A Land Through New Eyes
by Sarah Persitz
Meet Alejandro Tapias, Industrial and Product Designer and founder of Alta Estudio
As the founder of Alta Estudio, Alejandro has become an ambassador of Colombia through artisan crafts as each of his designs carry a story interwoven with tradition, inspired by the colorful landscapes, flora and fauna of his native land.
Alejandro grew up immersed in the natural beauty of Colombia, but was limited in his capacity to explore too many places within the country due to the Civil War. “Growing up, we couldn’t travel as much inside of Colombia so it was normal to go abroad; to get to know things outside of the country because of the danger that existed within,” said Alejandro.
It wasn’t until his time studying abroad in Madrid that Alejandro began to fall in love with his country. While earning degrees in Industrial and Product Design as well as a master's degree in Conceptual Design, he found himself gravitating back toward Colombia for inspiration in his studies, discovering a lineage of craftsmanship that was always present in his life but still undiscovered.
“My dad is a handyman. He fixes everything in the house, repurposing anything that is broken to create something new. My mother is also handy; an artist. She paints, and embroiders, and in our house we always had special pieces that were handmade by artisans, pillowcases, baskets, and decorative items,” said Alejandro.
He explained that craftsmanship was a bit of a given in Colombian society, but in that way it was also taken for granted. It is only recently that the role of artisans and their crafts have been elevated. So while craftsmanship was very present within his family, Alejandro first discovered design because of his sister's boyfriend. He shared, “He studied design in Colombia and used to spend a lot of time in our home. He was very dear to our family, and I remember falling in love with the career because I saw him making things with his own hands. I never knew it was an option to make a career out of this, but when I discovered it, I was in love.”
After living in Madrid for seven years and earning two degrees, Alejandro returned to Colombia in 2013 with a commitment to work in collaboration with local artisans who are masters in their lineage of crafts. His first project was in collaboration with a teacher from Spain, who first connected him with the Indigenous communities, using recycled plastic bottles together with natural fibers to create lighting decor. Over time he expanded his focus, moving into the world of tableware design where he began to develop home décor objects in partnership with Indigenous communities throughout the country.
While on a journey of rediscovery of self and country, it was the launch of Alta Estudio in 2020 that really deepened the process of reconnection to his native land. “With the start of the pandemic, the brand I was working with shut down so I essentially lost my job. That ending became a new beginning,” said Alejandro. He further explained, “’Alta’ means ‘a start’ in Spanish, and Alta Estudio was the start of my journey; a journey with my country in which I can discover landscapes, traditional techniques and artisan communities. Coming home to Colombia allowed all of the puzzle pieces of life to come together, allowing me to rediscover my country through the artisans and their crafts, reconnecting to what I fell in love with from afar.”
Alta Estudio draws inspiration from Colombia’s rich landscape of colors, textures, flora and fauna for its designs. Home to close to 10% of the planet's biodiversity, the country makes for a beautiful muse. In developing the brand, Alejandro was inspired by the time he spent on his family’s farm in the countryside. Located in Anolaima, the fruit capital of the country, he described it as an exotic place overflowing with tropical fruits and flowers, brightly colored insects and a rich greenery. “I knew that I wanted my brand to be rooted in the essence of Colombia; the landscapes, the tropical paradise, but also the mountainous Andes; the juxtapositions that are captured in this place. I knew when I came back to Colombia that I’d have to stay here because it is the heart and soul of my brand. Coming back has given me a chance to get to know my home in a new way.”
He went on to share what inspires each creation, saying, “I try to work with what nature gives me; the animals, the natural materials, and the palette of colors that exist. The color in the brand is really important. In observing the land around me, I began to see the variance of colors and patterns given by nature. At first it seems as though there is a contrast between them when you see purple with yellow, but also with fuchsia and a touch of orange. You think it doesn’t work, but then you realize it’s a beautiful representation of our natural ecosystem. At Alta Estudio, we design objects that will really call your attention, the same way that Colombia as a place calls your attention. At our core, Colombia is always the inspiration,” said Alejandro.
He went on to share how working with The Nopo has become a new avenue to introduce people to the magic of Colombia through his crafts, saying “each new order is an opportunity for people to fall in love with the objects we make. It’s important because people get to know our country through my art and creations. It’s really special and I’m grateful to The Nopo for opening this new channel to the world.”
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