a volcanic combination. The industry is getting more and more interested in what these creative powers can offer them, and the disciplines are becoming closer than ever.

AC: In addition to your own design work, and your work with Piopio Design Labs, you are also one of the founders of the Mexico City Design Festival. In your view, how has the fair grown over the first couple years, and what are your hopes for its future?

GF: Last year we had almost 200 events taking place in 29 amazing places both public and private. The most prestigious palaces and museums from el "centro histórico” of the city. This year, in its second edition, the festival has grown into 240 events in 40 collective venues and more open-source ones. Last year we invited El Ultimo Grito from the UK, Azuma Makoto from Japan, and Brunno Jahara from Brazil as international guests. In this edition we will host Moritz Waldemeyer from the UK, Kengo Kuma from Japan, and Gt2P from Chile. And we are very happy that Jaime Hayon has accepted to come for the 2015 edition… This is a fantastic, open festival both for Mexicans and anyone else interested in design worldwide.

AC: What's next for you?

GF: I’m very focused on Abierto Mexicano de Diseño now. We are presenting several projects this year as Piopio Editions in collaboration with ROW Studio (our architecture partners). We are also beginning to think about the evolution of Out of the Cage. The next series may be more linked to architecture.

Marion Friedmann Gallery is also preparing new venues for the series, and we are planning to work with other materials like Mexican Onyx and Obsidiana, textiles, concrete, wood, and more. Mexico is a huge playground for a designer!

*All images courtesy of Gala Fernandez


More to Love