Vase Monte Azul

— Project in Brazil

Monte Azul is a favela on the outskirts of São Paulo, Brazil, where Nadine & Lonny first collaborated in 2004 while they were still students at the Design Academy Eindhoven. Here, they became captivated by how the local community considered household garbage to be more than just items in a bin, but as useable material. This concept became the focus of their exchange project, which aimed to increase sales for local woodworkers and stimulate youths to learn the trade. It resulted in the design of the Vase Monte Azul. It consists of empty, colourful plastic detergent bottles, collected by people from the favela, that fit inside wooden vases custom-made by the woodworkers.

Lonny, committed to the community and Nadine, fascinated by local craftsmanship, went out into the favela together, working with local residents to find colourful, empty plastic bottles that could be reused as the waterproof core to the wooden vases. The designers then produced the Monte Azul vases in the workshop together alongside local woodworkers. The experience taught the duo the importance of looking closely at our surroundings as a way of finding value in what can often be overlooked. This is a fundamental working methodology that they still use to this day. Collaboration is also vital to their practice, and this inaugural project enabled the designers to hone their complementary skill sets which involve collecting, craftsmanship, and community engagement. 

Many people in Monte Azul reuse all types of things. Empty soup cans serve as planters or stools. In particular, we noticed a woman who used plastic bottles to hold flowers. This kind of charming simplicity is what inspired Lonny and Nadine — it made them realize anything could be a vase so long as it could hold water. 

Upon their return to the Netherlands, the designers were happy to learn that Droog Design was charmed by the Vase Monte Azul. They included it in their collection and organized an auction to fund the purchase of a machine to produce the vase. With the auction revenue, Atelier NL returned to São Paulo to purchase the machine and set up further production. To this day, the vase is still being made. Because Droog included it in their collection, new sales markets emerged. This formative experience taught Atelier NL about craftsmanship and creating practical designs that aim to benefit the local people.