KOEL Stories

The Woven Path: Celia Esteves

The Woven Pathirene hoofs

We always have a soft spot for products that are born out of a collaboration with different artists. So when we heard about the concept behind GUR, we were immediately sold on. Rug weaver Celia Esteves collaborates with international artists to include an element of fun to traditional Portuguese rugs. Our favourite: the giraffe rug designed by Ana Types Type. Read on to get inspired by her story.

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5 Things About Celia Esteves…

Early riser or night owl... Early riser!

A song to get you into the creative groove... At the moment "Kora sings" from Sampha

What did you aspire to be when you were 5... I can't remember, but I was a very active drawer (:

3 essentials we can find in your bag... Phone, house keys and poop bags for my dog, Xuxo.

If you weren’t a weaver, you would most probably be doing… I would probably be working as a master printer, which is what I was doing before dedicating my self entirely to GUR.

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1. Tell us about your background and what led you to choosing weaving as a craft.
I'm from Viana do Castelo, a small town in the north of Portugal, which is very rich in traditional handcraft. However, I have been living in Porto since I was sixteen. At a young age in Viana, I felt unfulfilled with the options that a small town can present to me. In order to pursuit my interest in design and art, I moved to Porto to study. I studied Graphic Design in college, and later took a masters in Drawing and Printing Techniques in the Fine Arts School, where I worked for five years as a print technician at the school's print studio.

During this period, my work was to support classes, help students and work directly with artists in order to produce print editions. I feel that this influenced a lot of what I do today with GUR. Although I have always worked as a creative, with drawing and design, the techniques and crafts behind the objects have always attracted me since a very young age... mostly because I was surrounded by them in my hometown and I started to learn some on my own. The manual interaction of your body into the process of creating something with your hands brings me much pleasure. At first, I found that desire satisfied when printing for artists and now I have that same pleasure while making rugs for artists.

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2. What made you want to take your passion to the next level? And tell us more about GUR.
I was feeling unsatisfied with my full time job although I love the print techniques as having a full schedule didn't allow me to do much more. During my last year at the Fine Arts University, I started GUR and saw a lot of potential in the project. However, I couldn't dedicate myself entirely to it, so I took the risk and quit my job.

I'm very lucky to be surrounded by very good and talented friends, which are involved in arts and illustration. Two of them had Dama Aflita illustration gallery, which was the first in this area to appear in Porto with monthly exhibitions, where you could see and meet international artists. For us in Porto, it makes a big difference to allow our GUR artists to come from their good influence. So I started inviting my friends to collaborate on the project, and they invited artists that had work possible to be translated to weaving. Today, I have more then 80 collaborators.

GUR doesn't have a specific artistic type... I can say that minimal work is probably easier to work with in terms of technique, but we are always open to all kind of proposals. The essence of GUR is sharing this opportunity of creating rugs with others, while making these typical Portuguese rugs more fun.

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3. What kind of materials do you like to work with for your woven rugs? What is your favourite piece of finished product and what inspired you to create it?
Mostly we use 100% cotton rag recycled from textile fabrics, and linen. I like them all, but I have some favorites, which is hard for me to name just one – Julio Dolbeth, Ferreol Babin, Tomomi Maezawa and Antonio Gonzalez from the artists I collaborate with. Sometimes I create small collections dedicated to some of my favorites artists like Mark Rothko collection KO, and most recently BLACK, RED and YELLOW dedicated to the work of Al Held, Robert Motherwell and Alfons Borrell. I normally don't have time to create my own designs, but I love working with others, getting inspiration from their works. 

6. How is the yarn scene like in Portugal?
You can find different traditions and techniques involving weaving all over Portugal. The north of Portugal is very strong in rag rugs and popular costumes,  and if you go down South, you will find "Burel" wool fabric that was used to be the most waterproof and warm material for the shepherd in Serra da Estrela. Burel is keeping alive the value of the region's natural resources, combining the art and know-how of the village weavers with modern design. Mizette Nielsen did the same in the 70', salvaging a wool factory with unique weaving method that was used to create blankets in Alentejo. Portugal has a rich culture in handcrafts textiles, but a lot have gotten lost during the years. It is comforting to see that there is a revival of such crafts in the recent years.

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7. Is there any interesting or particularly memorable/interesting moment in your career as a professional maker?
When I invited one of the first artist that I didn't know personally, it took me some courage to send him an email. I remember being so anxious waiting for an answer, and then he said yes (: For me this made a big difference as at that point of time, I was still very insecure about the project and hesitant on whether I had made the right decision to invest in GUR. His appreciation and support in the project made me believe that I was on the right track!

8. Advice for those wanting to make the switch into crafting full time?
I started slowly... for the first year I was juggling between my full time job and crafting, taking the project for a test ride (: When I realized that it was worth it, I took the risk. It was difficult at the beginning – I lost my financial security and my routine (for a couple of months I had the tendency to watch movies all day), but after a while I became more adapted and GUR started to be financially stable. I also adopted a dog, which I named "Xuxo" and it brought much joy to my life (:

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Photo Credits: Celia Esteves