An experimental career as a design theorist

Tess Watters, founder of Wacky Color, tells us how to mix and match collectible art, furniture and design. If you’re a lover of funky interior design, if you’re inclined to get involved in all…

An experimental career as a design theorist

Tess Watters, founder of Wacky Color, tells us how to mix and match collectible art, furniture and design.

If you’re a lover of funky interior design, if you’re inclined to get involved in all the aspects of the often chaotic and sometimes heartbreaking world of design (in other words, if you own a vintage rug, take your inspiration from a specific photograph, like Saint-Gaudens’ Falling Angels), you need to do some research. But how? Enter Patricia Urquiola, founder of the design studio Annabelle, and Wacky Color, to guide you through the most exciting projects involving decorative art and furniture, and perhaps most importantly, to the ultimate in design.

Patricia Urquiola, founder of the design studio Annabelle. Photograph: Neal Goss

Just like any other aspiring design major (or student in real life) you need to learn everything you can about what you’re studying. This is certainly the case with Urquiola, whose mission is, simply put, to educate. She spends her time across six continents exploring how art and design can be portrayed in different venues – think museums, schools, universities and even metropolitan landscapes. “I constantly do research and make new discoveries,” says Urquiola. “I feel as if I need to make discoveries – so I leave a lot of things for the students to discover.”

From Brisbane, she devotes time and energy to her scholarship and other projects through Annabelle, her studio with over 70 talented artists, designers and architects from a variety of countries.

From Auckland, New Zealand to Buenos Aires, Argentina, this multifaceted team of interior designers and artists break down the barriers of style and establish standards of appreciation, creating solutions that are versatile and on trend.

Urquiola is always travelling. Photograph: Neal Goss

Not content with her prestigious firm and and branding project in Brazil, Urquiola continues to spearhead a number of ventures. One, called Wacky Colour, helps retailers and consumers think outside the box when it comes to decorative art, furniture and design. Wacky Colour also helps individuals find unique, used, or fresh pieces in major design shows.

One-third of Urquiola’s studio takes place at the annual Design Miami shows in Miami and Barcelona. “I am helping more and more retailers come up with a new way of purchasing design – with more options,” she says. At Design Miami, the consulting firm is busier than usual, with more clients and members coming together in a dynamic and fun environment. “It’s a great place to meet other people and talk to them about design,” she says.

Paco and Patricia in Miami Photograph: Neal Goss

Urquiola is also an advocate of planting the seed in young people’s minds – the Project Academy in Belo Horizonte, Brazil offers those who have the desire to learn about design or art the chance to explore and gain practical skills. “If children grow up experiencing things, they will want to see and enjoy things and put it into words and they will also want to be into it,” she says.

Urquiola draws from her experience in both Mexico City and Buenos Aires. She recalls her time in Madrid, where she got her first taste of collecting art as a means of further understanding the world around her. In 1985 she lived in a large modern apartment. “It was a European period in Madrid and it had a great collection of mementos from a lot of different people. This was all really interesting and I thought it was really good. At the time I was collecting the classics – Thomas Eakins and Robert Motherwell – but since then I have not really been interested in collecting anything new.”

Her story speaks volumes about her journey. “I actually fell in love with Barcelona because I grew up listening to Ladino music. In Barcelona I was very exposed to the scene, the artists, the fashion and lifestyle. It was such a wonderful time to visit that there is no way I wouldn’t want to go back.”

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