Listen to the conversation between Rosanna and Hintsa Rudman.


“Hiwot is the first collection that we’ve designed – but we have been talking about launching a product together for a long time, because there are so many things we love that we have in common,” notes Azamit, of the collaboration between herself and Francis Rudman, who produce designs under the name of Hintsa Rudman. Speaking of their dynamic, she goes on to explain that whilst they “have very different views, somewhere, somehow we seem to meet – we have the same language, the same references.“

Creative Directors by trade, both Francis and Azamit have spent their careers creating rich visual compositions, finding narratives and stories, links and connections. Having worked in the fashion industry as a Creative Director and Editor for two decades, Azamit specialised in “creating design experiences” – including those that she produced for Souk, the design platform that she founded in 2003 as a way to help local designers – “from industrial designers to makers of handmade objects, from the emerging to the established.”

Location: Asmara (Eritrea), Image: Stefan Boness

Francis, who also has roots in the fashion industry, is the founder of a CGI studio, where his work as a Creative Director has evolved to incorporate CGI and 3D imagery. With a particular focus on “making and developing collections for the design industry,” Francis builds virtual prototypes which enable designers to ‘see’ their work in the round ahead of production. In this high-fidelity world, the CGI artist pays great attention to the details that make something feel real – the intricacies of texture and tone, and the complex play of light and shade – which requires a level of devotion to every surface, angle, curve and join that surpasses even the most observant among us in the real world.

“It’s interesting because we have two very different approaches,” notes Francis. “As I work with computers and computer graphics, everything is focused around the details – and in every element of my work, I always look at details first as it gives me a better sense of where I want to go. But I think for Azamit, it’s quite the opposite.” “Exactly” she adds, “I look at the big picture. I tend to look at the whole story from A-to-Z, to see where we start and where we can take it, and then I’ll go into the details from there. For me, it’s super important to know the message that you’re trying to convey.”

“We feed off each other, and elevate each other’s ideas – together we see how much further we can push an idea” – Azamit

For Hintsa Rudman’s debut collection, the pair produced a treasure trove, each piece as intriguing, elegant and complex as the next. A layered collage of personal histories and childhood memories, the collection draws from a multitude of times and places, combining influences that are profoundly personal with those from the canon of classical design. “We both went into our own worlds and did our early research individually,” notes Azamit, “- and then we got together and shared our notes, vision and ideas. We found many things in common, whilst, at the same time, being inspired by what the other one had to add.”

These conversations were fundamental to the early stages of the project, and led to a greater understanding of how heritage, family, culture and design have intersected and interwoven throughout their lives. “The more we spoke the more we realised we had, in different ways, [experienced] very similar childhoods. I was born in Eritrea, but grew up in Ethiopia – however, my grandparents remained in Eritrea and so every summer my parents would send us there to spend time with them and to connect to our culture. The same thing with Francis – he was born in Quebec, but his dad is British, and his grandparents had a place in England and in the south of France – and so every summer he would travel to Europe to connect with his family.”

These summers spent abroad, absorbed in different cultures and in homes filled with heirlooms and trinkets, both beautiful and strange – were deeply enriching: “I realised, as an adult, that those trips to Eritrea had an impact on my design aesthetic, without even knowing it – and it was the same for Francis. So when we were designing this collection, we tried to dive in, to see if there were things we could remember [from this period of time] – and that’s how the first pieces were born.”

“The collection was triggered by a memory of a cabinet, of a stool, a bench – which was sometimes quite unconscious.” – Francis

Tall and imposing, the Kemeti Armoir takes as its starting point the antique Chinese cabinet that Francis’ grandmother owned, which laterly occupies his parents home – and which has, for many years, intrigued Francis as a piece of design, and a piece of history. “It’s very beautiful – it’s from the 17th century, and is black lacquered wood with drawings and paintings – and these hinges that are made in bronze, on both sides – which is the only detail I took for [our own design].”

Although the antique was the starting point for their own design, Azamit notes that “there is no obvious link between the one we designed and the one that is in Francis’ family,” in fact, the Kemeti abstains from the ornate and the intricate, possessing instead a more monolithic type of beauty. Reminiscent of a Rothko painting, the large expanse of walnut features subtle changes in intensity, tone and depth across its surface – with deep colour in some areas, and a lighter touch in others – a patina that suggests use, wear and the passing of time. The concave panels, with hollowed centres and eroded edges, create a continuous undulating movement across the piece – which is framed by three sets of brass hinges that sit proud along both edges.

