The Dwell 24: Panorammma

Maika Palazuelos’s tabletop objects are vessels for her specific and peculiar point of view.

It’s kind of gross: a normal pitcher, like you would pour something out of, but made from silicone supported by a sterile-looking stainless steel brace. It’s pink, pliant, and looks a little moist, like soft tissue or an excised internal organ—as if it went straight from the operating table to the tea service. The peculiar, slightly disturbing container is part of a series called Soft Vessels by Mexico City designer Maika Palazuelos, who calls her studio Panorammma. Trained as a painter, Palazuelos switched to designing furniture, lighting, and tabletop objects shortly after finishing her undergraduate degree in painting at RISD. She wanted to go in a more explicitly commercial direction than the art world allowed, she says, and many of her objects would fit well in the right living room, but they all have something of the pitcher’s uncanny corporality.

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Palazuelos began experimenting with medical materials and bodily references after surviving a bout with cancer a few years ago. "I was immersed in these clinical contexts where, like, sitting in the waiting room, you would notice the music is a certain way," she says. "I started picking up on how the aesthetics manipulate patients, and I started working with it, maybe exaggerating it sometimes." She also pulls in religious motifs, as with Wax Alarm Clock, an ambiently liturgical wall sconce made from a metal first-aid kit enclosing a candle spiked with precisely placed nails. As the candle burns, the nails loosen and one falls to the floor every hour, marking the time with a poetic plinking sound.

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Furthering those themes, Palazuelos has based several works on an imagined letter-writing relationship between a lonely nun in Mexico and a seasick fisherman in Spain—where the designer recently completed a residency. A table for the nun’s quarters is an undulating surface made from rough, parched rawhide. "It’s her only sensual encounter with skin," she says. Its companion, a pendant light for the fisherman, looks like a bulbous, wire-wrapped hook made from what looks like chrome-plated coral—actually metal plated with scrap chrome—holding a comparatively delicate candle at the tip.

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Palazuelos recently moved into a new home/studio, where she and a friend are experimenting with growing mushrooms to be incorporated into porous furniture: "It’s going to be a chair with legs colonized by mushrooms." She’s also working on her first interior, for a Mexico City boutique. To demonstrate the design direction, she holds up what resembles an arms-width spider web made from metal chains—think medieval armor or fetish gear as clothing display.

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 Palazuelos says she thinks of the body as an object, a material to be manipulated, and she smirks a little mischievously when she talks about her work, appreciating the uneasy exhilaration it can evoke. There’s a playful provocation and a winking humor inside those unsettling objects.

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Read the full Q&A with Maika Palazuelos below.

Hometown: Monterrey, Mexico.

Describe what you make in 140 characters... I pursue the creation on objects that generate fissures from which fantasy spills into our reality.  I call them pseudo-props.

What’s the last thing you designed? A free standing ring-shaped shelving unit sculpted in stone.

Do you have a daily creative ritual? I exercise (on Wednesdays I'll go for a run early in the forest), then I take my coffee outside before starting work.

How do you procrastinate? We have a studio pet named Pollock, a huge Weimaraner that loves to distract me from work.

What everyday object would you like to redesign? Why? I would like to redesign a fridge. It's an object that is omnipresent in the home and has so many elements to experiment with—temperature, storage arrangement, even sound. A world of its own.

Who are your heroes (in design, in life, in both)? I deeply admire the work done by artist Katie Paterson. It's simple, intelligent and profound.

What skill would you most like to learn? Hypnosis and mastering lucid dreaming.

What is your most treasured possession? My rock collection.

What’s your earliest memory of an encounter with design? My father used to have a furniture factory where he would produce pieces for big designers and artists. It was an amazing workshop with all the machinery I wish I had today.

What contemporary design trend do you despise? I'm often disappointed by shaped wall mirror cutouts.

Finish this statement: All design should... Consider its environmental, cultural, and social impact and the cultural, social, and environmental aspects of its context.

What’s in your dream house? A greenhouse.

How can the design world be more inclusive? By forgetting about ideas that are restrictive to disciplines and create hierarchies within creative practices.

What do you wish non-designers understood about the design industry? You need to sell to survive.

You can learn more about Panorammma on Instagram.

View the 2023 Dwell 24!

William Hanley
Editor-in-Chief, Dwell
William Hanley is Dwell's editor-in-chief, previously executive editor at Surface, senior editor at Architectural Record, news editor at ArtNews, and staff writer at Rhizome, among other roles.


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