Behind the Design: Duplo Design x Made In Collection

Our collaboration with Guadalajara-based Duplo Design is a study in the region’s ancestral traditions, natural materials, and current design landscape.

  • Rachel Robey
  • Aug 11, 2022
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The Duplo Design x Made In Collection is, among other things, our first foray into working with volcanic rock. Given the expert artisanship and objective beauty of the results, we're hopeful it won't be 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) carved from volcanic rock, as well as a Tortillero (tortilla warmer) made 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 Tortillero 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.

Local Tradition

Even in pre-Columbian Mexico, Molcajetes and Tortilleros 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.

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.”

Natural Materials

“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.

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.

Tortilleros have historically had more variability in their construction, but are usually ceramic, woven, or wooden.  Ours are made from solid planks of locally sourced Mexican Oak, which are then cut, stacked, glued, cut again, sanded, hollowed, sanded again, signed, stained, and oiled to show off each one’s unique grain pattern.

Expert Craftsmen

Duplo Design was already in the business of producing artisanal textiles, volcanic stoneware vases and other tableware when we crossed paths. The two sisters went to school for industrial design, but while they do have experience with woodworking and other mediums, they typically enlist local artisans to bring their visions to life.

But for this collaboration, timeline delays caused ripple effects across production, and many of the artisans they enlisted for Tortillero production became unavailable. Instead, the sisters had to step in and assist carpenter Dante Iván Fujimura, owner of Hess Estudio in Guadalajara, themselves. With minimal additional help, the three of them handbuilt each and every single Tortillero.

Marcela and Tania also sourced textiles to tuck inside the Tortillero to keep tortillas warm and fresh. The napkin-like cloths are woven on pedal looms by a collective of artisans near Lake Chapala, about an hour from Guadalajara. “We wanted something simple yet traditional,” says Marcela. “We chose this beautiful, almost raw-looking cotton to match the warm wood tones of the Tortillero.”

With the Molcajete, they could fully step back. Those 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, shot glasses, 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.

Modern Design

“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, Dante, 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.

Ready to Shop?

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.

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Born out of a 100-year old, family-owned restaurant supply business, we work to ensure our Cookware is as detail oriented as the chefs who choose to use it in their kitchens.

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