Matt Anthony

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Matt Anthony

Date: March-May 2008

Designer: Matt Anthony (University of Cincinnati-USA)

Craftsmen: Carlos Lira and Jose Balaio

Material: Bamboo fibre and banana fibre

site matt 1site matt 5site matt3site matt4site matt6site matt7site matt8site matt9site matt10site matt14 Matt Anthony, a student in his fifth year of design at the University of Cincinnati, USA, was looking for a meaningful project for his graduate thesis.  He had read an article about social design in ID Magazine and was prompted to get in touch with Silvia Sasaoka to see if he could take part in one of her programs.

Matt wanted his thesis project to focus on how design can contribute to positive social change, rather than how design is used in industry and business for financial gain.

The goal of Matt’s project was to develop products with renewable raw materials.  He chose to work with bamboo grown at an organic farm.  For this he collaborated with Espaco Sao Micael, an organization for people with special needs.

For six weeks Matt was immersed in the workshop with Carlos Lira, a craftsman specializing in bamboo furniture, and Jose Balaio, a craftsman dedicated to weaving baskets with bamboo.

The Beginning

The first days in the workshop were devoted to understanding the culture, materials and techniques at hand. Several concepts were generated from both the technical capabilities of bamboo and the interactions of the participants themselves.

The Process

At the beginning, the prototypes were creative, but the forms were too complex to be duplicated and could not be made in a series.  The knowledge gained from these first tests was used to create a more simple collection of forms that could unite the technical skills of the group with the flexibility and beauty of bamboo. Visual patterns were created to highlight the shapes and show the interplay between positive and negative forms on the surface of the bamboo.

The final set of objects that were developed met the targets set at the beginning of the project: creating a family of products that were related to each other in shape, texture and surface. The final prototypes were made with locally grown bamboo, and all the organic waste went to local farms for composting.

The Products

As peças desenvolvidas nesse projeto ainda podem ser confeccionadas na parte inicial do processo de produção pelos líderes das novas oficinas, enquanto o resto do grupo pode participar por meio de lixamento, corte, tecelagem, pintura e montagem. Os produtos estão disponíveis, atualmente, nas lojas da região, onde podem ser vendidos e encomendados.

Os produtos

Salt & Pepper Shakers

The idea behind the salt and pepper shakers is to highlight the natural convex and concave shapes that form the surface of the bamboo. The product is marketed as salt, pepper and toothpick holder.


Another product that takes inspiration from the surface pattern of bamboo, this product leverages the technical capabilities of the artisans.


These woven vases are given a pop of aqua colour for a bold, bright home accessory.  The vase has a plastic bottle inside which is used to hold the fresh flowers.  The forms are generated by alternating between strips of bamboo at different thicknesses. This serves to make the products easier to produce and demonstrates how simple variations can create new and interesting products.


With light shining through the bamboo weave, these lamps make beautiful patterns with light and shadow.  The lamps are a prime example of the interplay between positive and negative space.  They also illustrate how a relatively simple method, repetition of parts, leads to an easy construction process in which all can participate.


The baskets come in various sizes and can be used for storage or decoration.  Due to the natural beauty of the bamboo each one varies, ensuring that each piece is unique.  This variation emphasizes the influence of the craftsman.

The Result

The project culminated with an exhibition at Copaiba, an eco-friendly retailer in Botucatu where the products were marketed. The exhibition opened the local market to the artisans, generating much interest and discussion among the store’s customers.  Of particular interest was how traditional craft techniques can be used to create contemporary forms.

This discussion of the relationship between craft and design was an indicator of project success.  Sales began in the weeks after the exhibition, with people making orders immediately.

The salt shakers and candlesticks are sold by Copaiba in Botucatu, Sao Paulo State, at Touch, Los Angeles (USA), and Camponesa in Pardinho, Sao Paulo State.  In September 2008 the set of salt and pepper shakers was selected for final judging of the Primeiro Prêmio Objeto Brasileiro, sponsored by the museum A Casa in Sao Paulo.