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  1. 10.16.14
    8 Things
    Peter Nencini’s Instagrams

    Lots of people on Instagram tend to stop us dead in our tracks as we slavishly scroll through our feed, but Peter Nencini has been one of those arresting image-makers since before the app even existed. An illustrator by training, Nencini did away with the confines of pen and paper after graduating from London’s Royal College of Art in the 1990s and today creates everything from typefaces to ad-hoc sculptures. A keen photographer, he has always recorded the stages of his process, first with a point-and-shoot and now with his iPhone, and has long been the proprietor of one of our favorite inspiration blogs. So when I suggested he walk me through 8 Things for Sight Unseen, the stipulation was that it had to be images from his Instagram, and we’d be digging into his thoughts on the app. He asked me to choose the shots, and then he explained them: That is how it went down.

  2. 09.04.14
    8 Things
    Andy Coolquitt, Artist

    “It was a weird thing for a kid growing up in a Baptist family to collect,” says Andy Coolquitt of the whiskey bottles that formed his earliest stockpile. “I was interested in the beautiful, sculptural shapes of the bottles and the graphic design of the labels. It was something we didn’t have in our house, so it was a bit exotic. I had them displayed in this little cave-like space off the garage.” The now Austin-based artist was raised in Mesquite, Texas, in what he describes as a “bland, boring suburban existence,” with little “interest in visual culture.” Rebellion came in the form of “having a whole lot of stuff around me and letting that stuff dictate my aesthetic.” Since then, Coolquitt has literally turned obsessive scavenging into an art form. Metal pipes and tubing, plastic lighters, aluminum cans — these are just a few of the found materials he repurposes and transforms, setting them up in conversation with each other and giving them a life-like, almost human quality.

  3. 07.25.14
    8 Things
    Svenja Specht of Reality Studio, Fashion Designer

    Having graduated from fashion school in Dusseldorf, Reality Studio founder Svenja Specht still wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life, so she decided to study product design. (Her thesis project was a designy tampon dispenser, which she presented to the class in the university bathroom.) In the midst of those studies — during which she also interned for Jean-Marie Massaud in Paris — she took classes in photography and graphic design, the latter of which she practiced for four years at ad agencies in Beijing after finishing school for good. “I wanted to see and learn as much as possible,” she says of that time. But having had all of those experiences, she recalls, it was New Year’s Eve of 2000-2001 when “it came to me suddenly, just like that, that I needed to go back to fashion somehow.” And so she packed up, moved to Berlin, got a job as a trend forecaster, and three years later launched a clothing line that was every bit as eclectic as her own background, if not moreso.

  4. 06.16.14
    8 Things
    COS’s 50 Things From America Project

    Each spring when we head to Milan, there are two must-see stops on our agenda that aren’t strictly part of the furniture fair circuit. The first is lunch at the no-frills Latteria, where we gorge ourselves on raw artichokes and lemony pasta with chili peppers. The second is the COS flagship on Corso Venezia, where we’ve been known to spend hours stocking up on the kind of simple, directional wardrobe staples that are the London-based brand’s bread and butter. For years, COS has been the secret weapon of pretty much every design-world tastemaker we know, and it’s become an excellent source as well for keeping up with what’s new in art and design, what with its print magazine from the people behind Fantastic Man and its blog highlighting work by talents like Chen Chen & Kai Williams, Charlie Schuck, and Julian Renault. When we heard COS was finally coming to America — stores in New York and L.A. are forthcoming this fall, and an e-commerce site is already up and running — we were thrilled. To celebrate the launch in its inimitable fashion, COS recently launched a project called “50 Things: A Collection of Things We Love From America,” which includes a mix of Sight Unseen regulars (Bec Brittain, Doug Johnston), amazing new discoveries (we’re obsessing over Utah’s Daniel Everett), and odes to some of the country’s most beautiful examples of architecture and natural phenomena.

  5. 04.02.14
    8 Things
    Seattle Still Lifes, By Photographer Charlie Schuck

    Every creative scene has an unseen hand, the type of person who seems to know everyone, touch everything, and generally act as the glue holding it all together, all while falling just below the radar of the average outside observer. In the Seattle design world, Charlie Schuck fits that profile to a tee. A photographer and the proprietor of the former brick and mortar storefront Object — which he filled with commissions by designers from around the Pacific Northwest — he not only produces stunning product shots for locals like Totokaelo, Iacoli & McAllister, Ladies & Gentlemen Studio, and Filson, he also curates exhibitions, like the recent pop-up Future This Now and an upcoming museum survey of regional talents. He’s so committed to his role, in fact, that when we approached him about doing a story on his own work, he came back with the idea to do a photo essay on everyone else’s: “A still life series of personal items that speak to the influences of Seattle creatives,” he says. “Objects from those who produce objects.”

