This furniture is an inspiration. I spotted it in the Portuguese interior design magazine Attitude, impressively included in an Orgulho/National Pride editorial, a couple of years ago. I kept it in the back of my mind to go and see them whenever I got to the Alentejo.
When I finally made the trip visiting the Agua de Prata workshop it was the highlight of my visit to Evora. Roman era temple? For what we came. Pre-history Cromeleques? Saw them. But Nossa Senhora Da Graça Do Divor… Conquer me!
The studio is situated on an enviably pretty hill, next to a notable church on a gently undulating Alentejan plain, dotted with the ancient water wells that supplied Roman Evora its silver water, agua de prata.
The wool producing town of Arraiolos is about 15kms away, and supplies the artist, João Videira, with the wool with which he reinvents and revives old furniture frames and other objects. There’s a magic fusion that happens between the old framework and the intensely coloured wool that creates an altogether new and beautiful design piece. The warmth of the recollected meets the tactile wool in a way that makes this furniture irresistible; it’s at once modern and antique, designer and personal, precious and cuddly.
And the recycled and recreated philosophy fits perfectly with the concept for my house. By taking what has heritage and soul and stripping back the parts that have deteriorated. Then restructuring and repairing those bones for a modern use, adapting outdated living concepts for today’s needs and integrating modern desires for comfort and pleasure. The result is honestly beautiful, luxurious and unique furniture of character and simplicity.
Collecting designer furniture is all very well, but I can’t see the point if the pieces are not useable and personal to you. You see so many houses in magazines with the standard Eames chair, as ubiquitous as a Warhol print rip off and equally unoriginal. Agua de Prata is the antithesis of this. It’s even easier to fill your house with cheap mass produced furniture, which looks OK for a month and in a year is downright awful. I’d prefer to buy one quality piece I adore, and have an empty house, or even use furniture hire temporarily until I can afford to buy something else.
My favourite things from Agua de Prata are, naturally, the Pedras de Lã, Wool Rocks. At first glance their organic shape made me curious about the support around which the wool is carefully wrapped. Their weight gives nothing away, except that inside they couldn’t be hollow. Nor are the stones hard; they have a sponginess that adds to the organic characteristic of their shape. The answer is, that the Pedras are solid wool, a ball so carefully and tightly bound that it has taken on its own natural form, and like all the Agua de Prata works, is individual and unique.
And if you’re passing the town through at lunchtime, as we were, wondering where all the folk could be, tuck your head into the first café on the left, which will be packed and dishing out delicious local plates with atmosphere and conviviality. Happiness all round.