Estaminé Studio

We caught up with papercraft genius André Santos of Estaminé Studio and chat about his small town of Valongo and their infamous bread, biscuits and cookies; the impact Art Attack & Neil Buchanan had on his creativity as a child, and we learn about his theatre company co-founded in 2014.

Where did you study and what were some of your first jobs?

I remember that, during my childhood, I loved to draw Disney characters and to watch Art Attack (the TV show where Neil Buchanan made those incredible "paintings" with mundane objects). Every week, I asked my mother to buy me a new coloring book. So, it was not difficult for me to realize that the academic field I would pursue would have something to do with drawing (even though I have considered choosing theater. I'll come back to it later).

In 2005, I started to study Graphic Arts in Árvore, an artistic and professional school based in Porto. That was my very first contact with the words "offset", "baseline grid" and "crop marks and bleed" and, professional and personally speaking, it was a really important step because it allowed me to face a brand new reality. That same year I also attended a theater course that I really enjoyed, which led me to consider studying theatre. Although my connection to the performing arts remained strong and I kept doing theatre for some amateur companies in my hometown, It always came second to design. Nonetheless, my first design projects came from my connection to Theatre. I started to design the posters for the plays in which I took part and then I was being invited by other companies to design their posters and other graphics. My first paid work was a poster for a play called "Boca de Fogo" - the money I earned was all invested in a graphic pen tablet, the very same one that I still work with nowadays.

Gradually, I was building and improving my portfolio, mainly in fields of poster, identity, and editorial design, working for different kinds of clients. In 2010, I got an invitation by Cabeças no Ar e Pés na Terra (CAPT), a professional theatre company from a nearby city, to be its full-time communication designer and also to collaborate in the scenic design. At the same time, I was improving my education. I finished my design degree and my MA in ESAD Matosinhos, in 2011 and in 2013 respectively. Later in 2014, I co-founded my own theatre company, alongside two actresses: Diana Barnabé and Sara Barros Leitão. I’m also the company’s resident designer.

How did you end up in this field and what does it mean to you?

I was born in Valongo, a quiet city from the Porto district, where the best bread, biscuits and cookies come from. From a gastronomical, cultural and geographical point of view, It’s a very rich city. I have always been connected to different kinds of artistic hobbies, especially the ones related to handcraft - I think that all these conditions naturally guided me to the point where I am right now.

I always liked handcrafting, but I didn't know it was what I really wanted to do with my career until my Master's Degree. The turning point was an MA project where Andrew Howard asked us to design several shop windows randomly assigned to the class. I got a butcher shop. After a hand full of ideas, I came up with one of exploring a vernacular visual language, transforming it into something that we can recognize but not in ways that conform to preconceptions: what if I hand-cut the price signs with the same fluorescent paper that butchers usually use? I spent dozens of hours hand-cutting many sheets of that kind of paper. Sure, It was a painful process but I found it quite pleasant and the handcrafted feel of the output was really nice. I discovered this new approach to design and I felt a need to dig deeper into it. I created a couple of pieces for two friends of mine but my first serious client was Paupério, a biscuit factory from Valongo that asked me to design a hand-cut paper piece for its main shop. This happened in 2016 when I decided to found Estaminé Studio, with a focus on papercraft, illustration, and lettering. Step by step, I was developing my skills in these techniques and gathering a few clients.

However, this was not paying the bills so I was still working on regular design projects as I mentioned before. It took me two years and a few personal projects to improve my papercraft portfolio to the point where I finally built up the courage to make a tough 2018 new year resolution: take on Estaminé as my full-time job. Papercraft is the design field that fulfills me the most.

Design work by Estaminé Studio The Design Kids interviews Estaminé Studio work-2

Give us the elevator pitch on what you do.

lounge music plays in the background

Estaminé Studio is a place where work and fun are always mixed together. Paper is the main resource, but we like to blend it with other materials, to create commissioned and self-initiated 2D and 3D pieces, from a pop-up book to a shop window, from a book cover to a poster, we create intricate and colorful layered pieces.

We develop other kinds of projects, normally based on an independent and collaborative premise, such as the fanzine "Nem que tudo que reluz é Ouro" (2013) and the game "A Aldeia adormece" ("It's night time"), launched in November 2017.

What's the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Back in 2015, I saw a lecture by Eike König in Get Set Festival, where he presented this list: 1. Enjoy what you are doing. 2. Get paid. 3. Don't work with assholes. 4. Only accept work that challenges you and you can build up a relation to. 5. Don't work 'for' people but 'with'. 6. Be honest to your client and yourself. 7. Keep on searching and exploring. 8. Quit when you don't enjoy it anymore.

Besides these tips, someone said me one thing that I should not forget: "Work hard, have confidence, be humble and never forget your roots".

Design work by Estaminé Studio The Design Kids interviews Estaminé Studio work-4
Design work by Estaminé Studio The Design Kids interviews Estaminé Studio work-4

Love what you do and don't give up at the first fail. Be patient and persistent.

Who are your top five design crushes globally right now?

First of all, I have to mention my dear Oupas! and their awesome paper sets; Owen Gildersleeve is the British master of color and joy in layers; Hazel Glass creates layered landscapes with amazing color palettes; I love the mesmerizing pieces by Matthew Shlian and the funny papercut illustrations by the Spanish José Roda. I have to cheat on this question and give you a sixth name because I really have to refer the amazing lettering compositions by the German Martina Flor.

What advice would you give students graduating in 2019?

I think that people who work on a creative field, like us, are really lucky because they will always have work. What I mean is that, for instance, a doctor cannot work if there are not sick people, or a lawyer cannot work if there are no crimes. We can develop our own work even it is not for a client and that's the most important thing I would say to anyone: don't stop doing what you like and don't wait for the work to come.

When I do a quick retrospective about my work, I realize that it was my self-initiated projects (like the book "Cá se fazem...", the fanzine "Nem tudo que reluz é Ouro" and the game "A Aldeia adormece") that allowed me the most to push my limits and to develop my skills and knowledge about different tools. Fortunately, I didn't develop those projects due to the lack of work, but they were really important since they also helped me to meet many great people and professionals who I learned a lot from.

Love what you do and don't give up at the first fail. Be patient and persistent.

Design work by Estaminé Studio The Design Kids interviews Estaminé Studio work-6
Design work by Estaminé Studio The Design Kids interviews Estaminé Studio work-6

Where to find Estaminé Studio online.


Instagram: @estaminestudio

Behance: /estaminestudio

Facebook: /estaminestudio

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