Work pressure is one of the main causes of stress. But at these Lisbon coworks, there’s more to a days work than, well, work. There’s also yoga and physical exercise for your breaks.
The striped awning is, to say the least, intriguing. A Loja das Congelados (The Frozen Food Shop), as the establishment in question is called, is actually an illustration studio - meeting art halfway, where Catherine Boutaud and Henriette Arcelin also met at the end of last year. Here, between antique furniture, ceramic candlesticks and paper (reams and reams of paper) work two French women who have long made Lisbon their home.
Catherine was the first to arrive – in Portugal and in this space. “I've been here for 15 years. I came with a background in illustration and drawing, but I felt I wanted to try out different ways of communicating and expressing things,” she tells us. She got into Ar.Co, took the Cinema and Image in Motion course and dedicated herself to documentary-making. In 2017 at IndieLisboa, she won the Novíssimos award for her short film Corpos que Pensam. She never abandoned the movies, but the last few years have seen her take up illustration again, above all etching and silk-screen printing.
“I loved this space the first day I saw it. It was a shop for selling frozen foods. I got in touch with Henriette right away. Despite not being a close friend, I admired her work greatly,” she adds. But the illustrator (and ceramist) was already set up elsewhere. It wasn't until a year and a half later that the phone rang again. “I think it's super interesting us working together. Because we come from completely different backgrounds and because we’ve both developed our own styles. We have a lot to learn from each other,” says Henriette.
From Paris to London and with a background in Fine Arts, Arcelin found herself drawn to ceramics. “I think my work always starts with the materials, only then does the idea come and the creative process. That is why I became so interested in ceramics – it's so rich, there are so many different kinds of clay, so many ways to glaze. I came to study pottery at Ar.Co. Afterwards, little by little, I started to draw again,” she explains.
There are silkscreens, etchings and digital prints on sale - with prices ranging from ten to 60 Euros - even if this is, at heart, “a workspace,” according to Henriette, but also “a kind of extension of our homes” for Catherine. “We're hoarders, to a degree. In other words, I’ve found a person just like me, who has the same fondness for objects,” the former explains.
These days, work commitments keep them apart, but they remain united by their love for the handmade, a recent interest in scientific illustration and similarly for the sheer diversity of hand printing processes. “I have a soft spot for anything long, time-consuming and physical. As is the case with silkscreen printing, but also ceramics,” Boutaud adds.
Henriette Arcelin - a name dropped not only in the refurbishment of the Selllva and Bairro do Avillez restaurants, but also Felipa Almeida’s pop-up shops - is busy working between the Viúva Lamego atelier and Loja das Congeladas. She is working on a new tile panel ordered in France, as she gets ready to draw her first label for a wine bottle.
February is time to start thinking about poster designs for the April 25 celebrations. We can see last year's as soon as we enter the space. They choose the paper and colours together so the final works play off each other - those of Henriette being more detail-driven, while Catherine’s have a broader, more naïve stroke that alludes to freedom. Yet to come, they’re toying with the idea of organising workshops, without wishing to make it a full-on project.
“This is never going to be a place that’s always open to the public. It will carry on being our own private workspace, but it’d be nice to share our passion and pass on some of what we know,” Arcelin winds up the conversation by saying. As for the sunny days on the way, the pair don’t hesitate - time to roll back the awning, set up a table at the door and bring some beer.
21 Rua Nogueira e Sousa. Visits by appointment. @ascongeladas