Listen to the conversation between Rosanna and Ayres.

“Ayres was born from my curiosity, and love, for art and design” notes Karim Molina, the Creative Director of Ayres – a design studio that produces sculptural homeware and furniture from its base in Mexico City. Originally from Caracas in Venezuela, Molina’s brand began life as an ode to the country that she now calls home: “Everything here inspires me – the food, the colours, the architecture, the art -just walking down the street I feel inspired, and I am very grateful to have spent the last eight years here…”

At first Ayres was directly inspired by Mexican forms, borrowing from pre-hispanic design to create curved, heavy, simple shapes that feel solid and timeless. “At that moment, I was so inspired and impressed by the culture in Mexico … but now, like everything, we have moved forward to challenge ourselves, and I can no longer find a direct link with this style any more … In fact, my influences are so open and eclectic – and unexpected – even I would never have imagined that these things could inspire me…”

Designing utensils and functional objects for the home, Ayres’ homeware and tableware is crafted in marble and stone, and accented with natural woods. Producing dishes and jars, vessels and vases, Ayres also reimagines a number of specifically Mexican pieces – traditional items that are commonplace in homes up and down the country, such as the tortillero – the round, lidded vessels that are used to store tortillas – and the molcajete, the heavyweight pestle-and-mortar implement that is used in the daily preparation of food.

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Using organic materials in their natural state, Molina is drawn to their sophisticated and nuanced markings: “I am always looking to create objects with raw materials – materials that have spectacular textures by themselves.” Working alongside some of Mexico’s many artisans and craftsmen, the marble, stone and wood is transformed by hand. Using traditional methods and the most basic of tools, the skilled artisans conjure Ayres’ elegant silhouettes and luxurious detailing. “When you live in a country like Mexico, you see all the artisans who have years and years of experience working with the materials that nature has given to them. It’s a very beautiful thing.”

“I let the materials talk to me”

Having studied Textile Design, Molina draws upon her intuition for texture, pattern and surface to inform her designs in stone, marble and wood. “I have a fascination with the patterns in textiles, and all of the shapes that you can create with fabrics are so amazing. Fashion design still inspires me a lot – I spend many hours watching fashion shows – it’s a big part of my creative process.” Balancing form and function, Molina designs special pieces for everyday use, transforming precious materials into practical pieces: scoop salt from a chunky stone pinch-pot, display fruits upon a raised and sculpted marble pedestal, and serve food from a sturdy yet shallow platter…

The studio’s most recent collection is titled Alma Nueva – New Soul – whose solid, simplified silhouette is studded with decorative marble spheres. Forming a ring around its circumference, the spheres appear to float, conjuring celestial thoughts… “The idea [of this piece] was to highlight the veins and colour of the marble, and we used the spheres to bring harmony and softness to the design.” Made in either Blanco Valencia, Negro del Sur or Rosa Jaspe, the array of different surfaces and shapes encourage closer inspection, an invitation to study the richly veined and idiosyncratic nature of the material.

“Sometimes you can’t believe that nature made all of these colours and patterns”

Made in lava rock – a dappled stone in a matt shade of grey – Ayres’ Mayapán plate is a flat circular form decorated with grooves and lines that radiate out from the centre like sun-beams. The mathematical accuracy of the platter – the simple yet sophisticated pattern – is achieved without modern technology or assistance: “The process is very basic, the artisans don’t use industrial tools or machines. Everything is very handmade, and, for that reason, each piece is slightly different.” Imbued with the mannerisms of its maker, and defined by the markings on the marble, each piece is unique without deviating from the original design – imperfectly perfect. “Each piece we make is somehow different. I love to think that every piece has its own identity or character,” notes Molina.

Inspired by the contours and movement of water, Ayres’ Lago – or Lake – features a striking sculptural base hewn in black, white or pink marble. Beneath the thin marble table top is an elongated U-shape that is carved by hand from solid marble; reminiscent of a tuning fork, the piece brings to mind mid-century masterpieces by Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore thanks to its rounded edges, soft curves and hollowed interior. The coffee table and side tables are supported by a single piece, yet the stretched proportions of the credenza allows for three individual pieces that sit side-by-side to create a wave-like flow that mirrors the movement of water in a stream.

Finding great beauty and interest in the contrast between materials, Molina often combines marble and stone with leather and tropical woods such as Guayacán and Tzalam.“You have two strong materials with their own character working together, and it is a beautiful challenge to create a kind of harmony [between them] … I’m always trying to think of how to create a sense of softness in such a solid and strong material [as marble].” Many of Ayres’ first designs played on these contrasting characteristics, sealing their stone jars with wooden tops, and crowning the Caribe Table’s simple wood frame with a smooth disc of marble.

Ayres takes a hybrid approach, creating designs that are ambiguous – both functional and decorative -they blur the boundary between art and design. “I love the idea that every piece should be open to interpretation, not limited to a single use. If you have an Ayres piece you can use it on your dining table, but you can also put it on your credenza as a decorative object. Some people have our functional objects without ever using them.”

Using ancient and precious materials to store, make and serve food, Ayres harks back to a time when food was for feasting, the height of luxury. ”When you use marble on your table I like to think that is how the Emperors would have served food at their parties in beautiful palaces. I think I started Ayres with tableware for that reason, because I love to receive people at my home and at my table – with wine and food and music – I think that is a very special moment and I think that you can make it even more special with beautiful bowls, plates and vases that create an atmosphere…”

Ayres specialises in objects to gather around: credenzas upon which you display your most beloved pieces and tables to meet at, platters to share from and tortilleros from which you can feed your loved ones. Elevating the everyday, Molina hopes to imbue daily life with the timeless beauty of natural materials and hand-crafted design.

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