Back in 2009, Kelly Rakowski was a graphic designer at Todd Oldham in New York, and Alex Segreti was living in Philadelphia, working in the textiles department at Urban Outfitters. In her free time, Rakowski ran a blog called Nothing is New, for which she scoured image archives on the web, unearthing old exhibition catalogs, classic spreads from magazines like Domus, and vintage ceramics and textiles. Segreti had a blog as well, called Weird Friends, where she documented similar obsessions: craft, pattern, art, ceramics, textiles, and dogs. The two had never met, but when Rakowski emailed Segreti on a whim one day to tell her how much she liked her site, they began to bond; when both expressed a desire to learn how to weave by hand, they decided to embark on an experiment. They shipped each other yarn, so they’d have the same palette to work from, and a few months later Rakowski made the trip to Philly. They had dinner, retired to Segreti’s apartment, and showed each other their weavings. “They kind of looked the same,” Rakowski remembers. “It was crazy. Now we always come up with the idea together but work separately, and when we meet, we forget who did what because everything magically works.” The two eventually made their design partnership official, merging the names of their online identities into a fitting moniker: New Friends.
When we visited their Brooklyn studio (i.e. the front room of Rakowski’s former apartment) one weekend this winter, the two were working on their first real collection. Called Best Woof, it incorporated small weavings, works on paper, and silkscreens of those weavings on paper and canvas. “We wanted to limit our palette a bit to make it different,” says Segreti. “Before, it was really colorful and crazy; now it’s black, white, and gray with little pops of color.” The collection has since sold out, and two are crazily busy, creating new large-scale weavings for stores like Totokaelo and creating a forthcoming book for Bodega Press in Philadelphia. They took a break to show us around the studio and to offer us a quick lesson in how to build a simple frame loom in order to cop their style at home.
A version of this story originally appeared in Paper View, Sight Unseen’s recent printed edition. For more behind-the-scenes access — plus a tutorial on how to build a frame loom and create a New Friends-style weaving yourself — pick up one of the few remaining copies of our book, available here.
For Heather Chontos, painting is like dreaming — a chance to work out all the things that trouble her during the day. Except that what troubles this free-spirited prop stylist and set designer is mostly just one thing: the domestic object. She once spent three years feverishly painting nothing but chairs; she made a series of drawings called "Domestic Goods Are Punishing." It's a kind of love/hate relationship. "It's endemic to stylists everywhere — you see things, you want them, you horde them all," says the 31-year-old. "It's that weighing down I really struggle with. When I first started painting, you would have never seen anything figurative, but it's all I obsess over now."
When we first got wind of the new Scandances by Prince Ruth textile collection for Urban Outfitters, we had two questions: Who is Prince Ruth? And what the heck is a scandance? The latter question, we found, was easy to answer: It’s that jittery, seismograph-through-the-lens-of-an-acid-trip effect you get when you manipulate an image while it’s in the process of being scanned. As for the former, we assumed — this being Urban, who has an additional collaboration out this month with Sight Unseen favorite Caitlin Mociun, and who’s previously worked with friends like Rich Brilliant Willing — that Prince Ruth was some under-the-radar designer we somehow weren’t cool enough to have noticed. And in a way, that’s exactly what it is: Prince Ruth is the name of a Brooklyn-based surface design studio run by Zoe Latta, a 24-year-old textile artist and RISD grad whose work is more famous than her pseudonym would suggest.
Inside Kristin Dickson’s store Iko Iko in L.A.’s Echo Park neighborhood, there are polka dot shirts and wooden knitting needles, zig-zag coathooks and Mexican moccasins, ceramic urns and jars of jam. There are selections from Dickson’s crystal and vintage-book collections — the latter with titles like “On Weaving” or “On Fiberworks” — plus pieces from her boyfriend Shin Okuda’s furniture line Waka Waka. And as of this month, these items were joined by a haul of objects from a three-week trip the couple took to Okuda’s native Japan, where the fare spanned vintage textiles to traditional trivets to novelties like toothpaste and black Q-tips. It’s a credit to the pair’s curating talents that the shop nevertheless feels like the product of a coherent vision. “I focus on work that balances high design with craft and traditional processes,” says Dickson. “I want it to be a fun exploration of textures, cultural artifacts, utilitarian objects, and beautiful curiosities.”