A native of Oaxaca, Mexico, 33 year-old Christopher Brandon creates artisanal furniture designs that speak to the traditions and the vibrancy of this dynamic city. His business is aptly named, Guibani: a Zapotec word for the “color of fire-light.“ His chairs, in particular, are a re-consideration of the mid-century modern Acapulco chairs, so evocative of the hey-day of the coastal city for which they were named. This was an era when visitors came to see the daring cliff-divers, or partied with Hollywood elite. Now, it seems, the iconic Mexican chair has morphed with time and has moved over to the neighboring state of Oaxaca and specifically the city of Oaxaca de Juarez (or simply Oaxaca.)
Trained at Anahuac University in Oaxaca, in both industrial engineering and photography, Brandon currently channels his culturally-inspired concepts into innovative products that range from chairs, tables and benches to salad bowls, lampshades and handbags. Not only do these products pack a multi-colored punch, their individual pliable strands are durable and created from upcycled water bottle caps, sourced from many outlets in the state of Oaxaca.
While Guibani is only six months old, it has taken Brandon over three years of researching and experimenting before opening his Oaxaca store. He knew beforehand that he had to provide a sustainable infrastructure for his business to thrive. He is deeply concerned with growing Guibani in a way that will bring prosperity and dignity to his team. Already, he has seen a positive ripple-effect with the 20 artisans now employed who either weave his patterns or fabricate the steel of his ergonomic designs.
Brandon’s chairs are respectful of the time-honored methods of the warp and weft weaving and basketry techniques seen in Oaxaca’s ancient valley. The Zapotecs, known as the “Cloud People,” have been weaving in this area for over 2,000 years. Born and raised in Oaxaca, Brandon feels committed to this culture for its craftsmanship and physicality. In fact, he comes from a family who specialized in wicker furniture constructed from plant materials such as palm and bamboo. However, unlike wicker, Guibani’s products require very little maintenance, are entirely durable, and are intended for inside and out.
The Guibani collection is part and parcel of a vision in which every detail of the creative process has been honed while combined with contemporary technologies and the handcrafted. Entirely comfortable, his chairs make a sore back want to say, “Ahhhh!”
Immediately attention-grabbing, the minimal steel forms are wrapped in an explosion of color and texture that cradle the body. The weaving creates a graphic and structural surface in either intricate patterns or cubic compositions lending each piece a unique personality.
By introducing a new design direction, Brandon brings a re-charged spirit back to the craft of weaving. The colors used by the designer are inspired on the one hand by the natural purple blooms of the jacaranda tree or brilliant bougainvillea, and on the other, by the riotous palette of Oaxaca’s graffiti-inscribed walls. Yet, no matter the source, Guibani’s trademark style is fresh and fun, making Oaxaca the new cool place to lounge about.
After 33 years of curating contemporary art in Canada, Marnie Fleming is enjoying her "jubilacion" (retirement) and discovering new talent in the color and warmth of Oaxaca, Mexico.