Sergio Rodrigues - Brazil at the tip of a pencil

Copy and research: Regina Zappa


Mole, an icon of Brazilian design

"A wonderful synthesis of the Brazilian spirit." (Odilo Ribeiro Coutinho)

In 1962, when he decided to hold the "Furniture as an Object of Art" exhibition at Oca, Sergio made a chair that he had been designing for over a year and was named Mole. He said the piece was not well received at the time. With his usual humor, he described the general reaction: "If my drawings were considered 'futuristic,' well then that one could not be qualified at all. A piece of leather on those pieces of wood was just too much. Onlookers standing at the display window would say that is was very expensive to be a dog bed." Others called it a fried egg.

Mole came up against a bitter, discouraging lack of interest in it and was forgotten for a year in Oca's display window. "Instead of beating me up, my partners wanted to keep the chair in the back of the shop, but I decided to face them on that issue because I had a lot of faith in the chair. And it started being accepted by people of a certain cultural level." Until it called the attention of several personalities, including the then Governor Carlos Lacerda, who practically demanded that Sergio send the chair to a competition in Italy. Sergio obeyed, but without much conviction. He even tried to reason with the governor.

"It was a joke to me. I said to him: 'Look, I will not submit this to an international competition. People in Europe are doing work at a very high level, it is not worth it, I only have this piece of wood.' But he insisted, and we sent the drawings in."

A week later contest organizers advised us that Mole could not compete because it was already known. "To me, in and of itself, that was already a diploma, since I was not aware of the fact that the chair was already known in Europe." Sergio then made a small change to the chair, entered it in the competition and it was accepted.

Mole ended up taking first place in the 4th International Furniture Competition, in Cantu, Italy, in 1961. The European press highlighted, in various publications, the casual atmosphere generated by the loose cushions thrown on the Sheriff Chair structure, as it became known abroad. The award put Brazil in a prominent position in design on the world stage. The Sheriff name was given by the licensed manufacturer in Italy, which went on to produce the chair.

Sergio believes that one of the reasons why the chair was awarded was because it was considered one of the first postmodern pieces of furniture. "There was a Brazilianness accent. It was a piece that easily revealed where it had been made. It could only have come from a place where there was a lot of wood and leather. And there was a certain informality in the design," said Sergio to the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, in February 2006.

Illustration by Sergio Rodrigues for the
Illustration by Sergio Rodrigues for the "Speaking about Chairs, 1954/1991 retrospective" exhibition held at the Rio de Janeiro Museum of Modern Art from December 17, 1991, to January 21, 1992.

Millôr Fernandes' drawing of the Mole armchair by for the Oca catalog, 1965.
Millôr Fernandes' drawing of the Mole armchair by for the Oca catalog, 1965.

Sergio Rodrigues on the
Sergio Rodrigues on the "Mole" Armchair, in the 1990s.

Drawing by Sergio Rodrigues illustrating the creation of the Mole armchair.
Drawing by Sergio Rodrigues illustrating the creation of the Mole armchair.