For anybody of the opinion that Brazilian artisanal art started and finished with hippie jewellery, lucky bracelets and poorly sculpted figures of Yemaja need look no further than the home of Monica Carvalho.
From the charming neighbourhood of Bairro Peixoto, Copacabana, Monica has created a workshop and gallery dedicated to Brazilian artisanal crafts. Paintings, lights and accessories made from 100% organic materials from seeds to fibres to hedgehog spines greet you at the door, along with the powerful aroma of the rainforest.
“Many of the products arrive half-finished from communities and tribes from all over Brazil and then get a little finishing touch to ready them for what the market here requires,” says the owner.
The hedgehog spines serve as the raw material for the production of accessories and picture frames. Seeds and flowers, such as indigo, are used in the dyeing of fabrics, while the sacred Indian Janira fruit of the North East (that takes no less than eight years to mature fully), is a key element of her jewellery and decorative pieces.
Tamboril, the ugly Atlantic fish also known as the Sea-Devil, is similarly used in necklaces and jewellery, and Amesca resin, traditionally used by Brazilian Indians, sold as incense for the home.
Monica herself keenly explains the provenance and importance of every element, giving each piece a cultural significance and unique story, and husband Klaus quietly produces cedar wood sculptures and mobiles out the back.