founded in 2012 by textile designer marisol centeno, Bi Yuu (meaning air and earth) is a mexican brand that specializes in woven rugs and textile design accessories. their strong vision of quality, cutting-edge design, and social responsibility has led them to innovate within traditional textile processes, blending time-honored techniques with contemporary design. Bi Yuu works with artisans, contributes to their local economy and utilizes native working methods and raw material from the area. ‘we do all of this without compromising our high standards of quality, always looking to be commercially competitive,’ says the studio. 

bi yuu interview caravana americana designboom
‘memories’ – a collection that reflects the influence of art deco in mexican architecture
all images courtesy of Bi Yuu

 

 

mexico has been seeing — in the past years — how designers are promoting the conservation of different artisanal techniques found in their culturally rich country. through this, they support many communities and continue to spread the culture, accompanied by values like sustainable development, fair trade for the artisans, social consumption, and environmentally responsible production methods that use 100% natural wool and dyes.

 

during caravana americana, designboom had the chance to discuss with Bi Yuu‘s marisol centeno about her creative processes, revisiting traditional artisan techniques and her advice for young designers. read the interview below.

bi yuu interview caravana americana designboom
marisol centeno, founder of Bi Yuu

 

 

designboom: when did you decide to take textile design seriously?

 

Bi Yuu: my background with textile design has two sides, both related to my childhood: one with family and the other with my young acting career.

 

my mother’s sister married a man from a tzotzil community (indigenous mayan people) from san cristóbal. from a very young age, I was introduced to different artisans from chiapas and was astonished with their work. when I was a teenager I kept on visiting those communities and started making friends with the textile craftsmen, falling in love with their world, their values, their meanings, and all the stories they told me about traditional textiles in mexico. my fascination led me to study it more in depth and to discover all the things I want to showcase with Bi Yuu.

 

on the other hand, I used to be a TV and theater actress when I was a kid. during that time, I got to experiment with clothes and was surrounded by costume designers. I was always in between costumes, backstages and dressing rooms. after that, the most logical step was for me to study drama and so did I. one thing led to another, and my memories of dressing up guided me to discover my passion for costume design, so I started studying textile design. textiles have always been an important part of me, in many different ways, and it was impossible to not take them seriously.

bi yuu interview caravana americana designboom
‘modern’ — a collection that takes on the modernist idea of using color, shapes, and shadows to create volumes

 

 

DB: what part of your work is the most enjoyable for you?

 

BY: maybe it’s because I’m mexican, but I enjoy working with color. I believe that color is one of the most powerful tools us creators and designers have as we are able to show emotion through it. I believe that one of the things that keep me going is how I can transfer those sensations to my rugs and then to my clients. and once they have their rug in their home, I can feel their happiness.

bi yuu interview caravana americana designboom

‘north 61’ — Bi Yuu’s latest collection, referencing the first railway in mexico, and the progress it brought 

 

 

DB: what is the typical process behind your designs? a new collection?

 

BY: I have a very methodic way of working. once I start designing a new collection, the first step is research. this one involves everything: things that interest me, something that I read a few months ago, or just something that I like. through investigation I start to narrow things down, and once I know exactly what I want my collection to be about, I go deeper.

 

I buy and read books related to it, I listen to music that is related to the time period, I walk around the city and take pictures… after that, I start working on the palette, which for me, is the base of the research. so I start working with color and continue listening to music to inspire me and to capture it in the collection. I also work a lot by hand and then I use the computer. in a way, my working techniques are very traditional.

bi yuu interview caravana americana designboom
Bi Yuu works with local artisans, highlights tradition and adds innovation

 

 

DB: you were saying before that you are interested in clothing and costumes, as well as carpets and traditional artisanal pieces. what made you decide: ‘okay. I want to start this company, I want to call it this, I want to focus on these things’? how did you get to that point?

 

BY: once again, a series of events guided me. first, it was a trip I made to istanbul some years ago where I discovered the most amazing rugs. I really adore rugs and how they can make a difference in any space. in my case, after university, I knew that I wanted to make my own project. maybe I’m a dreamer and a little romantic, but I believe that as a designer you can make a difference and that’s why I thought about collaborating with artisans.

 

in mexico, the industry is not very in contact with designers, making us find our own ways to realize our products. and what better option than the incredible artisans found in our country, that in some cases, are open to work with us. as I said before, I fell in love with traditional textiles and hand-made processes. I am interested in how design can be a tool to make a difference. and it works really well with me, to work with artisans.

bi yuu interview caravana americana designboom
the rugs are completely handmade 

 

 

DB: how did Bi Yuu start?

 

BY: I told my father — who grew up in oaxaca — that I wanted to start working with artisans there and asked him to help me get the project off the ground. in oaxaca, cultural differences make establishing communication or a work-relationship with an artisan a difficult task. so I traveled to oaxaca and stayed there for one year where I never had any connection to the artisans. I was there just working, learning and observing people. after that, Bi Yuu was born.

bi yuu interview caravana americana designboom
weaving detail 

 

 

DB: many mexican designers are revisiting traditional artisan techniques. did other designers give you advice on how to approach your project? do you have a mentor of sorts?

 

BY: for sure, many people have helped me. marta turok — an anthropologist who knows many artisans in mexico — was able to connect me with many people; designer kitzia, from colectivo 1050º; and emiliano godoy; were some of the people who helped me. gradually, I got to meet more and more people of the design community here in mexico.

bi yuu interview caravana americana designboom
Bi Yuu’s work helps to expand the rich mexican culture

 

 

DB: was there a major turning point in the history of Bi Yuu?

 

BY: I think it has to be my first exhibition which I organized myself — it boosted my visibility and generated networking opportunities. that’s where most of my clients came from. I invested in a small solo show and it was totally worth it.

bi yuu interview caravana americana designboom
‘bacaanda’ — in mexico, textiles carry traditional stories and cosmologies within their patterns

 

 

DB: do you have any advice for young designers?

 

BY: be humble and patient. humility is something that you need to have always, because it puts you in a position where you are always learning, that lets you see where you failed and help you to do it better. also to always believe in yourself. if you think you can do something on your own, go ahead and do it. you don’t always need to work for a studio or company if you are prepared to start simple and build-up a business from scratch.

bi yuu interview caravana americana designboom
Bi Yuu uses only earth-friendly and sustainable materials

 

 

DB: do you have any superstitions? any rules that influence your work?

 

BJ: not really — I think that the only thing to say is follow your instincts. don’t commit to something that doesn’t feel right.

bi yuu interview caravana americana designboom
the project contributes to the local economy

 

 

DB: do you have a motto?

 

BY: I like this ghandi quote: be the change that you wish to see in the world.

bi yuu interview caravana americana designboom
‘cocoon’ seeks to recreate the forms and textures found in nature, translated through hand-woven fabrics

bi yuu interview caravana americana designboom
‘bacaanda’ red for the heart

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