New sales market for Brazilian woodworkers thanks to recycling / design project

January 2007 -

"We saw that many people in that neighbourhood reuse all types of things. Empty soup cans serve as planters or stools. This is due to a lack of money, but we thought it was especially beautiful. That inspired us to develop empty plastic detergent bottles into a vase. The core is the plastic bottle: the wooden decorative vase is made around it."


Lonny van Rijswijck and Nadine Sterk are designers who recently completed their studies at the Design Academy in Eindhoven. Sterk says: "Via our studies and Straat - an intermediary for social projects - we ended up in a woodworking centre in Monte Azul, in one of the shanty towns known as favelas in São Paulo. The vase went into production there. In order to improve the working conditions in the woodworking centre we wanted to purchase a machine but we did not have the money.

Once we got back to the Netherlands, Droog Design was charmed by our Vase Monte Azul. They included it in their collection. When Gijs Bakker heard about our machine wish, Droog organised an auction. With the auction revenue we returned to São Paulo to purchase the machine. That was difficult. The people in the workshop are real machos and did not take us seriously. They also thought we had a lot of money, so they wanted a hydraulic machine. We wanted a semi-automatic lathe, also because we did not want them to merely push a button and have the vases roll out of the machine automatically. We ultimately convinced them and we bought the machine we wanted.

Our vase is stilling being made. It is very good for the people there because the wooden toys they had been making were scarcely profitable. They will be able to continue with the vase for a long time. Because Droog included it in their collection, new sales markets have emerged. We hope to return to Brazil to develop other products and learn even more. We learned a lot about craftsmanship, and the workers taught us a lot about designs."