Home & Design

A table lamp pairs a shibori shade with a black walnut base.

Conceived by Lopez, a wall light adorned with a hand-printed linen shade creates a soft glow.

An origami-style pendant is a sculptural element.

Duenas added color to a wall assemblage composed of salvaged wood pieces.

Marco Duenas and Jorgelina Lopez of La Loupe. Photo: Jill Fannon Prevas

Shades of Light

The duo behind Baltimore’s La Loupe blends form and function in luminous designs

“It is very simple,” Jorgelina Lopez comments about a few techniques she and Marco Duenas employ in their handcrafted lighting collections. Skilled in the arts of textile design and woodworking, the two turn flat materials into translucent sculptures—making the complex process of creating their minimalist designs appear easy.

In one collection, pleated shades drop from the ceiling with the lightness of parachutes glowing from within. Linen or cotton shades cast warm ambient light, illuminating natural fibers. Each smooth, cylindrical surface becomes a canvas for bold curves or blurry stripes grounded on a wood base. These luminescent shades also may be suspended from the wall and framed by a single parenthetical wood curve.

If the couple’s contemporary designs echo the lines of Mid-Century Modernism, Lopez notes, “It isn’t intentional. We don’t start out with a collection in mind and then find a technique to use. It’s the opposite. Our collections evolve because I want to keep experimenting and exploring different textile techniques.” Their company is called La Loupe—the French word for magnifying glass—“a symbol of curiosity and discovery,” she says.

Lopez works from a small studio in the heart of Baltimore. At a separate studio in the city’s Little Italy, Duenas—her work partner and husband—cuts, shapes, sands and finishes the wood parts after they have collaborated on the designs. Duenas salvages leftover wood pieces, assembling them into abstract compositions, often applying a dash of color. The wall pieces are part of a smaller artwork collection.

Duenas also creates his own sculptures, which incorporate reclaimed industrial metal parts and found objects, and makes architectural models on a freelance basis. Both endeavors, he says, bring technical expertise to their partnership.

Lopez confirms: “I’m much more about ‘Oh, let’s create. Let’s do it.’ Marco helps me figure out how to make things work and how to make them better. The way we work balances each other.”

The couple’s journey started in 1998 when they met in Miami. Lopez had arrived from Buenos Aires seeking independence and self-discovery, while Duenas had come from Peru to pursue his dream of becoming an artist. After six years, Lopez returned to Argentina, where she earned a textile-design degree at the University of Buenos Aires. Though the curriculum concentrated on design for industrial production, Lopez recalls, “I wanted to focus on traditional craft, on the handmade process.” Her thesis proposed a collection of sculptural jewelry combining fiber and metal; she wanted to continue in a career designing three-dimensional, functional objects on a larger scale. “Lighting and lamps were a great option,” she observes. “They’re very sculptural and artistic in the way you can play with the forms and factors of light, structure and mixing fabric with different materials.”

Over the years, Lopez’s long-distance friendship with Duenas matured “like a good wine,” he remembers. Duenas had relocated to Baltimore; she joined him there in 2015. Their first collection together, Strada, came out the following year. “My main medium is fiber and textile,” she explains of Strada’s genesis, “but I really like to connect that material with other mediums, such as wood in this case. That’s how we started.”

After teaching an origami workshop at the Baltimore Museum of Art in 2017, Lopez was inspired to adapt that Japanese paper-folding technique to fiber. By backing linen with rigid polystyrene, then scoring and hand-folding the composite, she was able to duplicate the geometric volumes of origami. She applied the process to plain, off-white linen and folded, blue-and-white-striped lampshades.

To achieve those variegated blue stripes, she adapted a different Japanese textile technique, shibori. The process, like origami, starts with folding, followed by pressing and tying the folded fabric with thread. This resist method prevents dye from penetrating protected areas. Unlike origami, where geometric patterns reliably fold the same way, she says, “Sometimes there are different factors in shibori that you cannot control. Just like every leaf on a tree is different, with shibori, each piece is different from every other.”

A technique Lopez uses to add pattern actually involves subtraction. Instead of screen-printing dye onto the colored linen she starts with, the artist passes a bleaching paste through openings in the screen. That discharge method removes dye from selected areas. Once the fabric is washed, a crisp, abstract pattern remains.

Lopez takes the creative process further. At Blue Lights Junction, a garden and open studio in Baltimore, she volunteers planting indigo seeds and harvesting the plants to be used for dye. “You’re involved in the entire process behind the final piece,” she explains with satisfaction. “And it connects you with a collaborative community.”

Coincidentally, Lopez and Duenas both grew up surrounded by Mid-Century Modern furniture. They dismissed the style back then; Duenas preferred the organic forms of Art Nouveau, that late 19th-century response to industrialization, and Lopez admired the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a Scottish architect and textile designer of the same era. They continue to love the modernist sculptures of Barbara Hepworth and fiber artist Ruth Asawa’s nature-inspired wire sculptures. And their views of now-trendy mid-century design have changed. “We didn’t go in that direction because it’s popular,” Lopez points out. “But it’s popular because that combination of simple forms and natural materials is timeless.”

For more information, visit laloupedesign.com

 

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