Text: Joana Jervell Photos: Courtesy of Oficina 166
Diana Meneses Cunha always had a passion for several arts and crafts. A few years ago, when leaving Luanda to return to Portugal, she decided to fully commit herself to decorative tapestry and explore her creative side. Oficina 166 was thus created and it is from her studio in Cascais that Diana constantly challenges herself, surprising everyone with unique pieces that, naturally, become a highlight in every place they stand.
How did Oficina 166 come about?
I was always very creative and, during my teen years, I had a preference for working with yarn. However, it was only in 2015 that I experimented with tapestry technique on a weaving machine, with which I fell immediately in love. By then, and after realising my pieces were being well received, I decided to create my own brand.
As well as creating pieces for clients, I also focus on courses and workshops for those who want to learn the techniques we use and I also organize creative retreats (I’m organising two in 2020).
How do you define your pieces? How do they distinguish themselves?
I create contemporary textile pieces using traditional techniques, such as tapestry on a weaving machine, embroidery, crochet and macramé. This contemporaneity is perceivable both in the design and in the mix of techniques and materials.
The pieces I enjoy making the most are organic designs, which I also believe are more easily recognisable as being mine. The trunks with crochet and macramé (natural big trunks on which I weave a tapestry) are also exclusive pieces.
Another aspect that characterizes my work is the size of my pieces, as they are usually quite large.
Is the experimental component something you want to explore?
What moves me is an immense need to create, to replicate. Therefore, I decided from the beginning that I’d create unique pieces. I remember my first project, with an interior design studio, of 21 wall tapestries for short-term rental apartments. My only request was for all the 21 pieces to be different and, fortunately, the client accepted. The decision of creating unique pieces demands a consistent search of new techniques and materials and different designs. And it is from that experimentation process that I get the pleasure of what I do. I feel like I’m always playing. Sometimes I haven’t even finished a piece and I’m already thinking about the next one.
What are the materials that you enjoy working with the most?
Concerning yarn, I like to work with 100% natural cotton and wool. One can immediately see the difference when a piece is made with natural yarn, not only visually but also by the touch. And, in the case of a textile piece, the sense of touch is essential.
However, there are exceptions. One of them is regarding the exterior furniture line we’re developing with an architecture studio (PAr — Plataforma de Arquitetura). To be resistant to the sun, rain, salt and humidity, we need to use nautical ropes since we could never use natural rope.
Another material I like to use a lot are natural tree trunks and branches, to support my tapestries and also to loom directly on them, like a loom from which you never take the tapestry off.
How do you boost up your creativity?
I recently said that being creative is exhausting. Creativity doesn’t come with an off switch. Just because I close the studio at the end of the day, it doesn’t mean my head stops. And ideas often come from outside continuous stimulation, such as a landscape, a plant, the way the sky lights up at a certain point, the sea, a photo, someone’s garment… The internet also helps a lot, with platforms like Pinterest and Instagram, which give us access to a whole creative world.
Clients are also a source of ideas and inspiration. I’m very lucky with the clients I have for having challenging ideas and trusting me to bring them to life.
What are the main projects you participate in?
Although I have orders for private homes, the main projects have been for hotels, such as Bairro Alto Hotel and Albatroz Hotel, or smaller hotels, such as Craveiral Farmhouse, Casa Modesta and Paraíso Escondido, and restaurants, such as Tsukiji and Clássico Beach Club.
My main clients are interior designers and architects.
What do the clients value the most in an Oficina 166 piece?
Definitely, the exclusiveness. The fact that I only make pieces to order means that every project is created for a specific client, its tastes and needs and the space itself where the piece is going to be.
Is there any goal you feel you need to accomplish?
Besides creating new pieces with new materials and techniques, right now my main goal is to expand my international client base. In Portugal there’s clearly an increasing demand for contemporary textile art, and the projects I’ve been awarded are a reflection of that, but given the country’s dimension, it’s essential to increase the number of foreign clients.
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