**** Photos shot on a Canonet 28 using 35mm film. January 2023 in Higienópolis, center of São Paulo.
Today’s profile stars are Pedro Ávila and Otávio Françoso; friends, models, supporters, advisors, customers and collaborators of Fouta Harissa. Their faces have appeared in our campaigns and their trips filled with foutas are repeatedly featured in our Instagram stories. Pedro is a furniture designer whose artistry and impeccable taste shine through every one of his creations and everything he curates. Otávio is an art director who has designed sets for music videos, commercials and fashion shows, and is a chef by training who mostly cooks for his loved ones but who recently created a menu for a Brazilian restaurant in Bali. We bring you a short interview for a glimpse into the minds of these two multi-talented, wonderful friends.
We spent some time together on a rare calm day in the heart of São Paulo; perfect summer temperature, an easy walk around the neighborhood where most businesses were closed for the New Year break, a stop at the fruit and vegetable store around the corner for a fresh coconut water and a few things to complete our early evening apéro to be paired with Otavio’s fridge and pantry essentials you’ll read about in this interview.
All of the photos shot here are taken in and around their Higienópolis apartment on my analog Canonet28. Their home brings together the enviably good taste of both creatives. Their kitchen is outfitted with all the sample products from their kitchenware brand Noda, a curation of the most gorgeous kitchen essentials, while their living room is a treat to the eyes and senses with Pedro’s furniture pilots, Brazilian artisanal gems, intriguing thrifted objects and a killer vintage sound system. The veranda where we enjoyed our apéro has a panoramic view of the city and of the pink art deco building next door.
Read on to hear Pedro and Otávio share how they met, what inspires their renowned work in art direction and design, their favorite handmade objects, what they love about São Paulo, and so much more.
Otávio at home (left) and the couple walking around their neighborhood in central São Paulo.
Firstly, what are your favorite ways to use your fouta?
We mostly use the fouta to lay on to tan and enjoy the sun at the beach or at a waterfall. With time, we’ve also discovered that the fouta is really useful for other activities, like protection from a ruthless sun or drying off after a swim. We now have a throw from FH that we’ve recently started using as a picnic blanket – it’s gorgeous.
Tunisian harissa served in an onyx bowl from their brand Noda. Wooden tables also by Noda, above a Fouta Harissa throw.
Did you have anything fouta equivalent growing up?
O- I didn’t have anything similar growing up, but I did have a light cotton blanket that I really loved, sort of like a baby blanket with embroidered clouds on it. We were inseparable for a long time.
P- When I was a kid, I think the most similar piece was a canga, or a sarong if you will, that I always found really fascinating because it was a piece of cloth that represented leisure, vacation and beach. I remember that they always smelled of sunscreen, and that my mom wore it and tied it in all sorts of ways. We also played with it a lot, pretending it was a balloon in the wind. It’s a piece that had a real sentimental value.
What are your most treasured handmade object(s) in your home?
O- My wooden cutting boards, which serve as my base to cut ingredients and as a tray to serve and set on the table. A side table made by the artisan Petronio, from the Ilha do Ferro, in the northeastern state of Alagoas, in Brazil (pictured here). A painting that rests on our headboard that’s a portrait of me with two heads – painted by Pedro at the beginning of our relationship <3 And a mug with a horn-shaped handle, which we bought from an artisan in Santiago, Chile.
P- At home we have a few “ex-votos,” which are small sculptures made of wood in the shape of different body parts, left at the catholic church by worshippers seeking grace, giving thanks or praying to saints to cure them from disease or accidents affecting that specific organ or body part. It’s a common tradition in the interior regions of Brazil, and people turn to their city’s artisans to place orders for these objects. This is how the walls of these churches get filled with mini sculptures of hands, feet, heads, chests, penises and everything you can imagine, all carved in wood of varying shapes and sizes. Inevitably, the volume becomes impossible to keep in one place, so the pastors have to part ways with some of them from time to time, making room for new promises. And that’s how we can then find these affordable small works of art filled with history. I keep them here with the respect and care they deserve.
Otavio, you’re on a path of two simultaneous creative careers, gastronomy and art direction. What parallels do you see and feel between the two, and how do they each weave into your life?
It’s challenging, but it’s been working out. My gastronomy career was dormant for a long time, even if I cook a lot for myself, my friends and my family. At the beginning of the pandemic, I shared a few recipes on Instagram and YouTube that I recorded at home. It was really fun and it seemed like a lot of people really enjoyed the content. I’d love to record some new videos, but I still don’t know when or what it will look like, which is fine because it’s more of a light creative outlet than anything else. A few months ago, I went to Bali to create a menu for a Brazilian restaurant on the island. It was an incredible professional opportunity and an even richer cultural one.
Art direction is a world of challenges where each project is unique. I love that I get to execute ideas that are really crazy, or fun, sometimes elegant, and other times absolutely absurd, all in a short and determined amount of time.
Pedro, you’ve just launched your first namesake line of furniture – tell me a little bit about your creative process, and how you manage to turn everyday objects like a chair or a side table into veritable works of art.
