And now for some ridiculously old news: At Design Miami/Basel this past June, the three W Hotels Designers of the Future awardees included Tom Foulsham, Markus Kayser, and Philippe Malouin, each of whom were handed a commission with a very meta, very Sight Unseen-style brief — to devise a project that would somehow illuminate their creative process, like Foulsham’s merry-go-round propelled by balloons and hair-dryers, or Malouin and Kayser’s differing takes on daylight-mimicking lamps. Even if you weren’t in Basel yourself, you probably read all about it earlier this summer, whoop-de-doo. But what you might not have seen is the hefty catalog Design Miami’s organizers produce for every show, which was handed to us belatedly last week during a pow-wow with head curator Marianne Goebl, and which contained an article that was so up our alley we were surpised no one had shown it to us sooner: a photo essay wherein Kayser, Foulsham, and Malouin were asked to respond to questions like “A sketch” and “An object you find useful” by handing over the sketches and objects themselves. Malouin’s response to “Why London?”: A beat-up turntable. Foulsham’s: A nasty hunk of road pavement whose subtext we’re still not quite sure of. Check out the essay in its entirety in the slideshow at right, then bookmark the Design Miami blog to keep up with the fair’s newer news, like who’s going to be this year’s Designer of the Year, which is set to be announced this week.
It’s hard enough to be a young American designer. The lack of government funding means that prototypes must often be self-financed, and the difficulty in working with most European manufacturers means that young design studios frequently end up handling their own production as well. Now try doing it all in Seattle, a city that’s not exactly famous for its flourishing industrial design scene. “When we started working together a few years ago, we felt really removed from the world that might be interested in what we wanted to do,” says Jamie Iacoli, one half of the Seattle-based design couple Iacoli & McAllister, who have become known over the last year or so for a pared-down industrial aesthetic that’s matched with a supreme gift for color — think wrenches powder-coated in bright magenta or wire-frame pendant lights in emergency orange or cyan. “The thing that’s weird about Seattle is that because it’s so laid back, you get people who talk and don’t do. There’s no pressure to create, in part because no one here is buying.”
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.
When Design Miami rolls around each winter, it’s hard to resist the siren’s song of sunshine in December, no matter how much you've decided you hate standing in line for parties or how high the hotel rates might balloon during that frenetic week. We’ve been known to pool resources with friends far and wide in order to hop on flights and hightail it out of New York on the promise of a stolen afternoon at the Standard’s pool, or even a press brunch at some Collins Avenue hotel du jour. But we’ve never made it to the event that started it all: Design Miami/Basel and its legendary accompanying art fair. Lucky for us, then, that we alighted this year on the perfect correspondent: Marco Tabasso, known in design circles as Rossana Orlandi’s right-hand man, who took advantage of a rare two-day break (the gallery sat this year out, after having debuted a massive Nacho Carbonell installation in 2011) to zip around the Swiss metropolis, capturing everything he saw for us on proverbial film.