NEL

Founded
2004

Members
Ricardo Casas, Hector Esrawe, Emiliano Godoy, Cecilia Leon de la Barra, Oscar Nunez

Discipline
Products

Mission
To mess around with design for the sheer joy of it

Collective hero
Buckminster Fuller

It’s safe to say that NEL, a two-year-old Mexico City–based product design group, won’t turn commercial anytime soon. The group’s five members, all heavy-hitters with plenty of personal projects and university posts to keep them busy and fed, come together only for the pleasure of experimenting. Nel is Spanish slang for “denial”; “we’re involved in a project that revolts against the tedious everyday design process,” explains member Hector Esrawe, 37. Indeed, the idea that no such collective exists in Mexico’s underdeveloped design scene was part of the inspiration for its founding. Working deftly with simple materials and motivated by childlike designs, its members carve animal silhouettes out of Styrofoam blocks and convert the forms into chairs, tables, and bookshelves. (The drama lies in the narrative arrangement of these objects—the placement, say, of a loveseat with the cutout of a predatory cat next to a chair bearing the silhouette of an oblivious bird.) Or they encase lamps and chairs in fabrics printed with childish drawings of lamps and chairs. Emiliano Godoy, 32, a graduate of New York’s Pratt Institute, says the group is less interested in creating consumer products than in seeing what objects result from an ongoing dialogue among the lot, “so by the time we finish the process, the design has no visible protagonist.” But unless you check out the group’s website or travel to Italy, the design may not be visible at all. NEL’s work isn’t for sale, but it has been featured twice at the Milan Furniture Fair, which gives the members a chance to show off their artistic flair. They plan to return to Milan this spring with a new project. Right now, they’ll only say it involves storytelling.
www.nel.com.mx — monica campbell

Art: NEL presented its Fill in the Cat collection of carved Styrofoam blocks at the 2006 Milan Furniture Fair. Each time the elements are repositioned, a different story is told.

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