TORU is a craft and design company founded in 2015 by Jordi Ribaudí. With strong roots in the local leather industry of Igualada, a province of Barcelona, the company is located in a restored nineteenth-century tannery. TORU is a mixture of ideas and sensations turned into objects.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do. I am the type of person who needs to think and do all the time. I’m an industrial designer, but that’s only part of me because my hands also need to work. I’m the kind of artist who constantly needs to experience. My studio, my workshop, my house and my shelter are full of ideas. In the process, some of these objects or ideas will die, while others will end up in a piece to be produced. If tomorrow we were go to bathe in the river, I would end up experimenting with materials found in the riverbed. I’m just like that.What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? In my life, everything is mixed: family, hobby and profession. It isn’t clear where one begins and the other ends. I work as a freelance designer for other companies, usually lighting brands. I am starting a project with the jewelry brand Tous to design shop furniture for accessories. I also promote the protection and value of El Barri del Rec through Rec.0. Rec.o is the most important pop-up festival in Europe and, as it usually is with pop-ups, it’s a project that constantly mutates. During the last (and most exciting month) for me, the TORU collection was finally defined, meaning we defined the character of the new brand. We are just beginning to have an idea of what people experience through our objects and that interests us a lot. We know who we are but we want to know what others think.What is one of the bigger challenges you and/or other designers are struggling with these days and how do you see it developing? Sometimes, my partner sees me reading the news and asks me, “Has the world gone to shit?” The answer is usually: “Not yet, we’re doing it, but veeeery slowly.” It seems to me that humanity is destined to shake the world, and designers are finding themselves in the social and moral dilemma of designing for “new.” I think this dilemma matters because we know that we are part of the problem, but also part of the solution.How did your interest in art or design begin? There are people who “feel,” there are people who “are” and others that need to “do.” I’ve been the latter since I was very young; it implies a prior reflection that is actually designed. I did not know how it started. I was too small to remember it.
How has living in Barcelona affected your design practice? I think it has affected my way of designing, especially the influence of the Barcelona style that calls for sociocultural reflection. I make a point to address the culture of the craftsmen so closely linked to the architects and designers who have made Barcelona famous.What products or companies are you interested in right now? Right now, I am interested in knowing small producers with whom I can identify with. Among these, Japanese producers seem the most original to me.
What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? For the TORU collection, I used leather as a central element. Few materials are this expressive that we are literally pulling from other animals to survive. And no other materials have the same tactile possibilities and influence on our senses. The material and all of its the connotations are my inspiration and my desire. They motivate me to make each new piece express some of these qualities.Favorite films? I do not have lists of “favorite things,” but the other day I saw Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson and I really liked it.
What artists or designers are you interested in right now? I would have to say (for those who care for artists in museums) Paul Gauguin, the first punk.Favorite thing about Barcelona? I like the history, the old and the contemporary. Barcelona is like an onion with 3000-years-worth of layers. I like to walk around Barcelona and enter these tunnels of time.
What was the last show you saw that stuck out to you? Counter-Couture at Mad in New York clued me into social moment in which we live and where we’re going.
What is your snack/beverage of choice when working in your studio? Earl grey tea or green tea with mint.What are you really excited about right now? It’s a disease, but I’m thinking about summer, when I can dedicate myself to what I like most without interruption: experimenting, designing, etc.
Favorite places to shop? A good hardware store.
Can you share one of the best or worst reactions you have gotten as a result of your work? I suppose if you love your work a lot, it will inevitably affect you emotionally, successes and failures. When I’m very happy with the result, I dance.What do you want a viewer to walk away with after experiencing your work? Many people caress my pieces, which is why I try to go beyond the sense of sight, to reach something more intimate, touch.
Who would you ideally like to collaborate with? The use of skin is all over the world, but in every culture it is done in a different way so I would love to work with artisans from all cultures. Craftsmen are guardians of the ethnographic culture of towns.