Q&A: Nuno Goncalvez and Erin Hayne, Owners of NunoErin, an art and furniture design company
Wow stuff in Jackson
Jackson native and her husband bring unique brand to Mississippi
After finishing her master’s of fine arts degree in textiles at Savannah College of Art and Design, Jackson native Erin Hayne traveled to Portugal where she met Nuno Goncalvez Ferreira at a sculpture workshop at his studio. Nuno and Erin moved to Mississippi, got married and opened NunoErin, an art and furniture design company, about seven years ago. They are inspired by aspects of nature in Mississippi. They designed the public art for the Jackson Convention Complex, the “lightning benches” at the Mississippi Children’s Museum and are selling their furniture internationally.
Q — Why did you come back to Mississippi?
A — Erin: I came back to be near my parents and to kind of have a place that was quiet to be able to focus and get started; a place that would be economical and with no distractions.
Q — Tell us how your Swamp Collection of thermosensitive seating was inspired by a cypress swamp near Canton where you got married.
A — Erin: If you go up the Natchez Trace and get off at mile market 123, right before you get to Canton, there’s a sign that says “cypress swamp” and a path that goes all the way around and a little bridge. It’s the most primeval, amazing, gorgeous place in the world.
Nuno: That’s the first place Erin showed me when I arrived in the United States. I didn’t see New York or Miami — a swamp in Mississippi. We were so inspired, we said, “What if we bring that to the collection?” The shapes and the changing of the light.
Q — Where do you make and sell your products?
A — Erin: We make everything here in Mississippi. We do some of it here, some of it in Tupelo and have had some of it made in Brandon. Now we mainly sell most of our furniture to architects and interior designers outside of Mississippi, but we’re trying now to be able to work more here. We’re also exporting a lot — some to the Middle East and are in the middle of setting up a distributor relationship in Japan. We’re really excited about looking at Brazil.
Q — You designed the “lightning benches” at the Mississippi Children’s Museum that light up with different patterns when children touch or sit on them. How do those work?
A — Erin: The electricity in your body reacts with the sensors. We store electricity; the body naturally does. So the sensors pick up any kind of electricity. Each time you turn it (the sensor) on, it sensitizes to the environment so that when you have a large, capacitive body — like a person — it registers there’s a difference.
Nuno: In the winter if you touch metal, it will spark sometimes. That’s exactly the same phenomenon.
Q — Is there any other company out there making products like this?
A — Nuno: We never saw anything like this. If people are doing interactive seating with LEDs, we don’t know.
Erin: I think there’s a general increase in interest in more interactive, experiential environments that people live in and engage in. But I think bringing it into furniture and interiors and kind of combining it with a greater aesthetic — we’re focusing on that and taking that in an original kind of way.
Q — Have you had interest from companies who want to buy the benches?
A — Erin: We’ve gotten some calls from people who want to use it in hospitals. It seems like now there’s enough research that people are really realizing that people — artwork and greater connection to nature really helps with the recovery process. Hospitals are realizing it’s not just a good idea and nice for patients, but it lowers the cost on average — a person who has an original piece of artwork and a window, they get out four days earlier, use less pain medication and need less oversight. Having beautiful interiors — the lobbies, too — allows the family to be more relaxed. Hospitals are realizing that nice design and design that almost gets into people’s mental state through the body, too, that interactive component, can relax you.
Q — How did your art, “Kinetic Vapor,” get to the Jackson Convention Complex?
A — Nuno: They opened a national competition for public artwork for the convention center.
Erin: It was pretty exciting. There wasn’t a mandate that they had to dedicate a certain portion of the funding to public art, but they decided to anyway. There were several different projects that the artists proposed, and this one really used a lot of LEDs in it and sort of new media. It wasn’t the safe choice or the obvious choice. It was exciting to see people from the art committee and also from the business leaders and the commission embrace something that speaks to sustainable energy and a more contemporary aesthetic that’s still rooted in our culture. It’s all about humidity. It’s about as “Mississippi” as you can get.
Q — Explain the Convention Complex art piece.
A — Nuno: Panels are 5 X 9. Each panel is made by tabs at different angles. The material is made to reflect light. The tabs provoke contrast and values of light that show a water design. Where you see the white part of the design, it’s natural light coming from the window. Where you see color, it’s a stripe of LEDs in the base shooting the light vertically. It looks different at night. It’s different all the time, because you cannot control the sunlight. When you ride the escalators, you see the change and the shifting (of light).
One thing we wanted to do with the installation at the Convention Center is bring the educational aspect. Children can learn about the spectrum of light, mathematics, physics.
More on ….
Erin’s Favorite book: “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Nuno’s Recently Read book: “Laws of Simplicity” by John Maeda
Project photos can be found at http://www.nunoerin.com
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