Daniela da Silva Ferreira’s art is born out of a rich cultural heritage that combines land and sea. At its core is a desire to protect the ocean and its resources. 

WORDS Sophie Sadler

Watching her grandmother cook or witnessing animals being slaughtered to feed the family – rituals to celebrate food and gratitude– still deeply resonate with Daniela.

This cultural imprint led her to experiment with a vast range of art mediums. Yet underlying all of her art is the desire to explore what it means to be Portuguese.

“I grew up fishing in the lagoon and ocean on Foz do Arelho. That culture was a part of my upbringing. My grandmother taught me things that came from ancient wisdom and my grandfather was a chef so the preparation of food was really important. I now see the value in the poverty that the older generation had. This way of life is in my veins, so it is what I want to show in my work.”

Though Daniela felt rooted in the Portuguese way of life, she also had a thirst to explore international culture. She loved Shakespeare, opera and art and eventually earned her degree in glass and ceramic design. During her final year, she took part in the Erasmus scheme. This took her to Venice in 2010, where she settled for eight years and continued to develop her artistic style.

Her childhood memories of sacrificing an animal to eat where nothing was wasted (even the bones were boiled to make soap) stuck in her mind. Between 2015 and 2018, much of her art focused on exploring animals by using taxidermy in her art. “I used skeletons, bones and horns, so nothing was wasted, and I used my artistic expression to celebrate their existence.”

Daniela became an established member of Venice’s artistic scene. In 2014, she held the artistic residence at the Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa as the referent of an art collective and won the Museu Carlo Zarli ceramic contest. 

Despite this, she left everything behind when she felt her roots calling for her to return to her homeland. In Portugal, she settled in Raposeira in the Algarve. “A lot of this place reminds me of my childhood,” she says. “I hear the dogs barking, families arguing, fishermen leaving in the early morning – this is the Portuguese way.”

She started imagining how she could transform her artwork to reflect her heritage. Thus the Luzalba brand emerged from her primaeval awareness of her history. 

Luzalba is an artistic brand focused on sea culture, exploring and cataloguing local resources by creating unique art prints and design products. 

Her first exploration into using fishing products to create something came out of simply making a necklace for herself. “I know from my childhood that fishing knots are a huge skill. I have used this knowledge to create a necklace that is an extension of my body, which I can make bigger or smaller depending on what I am doing.” She uses gemstones that have healing properties and has just launched a special edition using old nets recovered from fishing reels. “The next goal is re-using the ghost nets washed up on the beach.”

Her craft involves intertwining two lines, which are waxed together, and then fixed with a flexible knot. These versatile and natural products are a celebration of the earth and the sea.

Although she grew up surfing, Daniela’s passion is now for diving. It brings her an appreciation for the power of the ocean, and she and her boyfriend enjoy spearfishing in their spare time. It is these catches that inspired the next part of her artistic project.

She uses the whole fish to print an image on fabric in a traditional Japanese method called Gyotaku. This technique dates to the 1800s and was originally used to record fishermen’s catches. Printing fish with organic inks, including squid ink, or developing natural elements using old prints, Luzalba’s products pay tribute to the Portuguese sea and its fishing communities.

To get the desired effect, Daniela rubs the ink with her fingers into the fish scales. Then she uses the fabric from old sheets she collects locally to transfer onto the fish and create an impression. The concept reinterprets traditional fishing methods, raises consciousness about the seas (and being part of their conservation) and promotes their sustainability.

The higher goal is to create a catalogue of local fish, which she also digitalises. Her boyfriend, Matthew Falkous, is a marine biologist so she hopes she can create a working community of professionals who value the natural resources of the ocean. “My process registers the textures and details, the size, all things which could be useful to scientists in the future. It is not just about creating art to sell.”

She only uses fish that she or her friends catch as she wishes to create sustainable art. “The other day we swam with an octopus and appreciated its beauty and just let it swim away. We also need to protect fish so they are there for our children. My aim is to make my artistic research more accessible.”

Luzalba is now a trademark with a certified artisanal production, specialising in art prints and jewellery products. She enlisted the help of Fabrica de Empreendedora to apply for the Cartão de Artesão and become a protected member of Profissão de Cultura. “They helped mentor me to bring all my ideas together into a registered brand and apply for a grant.”

As engaged as she is with ancient traditions, rituals and esoteric processes, she is also embracing future technologies by putting her images on NFTs (Non-fungible token), the future way of selling art, which can be purchased with cryptocurrency.

She is also engaged with passing on her knowledge to future generations – she is an art teacher in the Aljezur International school and confesses to being passionate about her students and feeling very connected with them.

Daniela represents the evolving aesthetics and culture of Portugal. Deeply sensitive to her environment and culture, she embodies the Portuguese values and traditions, which she celebrates with an artistic awareness and sensitivity that is both beautiful and practical.

Website: luzalba.one

Shop: www.luzalbashop.com

Instagram: @luzalba.art (art projects)

Instagram: @luzalba.jewelry (jewellery collections)