So.. who are Luís Leite and Ana Ferreira? 🙂
We were both born in 1978, we are a couple of architects with a 3 year old daughter (who tests our products in firsthand) and we live and work in (the trendy city of) Oporto, Portugal. We are both from Portugal, Luís is from São Miguel island (Azores) and Ana is from Leiria (a town in the middle of mainland Portugal, near the coast).
How long have you guys been working on Bleebla, how did it all start?
We started designing and building by ourselves some objects/toys for a newborn nephew in 2006. From that experience came out the “Animal box” which was selected in 2009 for the “POP’s – Original Portuguese Projects” Exhibition organized by the Serralves Contemporary Art Museum Shop. In late 2013 we started to re-design the “Animal box – jungle” and developed new products based on the jungle theme, under the Bleebla concept. And, finally, we opened the Bleebla online shop earlier this year (on May 5th).
What was the inspiration behind (most of) your designs for Bleebla?
In the particular case of the products currently available, we are influenced by some design products of the second half of the 20th century, such as the “Building Zoo” of the North-American Caplan couple or the “Sedici Animali” that the Italian Enzo Mari designed for Danese. But we also have to refer Bauhaus and the Eames couple.
Could you tell me more about the process of making the animals? And the materials, such as the choice for sycamore wood?
Our architectural training strongly determines all design phases and the final result. The process of designing an animal starts by sketching a lot – and we mean a lot 🙂 – in order to reach a stylized silhouette of each animal. After that we do several prototypes to fine-tune details like tails, paws, snouts, until we’re pleased (yes, we are a bit obsessed).
About the sycamore wood, we spent a lot of time looking for a white/yellow wood that would have a color contrast with the cork we use and that was local (European) in order to have a low environmental burden related to the raw material transport. We choose sycamore wood because of the reasons above but also for its softness and its (we think) wonderful vein.
Which wooden animal is your personal favourite? (Both of you! :))
Luís: That is very hard to answer, I would say the rhinoceros, but I know that if you ask me the same question tomorrow I will say another one (did you notice that the octopus is the only one with two eyes?)
Ana: I have a special care for the jungle theme, because it was the first set of animals that we drew. I don’t know which one I prefer (I like them all), but I do know which one was the hardest to reach the final form: the orangutan.
Are there other favourite (toy) designers too in Portugal you guys look up to?
There isn’t a big tradition of designers specialized in toys in Portugal. However we look up to some objects/toys form “Matéria – Cork by Amorim” collection (such as “Bote”, “Furo” and “Rufo”) designed by several designers (portuguese and from abroad) and the concept of Make2play toy designers.
Lastly, any creative advice to kids/adults?
Keep looking at things from several perspectives (at work and when playing)!