By Glenda McCarthy
Many artistic people realize their passion for art an early age. The opposite is true for Bruno Eduardo Vinhas De Almeida of Brazil, who hated art growing up and would get his classmates to create his art projects in school. It wasn’t until he was a teenager that his burning desire to design was finally ignited. It was his deep affection and concern for his grandmother that sparked a love of craft and design.
“I moved in with my grandparents when I was 11. She (grandmother) would be sewing the whole day and I used to hate the noise of the sewing machine,” he recalls. “When I was 16 my grandfather passed away and my grandmother kind of lost herself. That was when I made myself learn to sew and embroider because I needed to bring her back to life and bring her back to reality. I asked one of her neighbours, who was an amazing embroiderer, to teach me. She taught me the basic cross-stitch and basic stuff that my grandmother knew how to do.”
Every day Bruno would bring samples home for his grandmother to teach him a new technique.
“She started teaching me and that’s what made her snap out of the longing from my granddad passing away. Then I started roughly designing costumes for (drama club) and going around with my grandmother to find fabrics and materials. I’d ask her to sew ‘that’ and show me how to cut ‘this’ better. That’s pretty much when I got into this fancy, amazing work of sewing.”
Bruno’s love of craft and design led him to Ireland in 2010 where he learned to speak English, used a sewing machine for the first time, and further honed his skills.
“I found this quirky little shop in Temple Bar (an area of Dublin) called Lucy’s Lounge. It’s a vintage shop and the owner is the most amazing person I ever met. She is really quirky and has her own style. Half of the things in the shop are made right there in the shop. Dublin was where I started falling in love with sewing, the structure of the garments, costuming, and surface embellishment.”
During his time in Dublin he became involved with the Ark, a cultural centre for children that is home to music, theatre, dance shows, workshops and exhibitions. Bruno volunteered to help with the workshops, this is where he came into contact with supplies not available in Brazil, such as felt. In June 2012, he coordinated a five-day workshop for the Body and Soul Festival in making recyclables into toys for kids.
It was around this time that Bruno got the idea for and started working on his brand – Da Chita with the main focus being custom-made pieces such as clothing and toys for kids.
“I used to design all of the toys and most of them were made from recycled clothes and scraps of fabrics,” he explains. “I’ve had this crazy passion for fabrics ever since I can remember. I love the prints and the way you can manipulate it and the way you can see the fabrics in a different way. If you go through my photos on my Facebook page you’ll see most of my pieces have a lot of different patterns and colours together, which is my passion. Patterns can go together if you know how to pull them together, and that goes against the whole fashion industry – that you can never wear stripes with plaids because it’s cheesy. I think you can!”
After Ireland he travelled through Europe and then spent a couple of months in Portugal, reconnecting with his roots and further learning about fashion.
“My family is from there and I wanted to know my roots. I went to my great-grandfather’s village. It was an amazing experience because they have a lot of museums with old clothes and historical pieces that were made there.”
Bruno and his partner decided to move to the other side of the world, to New Zealand, where they would spend the next three years. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism and Hospitality already under his belt, Bruno ended up working in the hotel industry as an assistant manager. But he felt something was missing. It was at this time he asked himself the age old question – ‘should I work for money or love? Should I follow my passion back to school?’ So, he researched colleges and universities in search of the perfect program, but couldn’t find the right fit.
“I considered one in Vancouver but didn’t like the syllabus because it mostly focused on fashion. I love mixed media pieces and I didn’t think they would allow me to explore that. The other one was in Italy but I don’t speak enough Italian to take a whole course.”
He came across College of the North Atlantic (CNA) online and discovered the Textiles: Craft Apparel & Design program. He applied and found out he was accepted on his birthday, which he says was absolutely the best birthday gift he could have received.
Last year, the 33-year-old packed his bags and moved to Canada to pursue his passion at CNA.
“The Textiles program opened my eyes to a lot of things because I never had proper training,” Bruno says. “I have vices because I do techniques in a different way that is not industry way. It’s been an amazing journey. My teachers are fantastic and they really give you freedom – a controlled freedom – to do your projects, especially for my design and embroidery. They always try to push me.”
He says the facilities at the Anna Templeton Centre, where the program is located in downtown St. John’s, feels like home.
“To anyone who wants to take the Textiles program, I’ll say you’ll spend more time at the Anna Templeton Centre than you will at home. You cook your own meals and everyone is a family there. The building itself becomes your temporary house for two years and that’s how I feel there. There is always someone making something that will inspire you to make something different, or there is someone trying something and they need help. The diversity of people and cultures is the best thing.”
Bruno can see details, texture and pattern in everything around him, so much so that a friend recently told him he sees the world in a different way.
“I can find inspiration in pretty much everything I see because I’m going to see them in a different way. I see details, texture and pattern in everything. We were at a restaurant and I was touching a picture on the wall to see if it was printed or embossed to the wall and a friend said I have opened his eyes to many things he had never seen before. I guess that’s where my mind goes. It goes anywhere I can see a texture or pattern in those things and I’ll see how I am going to change that.”
But for Bruno, his favourite part of the world of design is seeing how people interpret his work.
“I read a quote from Oscar Wilde, ‘It’s the spectator, and not life, that really art mirrors.’ I believe that. I make my art with my own feeling and my own experience, but you will never see that the same way I do because your life experience is a different one. Seeing that transformation from what I feel when I am making a piece, and what the spectator is feeling when he is seeing it, I think that’s the most joyful thing I can get from this career.”
In fact, his work has already been recognized on a national level. In June, he received first place in the 2016 Art Showcase from Colleges and Institutes Canada. There were over 100 submissions from colleges and institutions across the country and Bruno’s rose to the top, receiving first place in the Textile/Mixed Media category.
“It was a surprise for me,” Bruno says of the award win. “It felt like all that happened along the way for me to become a textile artist has paid off. Having an art piece winning a national award was like having faith that art, especially textile art, has its place in the world.”
So what’s next for this promising artist? After completing his final year of studies at College of the North Atlantic in 2017, he would like to remain in St. John’s for another two or three years.
“I want to explore more things that I’ve been learning in the program and I want to be close to the people who are teaching me those things,” Bruno says.
“Canada was always my first choice (of places) to live if I moved outside of Brazil. If the opportunity comes, and the government allows me, I want to move here on a permanent basis. It’s such an inspirational country with so many different landscapes, and nature inspires me a lot so I want to become a Canadian citizen at some stage in my life.”
To see more of Bruno’s work follow him on Instagram @bybrunovinhas.