‘Play With Design’ is a new exhibition currently on show at the Centre del Carme Cultura Contemporània—or CCCC—in Valencia. Described as a ‘great cultural vessel’ with a focus on people of all ages, exhibits at the CCCC are broad-ranging: from urban art to opera recitals, there is room for everything.

Play With Design

Play With Design poster by Milimbo.

A part of World Design Capital Valencia 2022, ‘Play With Design’ imagines the playful nature of design through works by an eclectic mix of artistic minds. Showing that design is more present in our lives than we realise, ‘Play With Design’ focuses on design (and its didactic capacity) as a tool for learning and development. Curated by Milimbo, a Valencia-based graphic studio set up by Trinidad Olcina and Juanjo Oller, the exhibition’s designers include: Fredun Shapur and Antonio Vitali, Bruno Munari and Enzo Mari, Paul Farrell and Isidro Ferrer (the artist and designer extraordinaire behind LZF’s Big Bird, Smelly Fant, Walking Fish, and Funny Farm).

Funny Farm is one of those wonderfully curious and quirky projects that LZF does so well. The brainchild of Isidro Ferrer, this award-winning artist excels at being truly unconventional. Several years ago, LZF invited Ferrer to develop an idea and a project—there was no specific objective, no pursuit of profit. Playing with the many and varied shapes of LZF’s lamps and some small wooden pieces inspired by their form, Ferrer created the ‘Funny Farm’. Reflecting on the inception of the Funny Farm project, he recalls: ‘Despite what design manuals say, an assignment does not necessarily arise from need; sometimes it does not even seek to find the solution to a problem. An assignment arises from a hunch or a whim. The Funny Farm project is born in a moment of shared joy, its development activated by complicity and trust.’

Isidro Ferrer, Funny Farm

Isidro Ferrer and the funky Funny Farm collection.

Funny Farm

Isidro Ferrer and Carlos Mur work on Funny Farm characters at Mur’s workshop in the Pyrenees.

A madcap family of eighteen individual characters (whose personality traits were crafted by Spanish writer Grassa Toro), the Funny Farm is a relatable, lovable, and wholly amusing bunch of figures. Each figure was handmade by the exceptionally talented woodworker Carlos Mur at his workshop in the Pyrenees.

Smelly Fant, Funny Farm

Just some of the Funny Farm characters, inc. Smelly Fant (front-facing), in Carlos Mur’s workshop.

The Funny Farm led to the creation of LZF’s life-size Smelly Fant, Walking Fish, and Big Bird. Isidro Ferrer blames LZF co-founders Mariví Calvo and Sandro Tothill for their ‘gigantization’, explaining: ‘[Mariví and Sandro] have a unique spatial and scenographic vision and are responsible for the fact that, in this project, I went outside my natural scale.’ The life-size Smelly Fant, Walking Fish, and Big Bird characters are made with a classic woodworking technique used by Fallas artisans called vareta.

(LZF Smelly Fant film credits: Video by Javier Cano and music by Sandro Tothill.)

Visitors to ‘Play With Design’ at CCCC can meet the characters of LZF’s Funny Farm and the life-size Smelly Fant. Kids young and old will doubtless fall for Smelly Fant, who ‘laughs like mad listening to the things kids say when the grown-ups have gone out shopping.’

Play With Design

The life-size Smelly Fant is made with the classic woodworking technique vareta.

Smelly Fant

Smelly Fant and Isidro Ferrer.

‘Play With Design’ is at the Centre del Carme Cultura Contemporània in Valencia until 23rd October 2022.