Craving the freedom to play a leading — rather than supporting — role in his own life, leather artisan Cláudio Silva started his Lisbon, Portugal-based company Project 226 in 2014 after leaving the corporate world behind. “Instead of spending my time at a desk shuffling papers, I wanted to work with my hands,” he reveals. Inspired by the apparel his seamstress mother created throughout his childhood, Cláudio had picked up some crafting skills over the years, and recognized that his ultimate dream was to shape handmade goods like bags, belts, and wallets for people interested in “knowing where they were made.”
After polishing his leather technique, the designer launched his business, the success of which depends upon inspiration taken from “daily walks discovering the old and new parts of the city,” — the opposite of his former routine. “First, my work should make me and the buyer happy, and second, it should last a lifetime.” Today, Cláudio is glad for the satisfaction, wisdom, and body of work he has amassed since setting out on his own path, and has zero remaining doubts that “we should stick to what we love and not follow trends. Make our own way.” —Annie
Photography by Cláudio Silva
What’s in your toolbox?
- Notebook from Grafolita to note down new ideas
- Tools to cut and sew (tuck puller, needles, knives, scratch compass, scissors and pricking irons, among others)
- Cup of tea
Fill in the blank, “When I am in my studio, I feel ____________.”
What’s on the top shelves of your inspiration library right now?
- All the Monocle magazines
- The book Handmade Shoes for Men written by LÁzlÓ Vass and Magda Molnar. The way they present the craftsmanship is extremely inspiring.
How do you keep yourself organized?
I use my mobile phone agenda and a to-do list that I email myself. I also use a set of alarms in my phone for tasks that I cannot forget, or for ones that reoccur.
If you could have one superhero (or magical) power, what would it be and why?
I would like to instantly appear where I need to be and then magically appear at the next place without walking or driving. To have the power of teleportation.
What is the best advice you have ever received, and what is the one piece of advice you would offer to a young artist, maker, or designer?
Once I was told that I should “never play the supporting role if I could have the leading.” It was one of the inspirations that made me pursue my dreams and quit my job at a big corporation. My only advice that applies to everything in life is that we should stick to what we love and not follow trends. Make our own way.
How do you combat creative blocks?
- Walking in Lisbon
- Listening to music
- Playing with leather without any commitment to creation (like sewing old, unfinished pieces)
Where do you like to look or shop for inspiration?
Through daily walks discovering the old and new parts of the city, inspiration is gathered.
If you could peek inside the studio or toolbox of any artist, maker, designer, or craftsperson, whose would it be and why?
I would love to witness the creative process of the Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos, whose oversized sculptures capture the best of Portugal through their modernity based on and inspired by our traditions.
What’s on your inspirational playlist at the moment?
- Minta & the Brook Trout – Eggshells
- You Can’t Win, Charlie Brown – Be My World
- Best Youth – Hang Out
- John Grant – Queen of Denmark
- Chet Faker – Talk is Cheap