  6. 08.12.13
    8 Things
    Michael Klein of Toronto’s MKG127 Gallery

    According to Canadian curator Michael Klein, when people think of art in Vancouver, they think of photo-conceptualism. When they think of Winnipeg, it’s the Royal Art Lodge, the drawing collective founded in 1996 that launched the careers of talents like Marcel Dzama. But Toronto, on the other hand, resists such classifications — it’s one of the most diverse cities in the world, says Klein, and the same can be said for its art scene. So why do we automatically associate the city with the kind of clever, minimalist conceptual work that Klein shows at MKG127, the gallery he founded there in 2007? Blame the artist Micah Lexier — we covered his amazing A to B installation on Sight Unseen in 2010, and then proceeded to fall down the MKG rabbit hole, marveling both at the subtle, obsessive-compulsive thrills that characterize many of the works shown there and at the weird cohesiveness of Klein’s vision.

  7. 07.16.13
    8 Things
    Jonathan Nesci, Furniture Designer

    When Jonathan Nesci was 23 — with a one-year-old at home, and working as a forklift operator at FedEx in Chicago while attending night school for 3-D drafting at a community college — one of his coworkers gave him a fateful nudge: “He knew I wanted to design furniture, and he was like, ‘You can do it!!’,” recalls Nesci, now 31. And so he cold-emailed Richard Wright, founder of the eponymous Chicago auction house, and promoted the heck out of himself until he landed a job managing Wright’s restoration department, where he stayed for five years before founding his own studio in early 2012. As he tells it, his cheerleader at FedEx deserves substantial credit for inspiring him to take the leap that changed his life. But to know Nesci is to realize that no matter what happened, the results would have been the same — he was destined to be a designer.

  8. 04.08.13
    8 Things
    Judith Dolkart, Chief Curator of the Barnes Foundation

    In 2002, when the Barnes Foundation announced a plan to move from its original location in Merion, Pennsylvania, to nicer, big-time architect–designed digs in Philadelphia, there was a bit of an uproar. How, devotees of the collection wondered, could anything ever replicate the obsessiveness with which Alfred C. Barnes — the quirky early 20th-century art enthusiast who amassed the collection — originally arranged things? When the new building, designed by Tsien & Williams, opened last year, those people breathed a sigh of relief at its apparent fidelity (every room is the same dimension as its counterpart in Merion, and everything was reinstalled to one-sixteenth of an inch.) But here’s something even more freeing: visiting the Barnes as we did, knowing next to nothing about the whole endeavor and therefore being able to judge the collection on its own merits. The verdict? We both fell kind of in love with the place.

  9. 04.05.13
    8 Things
    Bodega Gallery Press

    Just walking into Bodega Gallery in Philadelphia’s Old City and being greeted by one of its five cool, young founders — or browsing its online archive of past exhibitions, which is peppered with names like Sam Falls and Travess Smalley — you could easily file it alongside similar edgy, high-brow art establishments in cities like L.A., New York, or Paris. And then you find yourself conversing with a few of said cool, young founders (all of them artists themselves and graduates of Hampshire College), and you hear them say things like “stuff is for sale if people want to buy it, but that’s not the driving force,” or “this is just a space — everything happens around it, and nothing happens at it,” and you realize that the economics of a place like Philly can be even more freeing for projects like this than you’d imagined. Bodega really is just a space, one that’s run by Elyse Derosia, Ariela Kuh, Lydia Okrent, James Pettengill, and Eric Veit, but where it feels like almost anything could happen.

  10. 03.19.13
    8 Things
    Katrin Greiling, designer and photographer

    Katrin Greiling’s work as a designer has taken her to the deserts of the UAE and further east still to the jungles of Indonesia. The Munich native’s designs often have Nordic bones, but they’re made by hand in small workshops thousands of miles away. Her work as a photographer — an intended hobby that has morphed into a career — is also in high demand. But what makes the mind of this multi-disciplinary, globetrotting creative tick?

