Galo Louco, Part 2: The Whistler (getting to know Portuguese designers)

Being interested in the issues of cultural identity, art&design and sustainability in Portugal, I have learned a lot recently, thanks to the research initiated at “Galo Louco”.

The Portuguese are probably well acquainted with these designers’ work, but for me they are wonderful new discoveries!

Every morning I have my cereals from the well thought-out and cleverly designed part of “The Whistler” collection, conceived by Raquel Castro. I chose it for its aesthetic qualities, not knowing anything about the background. But I researched a bit and here is the story behind it:

As we know, Portugal is the world’s major producer of cork, an environmentally friendly, reusable and recyclable material. This country produces about 50% of total world amount. An innovative practice of recycling cork has also been developed in Portugal. In 2008, the “Green cork” project was initiated, with the idea to recycle and reuse cork stoppers. The project started as a partnership between Corticeira Amorim and Quercus, the main Portuguese environmental association, and then spread to Spain, France, Italy and UK in Europe, as well as to USA, Canada, South Africa and Australia.

The applications of cork seem to be endless: besides the use in architecture and building, clothing and footwear can be made of cork, as well as furniture and decoration. It is also used in the areas of health and beauty products, pollution control and even energy production. The possibilities for its new applications have been constantly discovered, too.

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An outstanding, creative example I found in “Galo Louco” is the “Alma Gémea” (“Soulmate”) line of products that combines cork and ceramics – a result of cooperation between the most prominent cork and ceramics producers of the country. One of the collections within the line is named “The Whistler”, as an hommage to the biggest cork oak tree in the world, located in the region of Alentejo. The designer was also inspired by the traditional pottery of Alentejo. The cork part of the product was made of recycled cork stoppers. In this example, the sustainability issues and cultural identity considerations were brought together and interpreted in a creative process.

The Whistler tree is 230 years old, it is harvested every 9 years (next time in 2018), and the last harvest was enough for about 100 000 cork stoppers! Here’s the amazing tree:

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Cork.

Cork production is über-important for Portuguese economy. And Portuguese share is 50% of total annual world production, or 61.3%, according to slightly confusing references from Wikipedia. Even though most of the harvested cork goes into wine bottle stoppers, many other products can come out of it, and that’s what this post is about.

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Just throwing everything randomly in the mix, from a postal stamp to designer furniture … and the Portuguese pavilion at the Shanghai EXPO 2010!

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