Our collaboration with Guadalajara-based Duplo Design is a study in the region’s ancestral traditions, natural materials, and current design landscape.
Last year’s Duplo Design x Made In Collection was, among other things, our first foray into working with volcanic rock. Given the expert artisanship and objective beauty of the results, we're happy to report it wasn't our last.
Crafted in collaboration with Duplo Design Co-Founders (and sisters) Marcela and Tania Medina, this Set includes a Molcajete and Tejolote (mortar and pestle) as well as a trio of Tequileros (shot glasses), all carved from volcanic rock. The Tequileros sit on a minimalist tray crafted from native Mexican oak. Every piece was handbuilt in Guadalajara by Marcela, Tania, and their network of local artisans.
The raw materials were sourced locally too, and both the Molcajete and the Tequileros have been made and used the same way, in the same place, for thousands of years. We consider this an iteration, not necessarily an improvement, of the original design.
Even in pre-Columbian Mexico, Molcajetes were fixtures in the culinary landscape of the ancient Mesoamerican peoples. And in the time since the Aztecs and the Maya, very little has changed about their design, use, or manufacture.
Where the archetypal Molcajete has 3 tripod-like legs carved from the same chunk of basalt used for the rest of it, we worked with Duplo Design to develop a legless version featuring a cork base—not only elegant, it prevents the rock from scratching table and countertops.
Like the Molcajete, the Tequileros were made in Guadalajara—Tania and Marcela’s home, and the capital city of Jalisco, Mexico. This is the region where Tequila, mezcal, and other agave-based alcoholic beverages have dominated since before the Spanish arrived in the 16th century. Some producers claim volcanic stone is essential to making Tequila; with their new basalt Tequilero Set, Tania and Marcela are betting the same goes for drinking Tequila.
The reasoning behind this iteration is put best by Marcela and Tania: “We wanted to show appreciation and respect for the various artisan techniques executed by master craftsmen of Mexico.”
“The thing about working with natural materials is that each piece is unique. Sometimes people expect it to look immaculate, like it was made in a factory,” says Tania. “Even rocks have ‘imperfections.’ Temperature and cooling changes the color and texture of the rock, so sometimes it can be more porous or dense.”
For the most part, Molcajetes have always been carved from slabs of cooled lava. In Guadalajara, it’s an abundant natural resource prized for its beauty, high mineral content, porous texture, and ancestral ties to the land. It’s the perfect material for Tequileros, too— submerge the porous shot glass in water and then freeze it, so that when you take it out of the freezer it’s already ice cold.The fine-grained volcanic rock is still even used to filter water, says Tania. In a cooking capacity, its coarse surface seasons with age, slowly building flavor and complexity.
However, in order to reap the benefits, you do need to cure your Molcajete. It’s similar to Carbon Steel in its initial need for seasoning, but much more like masa madre (sourdough starter) in its continuous development of flavor.
Duplo Design was already in the business of producing volcanic stoneware and other tableware when we crossed paths. The two sisters went to school for industrial design, and while they do have experience with woodworking and other mediums, they typically enlist local artisans to bring their visions to life.
Both the Molcajetes and Tequileros were hand shaped by three brothers—Adrián, Chuy, and Wilfredo Rodríguez Cocula—who have an open-air stone workshop on the other side of Guadalajara. Under the name Ignea, they transform volcanic rock into sculptures and more.
Because the Rodríguez Cocula family owns a section of the basalt quarry, sourcing the raw material was simply a matter of renting a large enough truck. From that point on, it’s just a matter of watching experts sculpt and manipulate what was once molten lava. All told, the sourcing and production happens within about a half-mile radius.
“We want to tell a story so that this piece is not only just another art object,” says Marcela. And of course, the standards are exacting—on average, the sisters disqualified 1 out of every 3 pieces for some perceived flaw or defect. What remains is perfection.
With this collaboration, we’ve maintained the essence of each tool, but invited Marcela, Tania, Adrián, Chuy, and Wilfredo to leave their artistic mark on it. And if you look closely, you’ll see a pair of vertical lines etched into each tool—these represent Tania and Marcela.
Each piece is designed to look and feel beautiful and contemporary while still paying respect to the millennia of tradition behind it. Now, it’s simply a question of what you’ll do with it.