These are not the wimpy maple cutting boards, plastic rolling pins and mundane lazy Susans you’d find at a kitchen shop. In fact, if you weren’t inclined to slice cheese, roll out a pie crust or twirl condiments in the middle of your dining table, you could display Rasttro’s wood accessories on your wall as art. They’re big, bold, contemporary sculptures that double as everyday kitchen tools.
Made of reclaimed wood, Mexico-based Rasttro products were conceived by two brothers, Pablo and Alejandro Suarez, and their lifelong friend, Alejandro Ades–all in their twenties at the time–in 2014 as a business venture that would be both meaningful and fun. The brothers, who handle concept, design and production, and Ades, who’s forté is business and marketing, were inspired by the beautiful scraps of wood left over from the making of Taracea furniture, a company run by the Suarez brothers’ father.
“Taracea makes furniture out of trees recovered from hurricanes and tornadoes,” explains Ades. “We took that recycling one step further by making products out of their leftover wood.”
The form of the Rasttro designs, which also includes bowls, dish racks, cake stands and trays, is dictated by the shape of the original piece of wood. “No two items are alike,” says Ades. “Each one shows off the raw material. Our name, Rasttro, translates to ‘trace’ in Spanish, meaning you can see the trace of the original tree in the product.”
The products are made from more than 30 kinds of woods, including Mexican oak, walnut, huanacaxtle and milpa burl at a small factory in Lerma, outside of Mexico City, as well as at a second location in Mineral de Pozos, near San Miguel de Allende. Several artisans, along with apprentices, handcraft each piece during the course of several weeks. “We like to think we also ‘leave a trace’ with the people who work for us,” says Ades, “because we generate jobs and teach new skills at both of our locations.”
The Rasttro partners have been expanding their oeuvre by adding glass elements to the wood through a collaboration with Mexico City glass artist Orfeo Quagliata, working pieces of his gem-like art glass into cutting boards and using his glass atop wood bases to create Sferas, lights that project colorful, upward beams. The partners have also come up with a new product, Plus/Minus, a magnetized wood wall meant to hold accessories, and are developing a paneling concept, also made from reclaimed wood.
“Our products find their way into homes, hotels and restaurants around the world,” says Ades. “They’re memorable because they’re raw and modern-looking.”
Rasttro buyers tend to become obsessed with the designs. “One guy bought 12 of our lazy Susans, which he displays on his wall as sculpture,”says Ades. “He takes down one at a time to use.”
At his own house, Ades and his wife mounted some 40 cutting boards on a wall. When guests come over for dinner, they choose one to use as a plate.
That’s in keeping with Ades’ point that the Rasttro products are practical for everyday use. The cutting boards and rolling pins are treated with coconut or olive oils and are meant to be used in food prep and serving. He advises to keep them out of the dishwasher and to clean them with a little bit of water and lime juice. A quick wipe with olive oil will once again bring out the wood’s grain.
Much more fun than a standard, wimpy kitchen item.
Unique works by Rasttro, including collaborations with artist Orfeo Quagliata, are available at Amusespot.com
A Collaboration with Glass
Mexico City glass artist Orfeo Quagliata, known for his fine art, architectural installations, jewelry, furniture and tableware designs, recalls one act of youthful rebellion. “I studied geography for one semester in college,” he says.
That Quagliata–who wound up getting an industrial design degree from California College of the Arts–would go into art seemed preordained, given his genetics. His Italian father, Narcissus, is a well-known glass artist himself, one of the founders of the American studio glass movement. His Austrian maternal grandmother was Herta Jalkotzy, a Wiener Werkstätte jewelry maker. “My mother, who was a doctor, was also a quilter,” he explains.
More on artist Orfeo Quagliata here.