All over the world crafts are facing the same challenges; traditional knowledge and millennia-old tradition are being substituted by industrial mass-production, crafts(wo)men are lacking opportunities and therefore also successors, while many distinctive and natural materials with amazing properties are being overseen. Especially rural areas are affected by the increasing industrialization and globalization, ultimately leading to an irreversible loss of cultures and intangible cultural heritage!
With Mapu Preto we want to re-think crafts and re-think production methods! We want to change the prevailing paradigms of mass-production of consumer electronics by creating unique and meaningful objects that are deeply related to the particular materials, and cultures of the places they come from. Our dream is to support rural areas to locally produce contemporary high-end products and ultimately train new generations of artisans who keep old manufacturing-tradition alive.
Therefore we decided to fuse crafts and technology, regional materials and ancestral traditions from Portugal with acoustics expertise from Denmark to create an eco-friendy high-tech product that combines past and present with a vision for the future.
Our project has been conceived with the dream to reunite two apparently antagonic worlds - crafts and technology. Thus we decided to create a handmade high-tech product using overlooked eco-effective materials, standing for cultural identity, transparency, fair-trade, regional manufacturing traditions and aesthetics.
With Mapu Preto we want to make ancient knowledge and skills essential tools for the construction of the future and to give a new perspective to traditional crafts. We want to change the prevailing paradigm of mass-production of consumer electronics and to support the formation of a new generation of potters through heritage-led-innovation!
Also we consider that speakers come with a multi-sensorial experience, appealing to ears, eyes and touch, and are convinced that they should be objects that are unique and identity-building. We want our speakers to smoothly integrate into the living rooms, so that people place them in a central position which will eventually be favourable for their acoustic performance.
THE BIRTH OF THE PROJECT
In 2019 we read about the traditional black pottery-work and the Soenga-firing from Molelos in Portugal. When we met Luís and Manuel Lourosa we were immediately impressed by the professionality of their work and decided to join forces.
Some months earlier we had received an invitation from SoundHub Denmark to take part in a residency program in their facilities in Struer, learning from experts, experimenting with shapes and techniques to develop a new speaker with improved acoustics. So this time for our new speaker series Mapu Preto we started with a more technical approach.
As designers we are also aware of the growing consciousness of the consumers. More and more people are seeking products with a story to tell, identity and origin, and appreciate ecological high-end materials, resource-efficiency in production and short(er) transportation routes, ultimately searching for a different way of production and consumption.
THE CREATIVE PROCESS
In the context of the WORTH! Partnership program we developed two design variations - 'Mapu Preto' (traditional black ceramics through oxygen reduction during the firing process) and 'Mapu Soenga' (silver-black-marbled, traditional firing in an earth pit, UNESCO Heritage), both as active Mono and Stereo variation. Each of them is a unique, hand-made and culturally sustainable piece of art, made out of eco-friendly materials in fair and transparent production. The biggest challenge of our creative process was probably to bring together disciplines as different as handmade crafts and hi-fi technology, and materials as different as amplifiers with microchips and clay pots! The technological heart-piece is identical in each of our speakers and designed on a milimetrical basis. But when we asked potters and wood-turners to fabricate identical and milimetrical pieces by hand, they first rejected our request saying that we were asking for something impossible. On the pottery side Luis and Jose Lourosa suggested to reach a production of small series, by having one part of the vases entirely hand-thrown on the potter’s-wheel and fired with the traditional soenga-technique, and another part made of liquid clay in a mould, finished on the potter’s-wheel and fired in a gas kiln. Last but not least the sound design was quite a process! Together with the engineers Peter Chapman and Benny Jhu and the support of experts from Bang & Olufsen and the SoundHub network we developed a new amplifier with external DAC and Aptx codec, a BT 5.0 module and an improved DSP, a bigger speaker volume with a new bass-reflex tube in combination with high-quality 4'' full-range drivers. In specific measurements we could verify the positive properties which the spherical shape and the hardness of the vases had for the sound reproduction of our speakers.
In this partnership we brought together crafts and technology, North and South of the continent, Portuguese ceramics, cork, wood and wool-felts with Danish hi-fi acoustics and audio expertise, and of course our respective skills and knowledge. Pablo and I, as designers, directors and project managers have worked closely together with the team from Denmark and the team from Portugal (partly in person, partly via video conferences). We were lucky enough to learn incredibly much from both sides and to be able to create a “bridge of heritage-led-innovation”. Of course the support of the Worth! Partnership Project was fundamental for this first experimenting phase, since it permitted us to finance the materials and travelling costs for the prototype development and also offered us mentoring and access to new inter-European networks and markets. After all, we are more than satisfied with the collaboration and with the final prototypes!
To us, Mapu is rather a ‘project’ than a product, and actually it is an excuse to make a step towards the world that we dream of. Through the Mapu project we want to re-think crafts and to re-think production methods and to motivate others to do likewise!
We want to use overlooked natural materials, and to change the prevailing paradigm of mass-production of consumer electronics, to eventually support rural areas to locally produce contemporary high-end products.
All over the world there are unique ceramics, Morocco, Japan, India, Etiopia, Italy to name only some of them, and everywhere talented crafts(wo)men are facing the same challenges. Our dream is to develop new product designs in the near future, following the same principles of heritage-led-innovation and to support through the training of new artisans who keep old manufacturing tradition alive through the sales of our speakers. We think of the future of Mapu as an exciting journey, connecting cultures and traditions, past and present with a vision for the future.
We dream of a world where ancient knowledge and skills become essential tools for the construction of the future. We dream of a crafts-revolution!
And afterall, we don’t want to compete to be the best speakers in the world, but to cooperate to become the best speakers for the world!