The Dwell 24: Alex Rocca

After a career in the film industry, Brazilian textile artist Alex Rocca turned his sights to the wall tapestries he’s become known for.

Alex Rocca’s career in cinema had a surprising plot twist. As an art director and scenographer, he cultivated a talent for conjuring locations through shape, color, and material, but he began to yearn for a more direct physical connection to his work. 

Two years ago, the Brazilian designer decided to take up tufting, a method of textile making involving punching yarn through a backing. "At the beginning I was shy," he says, "not understanding much about the techniques, about the way forward, but I just kept doing it." The result is a collection of richly colored and deeply textured wall tapestries made from natural fibers and dyes. 

Based in the southern city of Curitiba, Rocca draws inspiration from the mothers, grandmothers, and aunts he remembers making textiles when he was growing up, as well as from the country’s modern architecture and his film heroes, like director Wong Kar Wai. 

Rocca plans his works with hand drawings, and he pieces them together with a tufting gun. "The result comes out of me," Rocca says. "It’s physical in a very clear way. It has touch, sensations—it’s human."

Read the full Q&A with Rocca below. 

Hometown: Curitiba, Panará, Brazil

Describe what you make in 140 characters. I work with textiles to create tapestries as well as mirrors, furniture, and rugs. 

What's the last thing you designed?  I'm currently designing a collection of garden-based mirrors.

Do you have a daily creative ritual? I like to wake up early, around 6, and organize my schedule for the day. Then I usually spend the rest of  the morning drawing and studying references. It motivates and inspires me for the rest of the day.

How do you procrastinate? I like to cook. Every week I invent a new recipe. I also like to lie in the sun with my cat, read comic books, play board games, go for a run, and eat ice cream on the beach.

What everyday object would you like to redesign? Why? I'd like to redesign toothbrushes—they are very boring. 

Who are your heroes (in design, in life, in both)? lygia clark and Zaha Hadid.

What skill would you most like to learn? I would like to learn how to work with metals. I would love to be a goldsmith.

What is your most treasured possession? My cat.

What's your earliest memory of an encounter with design?  When I was a child, I loved sleeping in an aunt's house. She had what I thought was a really nice sofa. When I was a teenager, I discovered that it was a Mole Sofa by Sergio Rodrigues—one of the most famous Brazilian designers. It's too bad that the sofa was lost sometime over the last 20 years.

What contemporary design trend do you despise? Marble.

Finish this statement: All design should... translate a concept and not a trend.

What's in your dream house? It would be filled with lots of sunlight and nature, but without any walls. 

How do you want design to be different after we emerge from the pandemic? Will it be different?

How can the design world be more inclusive? Increasing the number of affordable schools, initiating more community studies, and providing greater accessible raw materials to all countries.

What do you wish non-designers understood about the design industry? There is a lot of work behind a concept.

You can learn more about Alex by visiting his website or on Instagram.

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