“Our pieces have character, but they’re very discreet” – Azamit

Location: Asmara (Eritrea), Image: Stefan Boness

The Verima Stool has a certain decadence, a vintage type of glamour. Its crisp, architectural base, made in sheet brass, is offset by its dappled, patinated finish and dusty pink velvet upholstery. Azamit explains that in Abyssinian culture, “the stool is something quite iconic. Traditionally, every household has a stool – which is called ‘bortchuma’. They’re three-legged and made of wood – so visually, they have no connection to what we designed, but, for me, it represents that place, that memory. And the same for the bench; in front of every house in Abyssinia, there will be a bench where the elderly sit outside their home and watch the world pass by – it’s the vision I have of my great grandparents, who lived in a small village. To me, that’s home.”

The Mebeli bench features the same upturned semi-circular profile as the Verima Stool, which was inspired by “some of the buildings in Asmara in Eritrea. Asmara has a lot of Art Deco architecture, so we brought some of these shapes into our initial designs. [For the stool and bench] we were playing around with this half-circle shape to see how it could be wrapped or enveloped.” Offering two different interpretations, the stool features semi-circular ‘wings’ that are completely encased with upholstery, whilst the same shape acts as a divide along the bench’s length – inserting itself within the upholstered upper to create a dialogue between the two contrasting materials. The divides create a ‘header’ and ‘footer’ of sorts, having an anthropomorphising effect, and one imagines absent-mindedly pushing one’s fingers between the plush cushions and the cool metal, following its smooth curvature.

Two sheets of paper-thin brass form each leg of the Mebeli, between which a gap is created – a space for light to enter and, conversely, a place of shadowy depths. Layers, doubles and mirror images can be found throughout the collection: in the travertine and brass surfaces that run parallel on the Derima Console; in the brass stands of the credenza and armoire; and in the coupling of the Begoni side tables. Nesting together, one inside the other, like Russian Dolls – the Begoni side tables are reminiscent of Roman columns. Azamit notes that “their different heights and different thicknesses emphasises the design – it gives them dimension, and styling-wise, it’s more interesting [as a pair].”

A chunk of milky travertine – the size and shape of a generous gateau – is wrapped in a thin outer casing of brass that is cut away to reveal a cavernous interior. A visual feast and a feat of engineering. The motif of the quarter-circle repeats, in different guises, throughout the collection, and offers an architectural flourish to the seeming simplicity of the cylindrical form. “It was important that there was a link or thread between the pieces. We wanted there to be a reference between them all, that they make sense together … and so we brought that design detail of the quarter-circle into all of our products.”

Location: Longecôte (France), Image: Family Archives

“I think the Begoni has the sense of a colonial building or a palazzo. It has something grandiose, though the size is very discreet.” An evolution of this design, the Menberi Coffee table takes many of the same elements in terms of material, form and language; a pool of travertine – large, flat and shallow – is hugged by a brass sheet along one side. Cutting across the underside, from the centre to the edge, is another sheet of brass, which recalls a fin or an antique sundial. “At first we designed the piece without the front leg,” notes Francis, “but it wasn’t right – and so we designed many different options, but we ended up with this thin sheet of brass [at a 90-degree angle], which really adds something, it gives the coffee table its own aesthetic within the collection.”

“It’s a very powerful piece,” adds Azamit, in reference to the table’s intentionally immense scale: “At home we have a huge coffee table where we put [books, objects and trinkets], we like to we lay things out on it over time, and so we knew we wanted this to be a bigger piece.” As such, the Menberi becomes a marble canvas, upon which one can arrange, curate, pile and play.

“What we have designed is very true to us, it’s very sincere” – Francis

Abstracted, edited and refined, the precision and clarity of each piece in Hintsa Rudman’s debut collection is born from a complex collage of references, stories and details. Informed not by specific objects, people and places – but by their memories and recollections of them – the designs play with the traditional chronology of time and style. “We wanted something that wasn’t part of an exact era, and so all of the pieces look like they could have been produced 30, 40, 50 years ago. We rarely like things that are too clean, too perfect, too new… [Our intention] was to create something that felt like it had had a life before.”

Hintsa Rudman’s partnership interweaves the personal and the classical, the intimate and the universal, to produce a collection of great depth and detail. The collection’s name – with its roots in Ge’ez, the language of Eritrea – perfectly exemplifies Francis and Azamit’s skill in striking the balance between that which is singular and that which is shared: “Hiwot is the name of my grandmother,” explains Azamit, “but it also means ‘life’ in Ge’ez. We wanted something that represented our first collection – and this felt like a great way to launch not only the collection, but the company also. It’s our way of saying ‘this is Life’” – with Francis adding, “this is us.”

Location: Hartland Quay (England), Image: Family Archives

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