I first heard about Sebastião Lobo in the Monocle magazine. There was an article about this new and upcoming designer that had a beautiful store/studio space in an old neighborhood of Lisbon. That got me started on checking Sebastião’s work and falling in love with his pieces. I took note and promised to visit next time I’d be in Lisbon. Fast forwarding to a sunny morning in August, I’m standing in front of Sebastião’s studio, trying and failing to take a photo of his storefront with the yellow cable car passing, when he finally arrives. He had been delayed and while I waited I got myself entertained by snooping around his windows and front door to see what was inside. As he opened the door and we got in I thought that this place was heaven. If you’re envisioning a white, clean, modern design space then you’re on the wrong post. This studio is old, messy, very personal and enchanted. And the story behind it is just as amazing as the wire creatures Sebastião makes.
Sebastião turns out to be absolutely adorable, and he speaks with this enthusiasm and energy about his space, work and life trajectory. He tells me the story of how he found this studio space while rolling up a cigarette. Some years back he was looking for a new studio space, a friend called and told him she had found the place for him: an old jewelry store with a beautiful storefront that belonged to a retiring jeweler. He didn’t think much of it until he saw it (on his own words: this would be to good to be true). The store belonged to the personal jeweler of the old Portuguese dictator Salazar from the 60’s. And the retired jeweler would be leaving a lot of his own tools and personal items behind in the space.
(note: Portugal had a dictatorship until 1974 and this place used to fabricate all the bespoke commissions for the dictator himself.)
Back to this sunny August morning and dictatorship apart, I see that the studio/store is filled with the old tools, books and sketchbooks from this old retired jeweler, which fortunately Sebastião got to keep and I got the chance to shoot. The studio’s storefront is breathtaking: beautiful green ornate iron and wood doors that match the traditional Portuguese tiles “azulejos” on the outside walls. Inside, Sebastião has made the space his: messy bench tops and tables filled with tools, jewelry, objects he has created or are under construction, things he has collected and a lot of bugs. A lot of the objects and furniture we see around are salvaged items. There’s a wood fireplace that he moves around, bookcases and chairs he has found on the street or recovered from somebody’s house. He found his favorite couch on the sidewalk, close to the studio one morning when he was coming in. And everything fits the space perfectly as it would have been part of the studio before.
Then there are the sculptures that Sebastião creates. Since an early age that he has a fascination (borderline obsession) with insects. Everywhere we look we can see wire grasshoppers, cockroaches, spiders, flies, scorpions, you name it, all beautifully arranged on the walls. There’s also a wire chandelier, some birds and a pig’s head adorning the ceiling. His jewelry is showcased in bookcases, old frames or a vintage closet with glass doors. This feels like stepping into a different world, where magic creatures and jewelry co-exist in a jeweler’s workshop that feels like an enchanted old attic.
Sebastião tells me that inspiration stroke last evening and he ended up leaving the studio at 4am. For such an old-school kind of jewelry space his jewelry is refreshingly on trend and fashion oriented. He just finished some funky ear cuffs that I’m not shy to try on and all around you can find these gorgeous leaf and chain statement necklaces that will certainly not go unnoticed.
There’s a lot of magic in this space and I’m sad to leave. Sebastião was so sweet that he invited me back next time I’m in Lisbon (which I will probably take upon his offer, just to see the space again). I’m really happy I got to see such a gifted young designer making is mark in an old school jewelry market with such talent and creativity. In the meantime get to know him a little bit better and have a good laugh with his answers to the questionnaire.
Atelier Sebastião Lobo
How did you become a Jewelry Designer?
“Since I was a child that I had a passion for jewels/ precious rocks and all the mystic around it, but what I really wanted to do was archeology. But as soon as I told to my parents about that they tried to change my mind and gave me the idea to go try and learn something related with jewelry, and since then that passion has been growing and growing!
What’s the first thing you do when you get to the studio?
“Music, coffee and a cigarrette”
What do you like most about your space?
“The magical and old environment that the space has, and all the story that is behind it”
Pick 3 objects in your studio that make your space yours
“My work, the mess and the music”
What’s your favorite spot in the studio?
“My office because it’s my mess and is the place were I can create without having the problem to clean or to make it presentable for any unexpected guest!”
What do you love & hate doing at the bench/desk?
“That is a bit difficult, because it depends, sometimes it’s the work and sometimes it’s the days!”
Any pets in the space?
“Some spiders and sometimes my dog!”
What currently inspires you?
“The universe of nature; most of the times bugs and textures”
What piece of jewelry do you always wear?
“I use several, but the one that I use the most is a bug: a silver beetle”
Currently obsessed with which gemstone/metal?
“I prefer metal! I love to work with brass, and sometimes with silver”
Piece of jewelry you’re most proud of?
“Several! Until now one of them is an ant in brass and the other one is a cape made only with brass leaves that took me one year to finish.”
Worst piece of jewelry you had to design/create?
“A ring with hearts around the finger. And even worse, I did one of the hearts in gold and oxidized the rest of the ring! It was really bad! But the crazy thing was that the next day I sold it as soon as I entered my workshop!
What’s the longest period of time you spent at the studio and why?
“I think it was 24h, doing bugs for an installation in a store. And because sometimes it’s better to work during the night, is calmer and you don’t have clients coming in and out.”
The best thing a client ever told you?
“Why aren’t you my son? This way I could wear a new piece of jewelry every day!
The funniest thing a client ever told you?
“She started screaming as soon as she saw all the bugs in the studio, and then went out really fast while I stayed inside with her husband laughing!
What’s on your desk right now?“A bug and an ashtray full of cigars”
If you weren’t a jeweler?
“At the moment I have no idea what I would be!”