Last summer, we ran one of our favorite stories to date: a glimpse inside an 1980s-era Scandinavian design book that Seattle designers Ladies & Gentlemen Studio had unearthed while cleaning house. We’d intended to keep going with the column — ostensibly a place where people could show off the strange, beautiful, and mostly out-of-print volumes that populated their libraries — but somehow it fizzled out. We’d been talking this summer about resurrecting it, when at the same time we found out that Joanna Williams, the LA-based owner of the Kneeland textile studio and online marketplace was opening a third branch of her multi-faceted business: a research library, where clients could comb through the curated images Williams has amassed over the years or search through books or magazines focused on graphics, textiles, decorating, and more. We’d found our first subject.
L.A. artist Ben Sanders was already making paintings, drawings, illustrations, and sculptures when he co-founded a collaborative art direction and photography studio, Those People, not too long ago. As if all those mediums weren’t enough, though, the 25-year-old Art Center College of Design graduate recently started making objects, too, in the form of ceramic pots that he finds and uses as 3-D canvases, for paintings of wildly colorful air-brushed faces compiled from playful ’80s-style shapes.
A weekly Saturday recap to share with you our favorite links, discoveries, exhibitions, and more from the past seven days. This week: experimental materials made from chalk and coal (above), a new Book/Shop annex in New York, and our first-ever radio show interview, with Designsponge’s Grace Bonney.
Chad Kouri took his first freelance design gig at the tender age of just 15, but like most creatives, Kouri had trouble at first striking a balance between paying the bills and pursuing his passions. “I moved to Chicago after high school to study design, but knew I didn’t have enough money to finish a four-year program. So I took as many classes as I could and then jumped out to work for a marketing firm, which was not at all fulfilling. I was basically designing junk mail for five years. After hours, I’d work on editorial illustrations or custom typography, but I quickly realized I didn’t enjoy being on a computer 16 hours a day. I started doing collage as a way to break away from screen time. I used to reference a lot of old ads and typography from the ’50s and ’60s, and I wanted to work larger but the pieces could only be as big as a magazine page. That’s how I transitioned to using flat shape and color, and that’s pretty much where I’m at in this experiment of an art career that I have.”
Okay, so we’ve always had a thing for grids and geometrics in the Sight Unseen Shop, it’s true. But when we thought about which new pieces to release in advance of a *huge* shop update we’re currently prepping for the fall — one that will be full of painterly ceramics, color-washed concrete, and cool, polished metals — the playfully patterned items you see here just seemed especially right for summer. They’re by three designers working in three very different materials — Dana Haim in ceramics, Assembly in PVC, and RillRill in marble — and they all share the most Sight Unseen-y characteristic of all: being handmade in small batches by folks whose creativity knows no bounds. What better excuse for a summer splurge?
If the best reason to know the rules is to be smarter about breaking them, then consider the year-old collaboration between designers Albert Chu and Jennifer Myers not so much a violent upheaval but an exercise in playfully tweaking the system. Chu and Myers met while studying at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design — an institution they say reinforced their respect for constraints — and each worked in architecture and launched an accessories line before combining their shared pedagogy into a series of leather and brass pouches. “I think working within, and rebelling against, a set of parameters is actually the ultimate in design fun,” Myers says. Chu agrees: “We love working with fundamentals and trying to introduce a slight deviation,” says the designer of Otaat, which stands for “one thing at a time.” “Harvard was about being restrained in the conceptual and design intervention, that sometimes the most effective and thorough result could arise from a minimal, subtle act.”
There’s much that sets DAMM Design apart from the current crop of up-and-coming American designers, but perhaps the most obvious thing is the town they call home: Brenda and Robert Zurn, the married couple who founded DAMM in 2013, have lived and raised five children in St. Petersburg, Florida, for the better part of two decades. To the casual observer, it’s the most random town to have produced great design since Donald Judd went to Marfa. But as Brenda explains: “Although St. Petersburg used to be known as a retirement destination, the art scene is vibrant, and we live in an area saturated with glass blowers. Chihuly is here; Duncan McClellan is here.” Despite the proximity to so many hot shops, the Zurns only recently began working with blown glass. The majority of their lamps are made from elemental materials — brass, wood, marble, copper, or concrete, often buffed or blackened to bring out the material’s inherent beauty. They deviate from that natural palette in the most delightfully whimsical of ways — an enameled mint terrace meant to evoke the Art Deco aesthetic of their home state, or an ombre motorcycle-paint fade on recycled lighting components. We were so tickled by their work that we invited them to participate in our Sight Unseen OFFSITE event this year (where they put their oldest sons to work as interns) and to share a bit more their story with us in the interview after the jump.
On her Tumblr, Suzanne Antonelli self-identifies as a printed textile designer. But in truth, the Norwich, UK–based designer’s graphics have taken on such a life of their own that Antonelli has begun to be more widely known for the patterns themselves. In her webshop, those patterns are applied to vegetable ink–printed recycled paper notebooks, or, more simply, to giclee A1 posters — the better for adorning the walls of your house, which you’re going to want to do in spades after perusing these images. Of her interest in print-making — and particularly of the repetitive geometries that have become her signature — Antonelli has said: “I first became interested in pattern when I was doing my foundation in Brighton. There was hardly any room in the studio and desks were on a first come first serve basis; I think that the lack of space made me focus more and I produced a lot of really small detailed work on graph paper using tiny dots to make up different blocks of pattern.”