Born in Austria from an Austrian mother and a Mexican father, designer David Pompa grew up in and currently works between both countries. After earning a master’s degree in product design at Kingston University in London, he founded his eponymous studio in 2008. Always exploring new techniques to create unique objects, the designer—who is passionate about Mexican culture—uses materials such as red travertine; fiorito, a light gray-colored natural stone quarried in Puebla; cantera rosa, a volcanic rock from Zacatecas; barro negro, black clay from San Bartolo Coyotepec in Oaxaca; talavera, traditional hand painted ceramic produced in Puebla; tropical wood from Mexico; brass; and hand-blown glass, among others.
Here, Pompa shares insights on the design scene in Mexico, advice for those starting out in the field, and the inspiration behind the new pieces in the Can and Cupallo collection.
Interior Design: What is your first memory of design?
David Pompa: I was about 16 years old the first time I visited Milan Design Week and the experience was incredible. Looking at so many objects and the positive vibe all over the city was captivating. Looking at it years later, I think it's the concentrated emotion of everything that is great in our profession—working with other creative minds, collaborating with different industries, creating beautiful objects, and let's not forget the joy and love for what we do.
ID: How do your Austrian and Mexican origins impact your design approach?
DP: I believe the biggest influence is our personal experiences and the way we perceive and interact with the world. Both backgrounds give me different perspectives on how to approach our work and solve problems.
ID: Can you name some people in the industry who inspire you?
DP: We find our inspiration in interdisciplinary work and collaborative approaches. Herzog & de Meuron are architects who represent new chains of thoughts.
ID: What was your overall design goal for the new pieces of your Can and Cupallo collections?
DP: Black clay, barro negro in Spanish, and recycled hand-blown glass are very nice materials with great aesthetical characteristics. We have been working with them since the beginning of our studio’s journey and we wanted to celebrate them with new objects that enhance their material qualities. With their sculptural geometry, the vases complement the collection, balancing functionality and aesthetics. The Can vase represents a close connection with nature and its earth-related process. The Cupallo vase creates an interaction with its surrounding through reflections and transparencies, almost like weaving textures.
ID: What type of materials do you like to use in your creations and why?
DP: The more challenging a material is, the most attractive it is to us to work with. Any material that we decide to work with implies a process of uncovering its true potential, and that drives us as a team. The story behind each material is extremely valuable and inspires us in many ways. For example, the first time we got in contact with barro negro, we were attracted by its honest attributes. It is a black clay, with an almost silver reflection. Its history goes back hundreds of years and it is deeply embedded in Mexican culture through very traditional objects. It became a challenge for us to bring this amazing material to a contemporary context, and that became our strongest motivation.
ID: How has the Mexico design scene evolved for the past 10 years?
DP: Mexico is polarized in many ways. The country reflects an interesting combination between its heritage and its fast-growing creative scene. This approach to cultural richness has increased over the past years. Every piece we create has a distinct relationship to Mexico; all materials arise from traditions and regional processes. Not all our materials, however, are Mexican ‘at first sight,’ but we like to be able to show a new face of Mexico and reveal new traditions that are not always obvious.
ID: How do you envision the future of design in Mexico and in Latin America in general?
DP: Mexico and Latin America have the advantage of being a blank piece of paper. There is a lot of room to create and many tools to work with. People from these countries are ingenious by nature, adapting to circumstances in the most creative ways. This gives opportunities to new ways of thinking and producing.
ID: In what kind of home do you live?
DP: A place for wellbeing, where the heart is definitely the kitchen. I have been living for more than 10 years in this apartment, so it has grown and changed together with me. My favorite room is the one that welcomes the sunset every day; the light is beautiful.
ID: Do you have a secret you can share?
DP: Something I tell young people a lot is that academic titles won't get you anywhere. What matters is what you can do and the enthusiasm that you have for what you do.
ID: When you feel that you need to find inspiration, what do you do?
DP: In our design process, creativity is not the key element. There are, above all, many problems we need to solve, some research we need to do, and planning and decision-making are part of our everyday work. Changing tasks and not putting pressure on the creative process help the ideas to be in the right place at the right moment.