Clemence Seilles was only four months into a job at Jerszy Seymour’s Berlin studio when she started to feel it: that restlessness creatives invariably get when they’re unable to fully express themselves. It’s not that the job wasn’t fulfilling — it was, and more — but working fulltime meant Seilles hadn’t yet found a way to devote attention to her own projects. “I had this idea to make a piece that would do the work for me, something that would happen when I wasn’t there,” she recalls. One morning she hung a few felt-tip pens from the ceiling of her apartment, their tips pressed down against a sheet of Chinese rice paper, and left for Seymour’s studio. “When I came back that evening, the work was made.” The pens had bled out in colorful blobs, absorbing into the paper fiber and creating beautiful overlaps.
When we visited her new studio in Berlin two weeks ago, the French designer jokingly referred to the series — which she later titled “Marks on support,” expanding it to encompass the lamps featured in this story — as “a lazy project.” But in fact, it fits perfectly into her fledgling oeuvre. Most of the work she did during her studies at London’s RCA school, and some of what she’s made since graduating last year, puts the passage of time in a starring role. Her thesis, for example, explored the shift in architecture during the last century towards nomadism and impermanence, culminating in her building a temporary dwelling pod in a vacant office building in which she lived and worked for two weeks. “Made In Time” turned the construction of a banal stool into a performance piece, demonstrating the value of craftsmanship by shortening and lengthening the time she devoted to making each one. And for the Osmose lamp, it’s all about spontaneity. “The less preparation you have the better,” Seilles says. “It’s not a decision of the mind making a line or a curve, it’s more like making a stage for a drawing.” You control some of the variables, but gravity and osmosis do the rest. All you can do is know when to stop the process.
Seilles, who also worked for the Dutch artist Joep van Lieshout in between her studies, has lately been focusing on combining off-the-shelf industrial elements with primitive techniques to create new works — like her Matter Lamp, whose rustic wooden tripod supports she hacks out of 2x2s with an axe. And since our visit, she’s begun preparing to turn her studio into a conceptual forest, fashioning the sylvan scene out of everyday office supplies and equipment. Considering Seilles’s talent for putting on a good show, we asked her to demonstrate for Sight Unseen readers how to make one of her Osmose lampshades, from start to finish. The process is documented here.
When he was an art student in the '80s — in Kassel first, and then Berlin — Markus Linnenbrink worked primarily with grays and blacks. “I had no idea what to do with color,” he admits. “And honestly, I was a little afraid of it.” Which is ironic, considering that for more than a decade, the German-born, Brooklyn-based artist has built a body of work that centers around thick streaks of color — painted in stripes on gallery walls, poured in puddles on the floors of art-fair booths and installations, and dripped in lines down the face of his canvases. “Somehow a field trip to Italy where we spent three weeks painting outside got me into the idea of color, but I had a long period where I would mix, like, red and green. I feel like I had to walk through a lot of dirt and mud to get to the brightness.”
Despite what most people imagine, you don't just find 3,300-square-foot apartments in Berlin these days — they have to find you. In Judith Seng and Alex Valder's case, it was a newly divorced friend of a friend, abandoning the loft he'd lived and worked in with his musician wife, and searching for someone who could fill the sprawling space. Seng and Valder, two process-oriented product designers with a habit of accumulating furniture off the street, signed the lease immediately. In May, they moved their home from a 1960s Socialist housing bloc on the historic GDR boulevard Karl-Marx-Allee, then packed up their separate studios, creating a common office in the apartment's living area. There's a dishwasher and a fancy Duravit bathtub, a spare bedroom and a roof terrace. Space may be abundant and cheap in Berlin, but this is not the norm. Friends seeing it for the first time routinely gape.
Imagine you’d never driven a car before. A bike, sure, but never an automated vehicle — until one day the head of the Indianapolis 500 called you up out of the blue, inviting you down to the track to do unlimited test laps under the guidance of his star drivers. That’s pretty much what happened to Belgian designer Sylvain Willenz in 2008, except that instead of cars it was glass, a material with which he was wholly unfamiliar before arriving at the famed European glassmaking research center CIRVA, where he'd been hand-picked for a residency. Slightly less sexy than a Maserati, but a dream for a young talent like Willenz. “A lot of amazing artists have come through here: Richard Deacon, Gaetano Pesce, Sottsass, the Bouroullecs, Pierre Charpin,” he says, speaking from his room at the 27-year-old Marseilles facility, which is funded by the French government. “The idea is not to end up with something, but to try something. They’re very open to people coming here who don’t know anything about glass, like me — and that that’s what’s going to produce something interesting.”