It seems fitting that we were first introduced to Elyse Graham’s Geodes during our Hotel California show at last year’s Noho Design District. After all, there’s something distinctly Californian in the born-and-bred Los Angeles artist’s work. In her Geodes project, for which Graham casts layers of colorful urethane around a balloon mold, there are hints of the desert, psychedelia, yoga, and the wind. If that all sounds a little fuzzy, the objects themselves are not: Sawed open, they reveal incredibly beautiful swirls of color and texture that are the result of a process that’s somehow both carefully calibrated and entirely left to chance. We asked Graham herself to explain how she achieves that effect, and to take us through her entire process.
“I always wanted to be an artist; I just didn’t quite know how. I also make jewelry, and for a while my game plan was that a jewelry business could support my art practice. But I found that starting your own business really takes away from art making! About three or four years ago, though, I realized I could make jewelry and sculpture from the same material: I was doing some experiments with resin, and I found this urethane that I now use for the majority of my work.”
“The Geodes project actually came out of being a young woman living in Los Angeles with no prospect yet for a husband or kids. I wondered, ‘When is this stuff supposed to happen?’ I wanted to find a way to quell my panic and anxiety about the future, so I decided to find a way to stop time. I started with the most basic thing — the breath. I would blow up these balloons and watch them shrink over time. Blowing up balloons and expelling this breath or fear and watching them slowly change over many months kind of gave me a sense of peace. Like, ok, I’m changing, time moves slowly, everything’s going to be ok. After I spent some time making these temporary sculptures, though, I still wanted to see if I could truly capture that breath — if I could save time, find a way to seal it in, make a moment last, do the impossible, really. I started experimenting with materials and I came across this urethane, which is meant for casting. It’s a very quick-setting plastic that’s used for making things quickly, like if you need to see a prototype really fast.”
“I started brushing it on and pouring it eventually, and I found that because it sets so quickly, I’m able make it stick to the latex of the balloons, which usually don’t stick to anything. I was able to work quickly, which is important to me; I’m just as impatient as can be. It’s taken me quite some time to get the hang of it. When you start using a material that’s not supposed to be used that way, typically when you run into problems, people are like, ‘Uh, I don’t know!’ So it’s been a lot of trial and error. But part of what’s exciting to me is that it’s experimental. I’m making something that I have no idea what it’s going to look like in the end. That’s a really important aspect to my practice. There’s a certain moment where I have to just give it over. I can make the shape and then I have to wait and see what the shape becomes.”
As traditions go, you can't get much better than the one that will commence this Friday in the window of the tiny Great Jones butcher shop Japan Premium Beef: An annual display of custom meat-themed installations, rendered in various incongruous materials. It started during the 2010 Noho Design District, with the delicate glass sausages that won Fabrica's Sam Baron a similar commission for T magazine earlier this year. And it will continue for 2012 with a series of inflatable meat balloons — whose prototypes are pictured above — that are being specially created for us by the Chicago designers behind the Balloon Factory project. We asked Caroline Linder, Lisa Smith, Michael Savona, and Steven Haulenbeek for the skinny on their savory new creation, which we invite you to visit this weekend at the Noho Design District.
Whatever Fabien Cappello's studies at ECAL may have taught him about luxury, his subsequent grad degree at the RCA may have un-taught him: The London-based designer has made stools carved from trashed Christmas trees, Venetian glass vessels melted onto lowly bricks, and benches constructed from shipping pallets or punctuated with cheap street-vendors' umbrellas. That's not to say, of course, that Cappello's work isn't high end — it's been shown at the likes of Libby Sellers Gallery and has won him an Elle Decoration New Designers Award — just that the materials and ideas he sees value in wouldn't exactly be considered the norm. If he's come a long way since setting up his own studio in 2009, it's because his focus on local and overlooked resources has captured the curiosity of the design world, not just its eyes or its wallets. That said, with the world headed where it's headed, his style of economical chic may become the new luxury before long, so we figured he was worth checking in with. He gave Sight Unseen a quick glimpse into his practice below.
Before the show Alley-Oop opens at L.A.'s Poketo store this coming Saturday, you should take a moment to thoroughly examine the portfolios of its two Portland-based collaborators, illustrator Will Bryant and furniture designer Eric Trine. Because think about it: How easy is it to picture the results of a collaboration spanning the two disciplines? Especially when Bryant's work is so crazy vibrant — full of squiggles and anthropomorphized hot dogs wearing neon sunglasses — and Trine's is so very understated, albeit with a lot of cool geometries in the mix. Alley-Oop is like one of those software programs that lets you crudely merge the faces of two people to find out what their child might look like at age 5, though perhaps a better metaphor would be that it's like what would happen if you pumped two designers full of methamphetamine and locked them in a room together for 48 hours with nothing but some spray paint and a welding gun. Actually, that's not too far off from how Bryant and Trine describe it themselves. See our interview with the pair after the jump, along with the first preview images of their collaborative work — which hopefully won't be the last.