For this collection in particular, I sought to make pieces that carry the characteristics of objects that are hand sculpted and whose shapes are exaggeratedly large. The industrial production supply chain usually starts with sheets of metal, tubes, steel rods, etc. and I wanted to disrupt that and prototype everything with my own hands. Typically in the process of product design, we end up doing everything on the computer and outsourcing the piloting phase. Being closely involved in each step of the process allows for direct contact with all the materials which inevitably helps in each idea’s expansion and evolution. I started the entire process of molding each piece in clay or molding paste, creating all sorts of shapes without worrying about traditional principles of symmetry or any other form of ingrained self-censorship from universities or experience on the market. Next, I scan the miniature sculptures in 3D using a design modeling software in order to get the ergonomic measurements. The furniture pieces made of fiberglass were sculpted in their real size and dimensions using lighter materials to get a mold, while the shapes made of stone were sent directly to the machines.
Photos courtesy of Pedro Ávila.
Where did the idea of creating your brand NODA together come from?
We both really wanted to open a store, each of us talked at length about the idea, imagining it would eventually become reality, but it never quite took shape. The beginning of the pandemic forced us to stop, stay home, and really reflect, as it did for so many of us. And that’s when the idea of Noda came to be. We created the website during lockdown in SP. We used Pedro’s home atelier as a stock room and it all just started to happen quite organically. People’s initial response was really positive, so it gave us the incentive we needed to keep it going. Noda is a project we both really care about and are dedicated to see grow together.
What are your main sources of inspiration lately?
O- There are so many sources of inspiration… Art, food, and films inspire me the most. And I’m a big consumer of Instagram. I have so many references saved on there. Some accounts I love to follow and that serve as a great inspiration to me include: @thesocialfood, @marbera_, @cuhnja, @oharpaz, @lailacooks, @monogermany, @tables_tables_tables, @archivesdecreations.
P- I try to find references from industries and fields different from my own, which triggers new ways of looking at things. For example, for my design work, I look for references in the plastic arts, popular crafts and scientific research. Lately, I've been engaging in the work of many painters that have inspired me to start working on a new collection with the theme “lightning beams and flashes.” So my recent research has been quite focused on this universe.
Otávio, you’re an extremely talented cook. Can you share an easy recipe with us that you make when you’re in a hurry or too lazy to make a full meal?
Thank you for the compliment <3 When I’m short on time, I love to make Risoni - it's quick, it's practical and unfailingly delicious. I like to keep certain things in my fridge and pantry that always come in handy and guarantee tasty dishes, like capers, anchovies, olives, dijon mustard, canned peeled tomatoes and fresh herbs. For this risoni recipe, the only tool you need is a pan. Heat your pan really well, then add olive oil, capers, chopped anchovies and a garlic clove finely chopped or grated. Saute everything quickly, and then add the risoni and let it cook a little longer. A bit of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add in the tomato and finish with boiling water, just enough to cover the pasta in the pan. Stir every once in a while and add more water if necessary. Check the cooking time instructions on the risoni packages, which should be anywhere between 9 and 11 minutes. Finish off with lots of fresh chopped parsley and a generous serving of grated parmesan. Foolproof and really delicious.
More than business partners, you two are life partners - can you tell us the story of how you two met?
O- Our most important partnership is as a couple, as partners and friends. We already knew each other before starting to date and I was always attracted to Pedro. When we were both single and in the same place, it happened. This was a few years ago. Our friend Lucas Verissimo was playing a show with his band at the time in Barra Funda, a central neighborhood in SP. Pedro was helping with the show’s set design and when I arrived, he was hanging a neon rainbow sign while on a wooden ladder. It was a beautiful sight (haha!) and so I went over there to say hi and started chatting with him. Six years have now come and gone, and I can’t see him on top of a wooden ladder otherwise I just fall in love all over again!
São Paulo, what role does this big city play in your creative life?
O- I love São Paulo, I was born here, it’s my city and it’s where I want to be (for now at least). The most marvelous thing about the city is that you can be whoever you want to be. The city is boiling over with creativity, there are so many things to do and the opportunities feel palpable all around you. Of course, as every big metropolis, chaos is king, and that’s part of it.
P- I love it here. I moved here when I was 18 years old, so all of my “adult life” has happened here and it’s been extremely gratifying. I think that with the line of work I’ve chosen, São Paulo provides spaces and opportunities for what I am designing and creating that I might not find as easily in other cities around Brazil.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS
Your city of origin ? Your adopted city?
O- São Paulo and São Paulo.
P- Brasília and São Paulo.
What was the last art exhibit or work of art that you saw that marked you or had a profound impact on you in some way?
O- Blue Venus, of Yves Klein at the Museu Coleção Berardo**, in Lisbon, Portugal. It’s beautiful!
** The museum is now known as the Centro Cultural do Belem, since January 2023.
P- The last one that really caught my attention was of the artist Adriano Amaral, at the Jaqueline Martins Gallery in downtown São Paulo, where he reproduces photography in relief using prosthetic rubber. His narrative around his life in rural Brasil is told in such a futuristic and sensitive way. I was really quite moved.
Whats the spiciest food item in your kitchen at the moment?
The harissa you (Lamia) brought us from Tunisia. Haha. It’s become a kitchen essential now.
Do you like harissa? Did you know about it before knowing Fouta Harissa?
We love it and did not know about it beforehand.
What are you reading right now?
O - Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain.
P - Welcome to the Desert of the Real, Five Essays on September 11 and Related Dates by Slavoj Žižek.
Top 3 items in your beach bag?
O- Sunglasses, fouta, sunscreen.
P- Cellphone, rolling paper and a lighter :)
Next dream destination?
Enter the world of Noda Cozinha here.
Follow Pedro Ávila on Instagram to see his latest creations.
Check out Otávio's profile for food, set design and a sunny disposition.