Humberto and Fernando Campana are Brazilian brothers best known for designing irreverent pieces of furniture made from recycled materials, using anything from rope, plastic and wood to furry soft toys and scraps of lizardskin.
On a visit to Britain, delayed by ash, they are overseeing a new collection of glass chandeliers and lighting pieces, specially commissioned for Lord Rothschild’s latest gallery space — converted from the old coach house — at the stately Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire.
The most striking piece of lighting is a limited-edition chandelier called Esperença (meaning hope) — no doubt a design classic of the future — that consists of two milk-coloured glass, UFO-like, semi-circular domes, out of which protrude a series of coloured glass figures that have been cut in two.
It represents the overpopulation in the world,” says Humberto, gravely, before explaining that the figures are glass copies of fabric dolls that are made in a tiny Brazilian village called Esperença.
“They are being made as part of a social programme to provide poor people with a living. Part of what we are about is to be socially aware and help people in Brazil find jobs.” The brothers live and work in São Paulo, where they have a studio employing 12 people, “weaving, welding and investgating materials and traditions”.
"Making lighting and working with glass is a new universe for us,” the brothers say, describing how the journey began with a visit to the Venini glass factory in Murano, in Italy’s Venetian lagoon.
Serendipitously as it turns out, Venini had asked them to collaborate on a chandelier design at more or less the same time as Lord Rothschild invited them to exhibit their works at Waddesdon Manor. An avid collector of international art both old and new, Lord Rothschild already owns three of their chairs and is a keen promoter of their quirky talents.
The exhibition also includes two wall lights that the brothers (who are 57 and 49) put together using glass fragments left on the Venini factory floor. “We were fascinated by all the discarded pieces from the making of classical chandeliers,” says Fernando.
“Our first idea was to melt them and re-use the glass, but we decided to collect them instead and get holes drilled through all the pieces so they could be strung together with copper wire. They thought we were mad.” The lights are characteristically colourful and wacky.
Fernando adds that in São Paulo, poor people gather up the rubbish and sell whatever they find. “It’s not an official programme from the government, it’s survival,” he continues. Yet somehow, in the grandeur of Waddesdon, their work looks quite at home.
For more on the boys from Brazil
The Campana Brothers’ work is at Waddesdon Manor until October 31. The book, Campana Brothers: Complete Works So Far is published by Rizzoli, £40. Find out more on campanas.com.br.
Visiting Waddesdon Manor
Waddesdon is run by the National Trust and is its most popular attraction, with 375,000 visitors a year. It was a bequest from the present Lord Rothschild’s cousin James, along with its contents and 2,000 acres of grounds.
Lord Rothschild owns the rest of the Waddesdon estate and lives in nearby Eythrope but devotes much time to the manor. It is much-visited, not just for the impressive collection of paintings, furniture and porcelain, housed in faux French château style, but also for the lively entertainment programme that continues year-round, from wine tastings and gourmet dinners to dance performances and plant fairs.
Admission from £5.50 to £15 (concs available). Call 01296 653226, or visit waddesdon.org.uk.