8 Things
David Alhadeff, Owner of The Future Perfect

As design-store owner Dave Alhadeff sees it, there’s a distinction between the kinds of craftspeople he is and isn’t interested in: The latter make objects primarily to show off their manual skills, while the former are motivated by a larger concept, a wish to make tangible some abstract artistic meaning. Carving toothpicks into forest animals? Skills. Carving porcelain into vases so mind-bogglingly intricate they appear to be made by machine? Concept. A subtle difference, but one that helps it seem slightly less absurd to picture Alhadeff — who runs The Future Perfect, one of New York’s most well-respected purveyors of contemporary design — roaming the aisles of a Westchester craft fair, chatting up potters and glassblowers. Concept, he explains, is what builds a bridge between pure craft and design. “I’m fascinated by that intersection point,” he says, pointing out that everything in his store has a strong conceptual basis, be it a console by Jaime Hayon or paintings by Patricia Satterlee. It’s what gives The Future Perfect its character.

Alhadeff began moonlighting in the insular world of craft about four years ago, three years after he opened his first shop, in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. “All the industrial designers I was working with were themselves working with very skilled craftspeople — that’s how great design is executed,” he says. “It occurred to me that there were probably people doing amazing work in that realm but not necessarily considering it design.” He began attending said craft fairs and reading craft magazines to search for talent that wouldn’t look out of place on his shelves, and he soon came up with his first show devoted to the subject. “Three Women” opened in November of 2007 and featured new sculptural works in porcelain by Leora Brecher, Lindsay Feuer, and Jennifer McCurdy, who makes the aforementioned intricate vases and whose work Alhadeff still sells in his stores (he recently opened a second outpost in Manhattan). “Jennifer is someone where I see her in the world of craft, and I’m thinking, ‘Why isn’t she collaborating with Rosenthal?'” he says. “Where’s the Jen for Rosenthal line, because I’m dying to see it. That’s exactly the intersection point I’m talking about.”

Of course, he’s the first to admit that’s not really the way the craft market works. Because making things by hand is ultimately the point, craft’s practitioners are happy selling their objects directly to collectors, oblivious to — and likely uninterested in —manufacturing deals that might help them transcend their genre. Even retail isn’t high on their priorities list: “When I talk to some of them and say, ‘I have a store in NYC and want to work with you,’ they’re like, ‘And…?'” Alhadeff says. “I’ve had some great success, but it’s required more convincing with this group than with anyone else. The work isn’t easy to sell; you need a special skill set to be able to describe how it’s made. It requires a level of trust on their part.” Regardless, Alhadeff persists in his efforts to join the two worlds, resulting not only in new craft work in his stores, but also in recent collaborations like the one Lindsey Adelman will unveil at the Manhattan space during ICFF in May. Read more about that project and others in this slideshow of work by Alhadeff’s eight favorite artisans of the moment.

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Jennifer McCurdy: One of the craftswomen showcased in Alhadeff's 2007 "Three Women" show at The Future Perfect, McCurdy makes wheel-thrown and hand-carved porcelain vessels so intricate, they look like they've been made in a mold or even rapid-prototyped.

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Jennifer McCurdy: McCurdy lives and works in Martha's Vineyard and has been making pottery for 25 years. She's the one Alhadeff imagines working for someone like Rosenthal, but he's never broached the subject with her. "When I think about manufacturing — especially the realm of manufacturing craft — this is an interesting place for companies to be looking for talent in," he says. "But these people would never seek out production opportunities. Their world is so insulated that it’s like a little bubble, but they're working exactly the way they want, on their own terms, and it's working for them."

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Pamela Sunday: Based in Brooklyn, Pamela Sunday makes scientifically-inspired ceramic sculptures, each one averaging one foot in diameter or larger. "This is a person who crosses into the world of art, because her work lacks use, it's purely decorative," Alhadeff says. "She strikes me as being less cottage, if you will."

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Pamela Sunday: "I'm personally attracted to her forms, and I find something very soothing in her work," he adds.

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Nancy Callan: Alhadeff was introduced to the work of Nancy Callan through lighting designer Lindsey Adelman, who keeps a studio in the back of his Manhattan store. Callan specializes in Venetian caning techniques and is working with Adelman on several hand-blown glass chandelier collaborations launching at ICFF this May.

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Nancy Callan: This piece, called "Nordic Cloud," will also be on view at the show in May. Says Alhadeff of Callan's work: "The more I’ve learned about glassblowing and glass-making, the more I've come to realize that she makes incredibly technical and difficult maneuvers in glass look very simple and easy."

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Nancy Callan: "She’s been doing work with Lindsey like organic mushrooms growing on tree logs, that sort of thing. I like it when she gets kind of crazy. She does simple abstract really well, but I'm more attracted to kooky stuff," he says.

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Steven and William Ladd: The Ladd brothers are probably the closest thing to celebrities the craft world currently has. "They're doing it a little bit cooler," Alhadeff says. Ex-models born and raised in St. Louis, the brothers get into everything from beading to handbag-making to macrame. Most of their creations come inside the handmade boxes shown here.

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Steven and William Ladd: A 2010 grenade calendar made from paper, fabric, and metal.

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Monsieur Morel: On a tight publishing deadline, we couldn't dig up the whole story of Monsieur Morel, only that he's been making wooden bird calls since he was a child in the mountains of France. "I like to picture him being 80-something and carving up these things," offers Alhadeff. "They don’t look like anything special, but they accurately mimic the sound of a bird in the wild, which he’s gone out and studied. When you're shaking around the flock of warblers, I swear you'd think you were in the woods."

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Monsieur Morel: The other incredible thing about the bird calls: Their packages, which look very contemporary and designed, though Alhadeff maintains there's nothing ironic or trendy about them. The calls themselves are crafted from boxwood, maple, beech, leather, and brass, and can be purchased here.

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Cliff Lee: Prickly Melon vases by Cliff Lee, who was a surgeon until he gave up medicine in favor of pottery in the '70s. "Any of the people on my list represents master craftsmanship in some way or another," says Alhadeff. "But the level of detail Lee is able to execute in porcelain is incredible. He’s got little thorns on his Prickly Melon vase that disappear into the air — you can’t even see the point, it gets so thin," he says.

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Cliff Lee: Lee is currently working on a retrospective next March for the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery, for which he'll exhibit more than 30 pieces. "His work is only for high end collectors," Alhadeff notes.

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Adam Silverman: He's the director of Heath Ceramics in California, but it's Adam Silverman's personal work (under the studio name Atwater Pottery) that Alhadeff loves most. "It fits well into all those Hollywood Hills homes," he says. "Silverman is L.A.'s mid-century modern master."

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Adam Silverman: Tomorrow marks the opening of Silverman's latest exhibition at Heath's L.A. studio and store. Called "Fauna Naeva," it features pots inspired by Spanish bullfighting.

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Peace Industry Rugs: The closest thing to an actual design product on Alhadeff's list of handcrafted favorites is Peace Industry Rugs, whose wares are woven using a centuries-old process by craftsmen in Iran, then sold through the company's California showroom. As much as he wants to carry them at The Future Perfect, the rugs are so high-quality that Peace Industry isn't able to wholesale.

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Peace Industry Rugs: High-end interior designers including Roman & Williams have worked with the company on projects in the past. "The photographs don't do justice to the tactile experience of their rugs," Alhadeff says. "They're wool rugs unlike any other. They're more like big pieces of felt, soft and plush. There's something so unique and odd and wonderful about them."