Shaping stories of celebration for the IKEA ÖMSESIDIG collection
The decorations are up, the table is set, and the extra stools are at the ready. Together with nine creatives from Chile, Colombia, and Mexico, IKEA is set to launch ÖMSESIDIG, a collaboration centred on celebration. We sat down with ÖMSESIDIG designers Liliana Ovalle and Abel Cárcamo Segovia to talk about family, festivities, and some of the joyful memories that inspired their works for the collection.
In a time when gathering seemed impossible, industrial designer Liliana Ovalle contemplated some of her dearest recollections of it for work. Sat in her London home, far away from her native Mexico and most of her family, she’d close her eyes to help bring them closer. Soon enough, one memory stood out: the traditional Sunday family gathering, and all the heart-warming sights, sounds, and smells that come with it.
“We’d gather at home or in the park in Mexico City. The kids would always be playing with balloons or – on special occasions – be excited to break into the piñata and collect pieces of it like trophies to bring home. There’d be music, like the Mexican boleros my dad would always play. I’d help my mom set the table, decorate, and make the lemonade. And there’d be limes everywhere”, Liliana shares, adding with a chuckle: “Our family was relatively small in the city with about fifteen of us there. When I’d go to my family’s home province, it felt more like hundreds!”
I’d help my mom set the table, decorate, and make the lemonade. And there’d be limes everywhere.
Liliana smiles at the memory of those lively, warm Sundays made present again. It's the very same memory that anchored her personal approach to ÖMSESIDIG, an IKEA collection made in collaboration with nine creatives from Chile, Colombia, and Mexico.
“We asked all the creatives to tell us a story about a celebration rooted in their personal experience and where they’re from. To take inspiration from that, deconstruct it, and reconstruct it”, IKEA designer Friso Wiersma explains.
“Their stories were all so personal, but it became clear that there’s so much that connects us. And there is beauty in the un-curated cohesion of the collection”.
From heritage and home weaved into functional fabrics to celebrations of creativity, community, and culture taken to decorative prints, each ÖMSESIDIG product carries a story on celebration – and an encouragement to celebrate.
“There was a liberty for everyone to instinctually head down the path we were personally most interested in to tell our stories”, Liliana shares, joyfully adding that it allowed her to follow a tasty obsession that always reminds her of home: limes.
Setting the table for IKEA with memories of Mexico
A staple in Mexican cuisine, the common, small, bright green lime is everywhere to be found in the country – not least at a celebratory feast. Its juice is a given as much in lemonades, like the one Liliana would make with her mother, as in dressings and marinades for salads, soups, and even on fruits and snacks. The lime fruit itself will often dot dining tables both in and outside the home, cut in halves or quarters, squeezed dry as it fulfils its purpose as treasured condiment.
And though a lime squeezer was an early idea for a product, Liliana eventually realised that it was the familiar, vibrant visual of limes that she wanted to capture for the ÖMSESIDIG collection.
“Making something inspired by lime for the first time, I asked myself what I could do to better understand it. I really like working with three-dimensional models, so I was cutting limes in different sections, squeezing them, making models of modelling clay”, Liliana smiles, mimicking the movements as she describes the process.
“It was a very manual process because if you want to make something that looks squeezed, this exercise gives you the feedback of what that effect is, what proportions are adequate”.
The result? A set of two small, green ÖMSESIDIG serving bowls made of soda lime glass, ready to dot familial tables and feasts while carrying treasured condiments.
Finding similarities in celebratory objects across the world
While drawing heavily on personal experiences of growing up and enjoying celebrations throughout her life in Mexico, working with IKEA inspired another component in Liliana’s work for ÖMSESIDIG.
“My designs reference objects or environments from my personal experiences and Mexican background, but in developing many of them I also looked for equivalents in other parts of the world, considering the international reach of IKEA”, says Liliana.
Take the ÖMSESIDIG stool, for example. A clear nod to Mexican vernacular craft, like much of Liliana’s design work at large, its similarities to ancient Viking stools and old European milking stools made it even more appealing to work with for the collection.
“To me, design is a medium for developing narratives and generating experiences that create curiosity among people”, says Liliana. “And it’s interesting to think of how some experiences or objects that we consider local connect to others, beyond borders, especially with celebrations”.
You have to be there on Sundays to enjoy the food, the music, to listen to the stories and catch up on what everyone is doing. We really like to be with family in this way.
A Chilean tradition brought centre-stage in a celebratory feast
Much like for Liliana, memories of Sunday family gatherings bring both joy and longing to Chilean furniture and objects designer Abel Cárcamo Segovia. He waxes poetic about the food with ease, involving anything from asado beef stew with salad to a breakfast for dinner kind of arrangement with hearty sandwiches of typical Chilean bread.
“You have to be there on Sundays to enjoy the food, the music, to listen to the stories and catch up on what everyone is doing. We really like to be with family in this way”, says Abel.
It’s one of the reasons working on ÖMSESIDIG with IKEA felt even closer to heart for him. Not least as Sunday family gatherings have looked different in the past five years lived with his wife and son in Paris, France, seemingly a world away from his native Santiago.
Ultimately, it was neither the asado nor the sandwiches that shaped Abel's ÖMSESIDIG serving bowl, tong and spoons – but something just as, if not more, Chilean.
For ÖMSESIDIG, I really wanted to tell a story that is representative of my country, but also of myself.
“The first celebrations that I remember enjoying as a child were the dance performances in school for different holidays and events – especially since they’d always choose me to dance!”, Abel recounts with an extra cheerful smile.
“For ÖMSESIDIG, I really wanted to tell a story that is representative of my country, but also of myself. So, I thought of our national day celebrations, and how the cueca is a part of it that has made an impression on me.”
The cueca is Chile’s national dance as well as a genre of music, and a regular fixture in the country’s national celebrations and folk-dance performances. Danced in pairs, it tells a story of courtship and in its most elegant, traditional form – huaso elegante – the cueca has its participants dressing in capes, hats, and boots.
“I found a very academic approach to my design process here, exploring the story of the cueca, its history and concept. But how could I merge this with an object?”, says Abel.
The answer was in the steps, a constant of any dance that isn’t often seen in terms of shapes. Abel began looking at how they connected to form simple geometric patterns, which lay the foundation of his product concept exploration.
“I liked the geometry of it, but dance isn’t geometric or robotic – it flows and moves in an organic way, and so does my own design work. So, I had to find the organic within the geometric, thinking of the dance itself, the people, the rhythm”, Abel explains.
In fact, musical rhythm is always present in Abel’s own design process as well as life at large. He puts on music when he wakes up. He listens to it in the studio while he works. Reading the rhythm of the cueca into his designs for ÖMSESIDIG was second nature and involved an extensive sketching process of flowing concept ideas, followed by prototyping in clay and wood, which eventually revealed the final designs.
“I’m very happy with these products for ÖMSESIDIG. They tell this story of my country but also my own way of being and creating. And I love the idea of people enjoying it in this very simple and subtle form anywhere, noticing the details, maybe feeling a hint of the story behind it”, says Abel.
The extra cheerful smile makes another appearance as he notes that soon, his ÖMSESIDIG designs could be dancing on tables set for celebration across the world.
The ÖMSESIDIG collection will be available in IKEA stores starting April 2023.