  11. 07.18.12
    8 Things
    Roanne Adams, Founder and Creative Director at RoAndCo

    If you’ve been to one of her fashion presentations or received one of her elaborate invitations in the mail, you might be surprised to hear graphic designer and art director Roanne Adams describe her business as “not the edgiest design firm.” This, after all, is a woman who’s so well known for her career-launching work for emerging fashion stars like Abigail Lorick and Timo Weiland that brands often come crawling to her for infusions of downtown cool. Yet if she’s managed to turn RoAndCo into one of the most up-and-coming boutique firms in New York at the moment, it’s because her little-known clients like Rachael Ray and Zappos have just as much respect for her work as folks like TenOverSix do, which has a lot to do with Adams’s instinctive approach to design: Rather than competing to be the most avant-garde kid on the block, she prefers putting new twists on familiar ideas from the past, researching a brand’s history or creating narratives around those who don’t have one. Her inspirations, as enumerated in the pages of our book Paper View and elaborated on here, run to the likes of Guy Bourdin and ’70s advertising icons. “I”ve always been more into Paul Rand and Herb Lubalin than contemporary designers,” Adams says.

  12. 12.07.11
    8 Things
    Despina Curtis, Stylist

    Despina Curtis is in her early 30s, and yet when she talks about her college days, it sounds a bit like one of those stories your grandparents tell about having to walk shoeless through the snow to get to school every day. Curtis studied printed textile design at the University of Manchester, and it was only when she left that the program’s first-year students were beginning to use digital design and printing tools — she had to do everything analog, even when it came to her eventual focus on huge 6-by-6-foot canvases layered with painting and screenprints. And yet, unlike hyperbolic ancestral poverty tales, hers had an obvious upside: All that drawing and hands-on work primed her for her current career as a stylist for the likes of Wallpaper and Casa Da Abitare.

  13. 08.29.11
    8 Things
    Autoban, furniture and interior designers

    The Beyoğlu district is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Istanbul, but for centuries, it’s been the Turkish cultural capital’s most modern quarter as well. Beyoğlu got telephone lines, electricity, and a funicular early on; new technologies, fashion, and the arts have always flourished there. So it’s fitting that the creative firm helping to spearhead the growth of modern design in Turkey has all but grown up on Beyoğlu’s cobbled streets. Headed by Seyhan Özdemir and Sefer Çağlar — an architect and interior designer who met as students in the late 1990s — Autoban is housed in a half-baroque, mid-19th-century Italianate building, but inside, the studio is almost seamlessly modern: high-ceilinged and open plan, lined with white marble and fixtureless white cabinets. The only nod to the past comes in the form of old wooden sills that unfurl around the windows of the partners’ offices.

  14. 08.25.11
    8 Things
    Jade Lai, Owner, Creatures of Comfort

    If you ever have the privilege of chatting up Jade Lai, who owns the bicoastal cult fashion emporium Creatures of Comfort, don’t be surprised if she tells you that, after returning from a trip to Morocco last year with no less than 15 carpets in tow, she was struck by the notion that she could totally see herself in the rug business. And when this is followed by the revelation that she’s looking to expand the Creatures of Comfort brand to encompass food, or that she’s been taking pottery classes, or that she hopes to run a bed and breakfast sometime soon, resist the urge to raise an eyebrow — these may sound like the ramblings of a dilettante, but make no mistake, Lai is both hyper-creative and legitimately driven. Consider, for example, the year she spent working as a product developer for Esprit in her native Hong Kong: She took the job after having graduated with an architecture degree, freelanced as a graphic designer, and started her own stationery line in L.A., but proceeded to become so good at it that she could eventually identify a fabric’s contents by touch alone — a useful skill for someone who now designs Creatures of Comfort’s in-house fashion line, and one that would certainly come in handy for any aspiring carpet slinger.

  15. 03.11.11
    8 Things
    Tahmineh Javanbahkt, Creative Director at Artecnica

    For a company that’s become known over the past decade for its ethically responsible products and its work with indigenous artisan communities, it’s surprising to learn that Artecnica’s first product was made from a relatively noxious material like resin. A small, egg-like alarm whose ovoid shape magnified its face, the Dada clock was designed by Tahmineh Javanbahkt, who co-founded the company in 1987 with her husband, the architect Enrico Bressan. “In the beginning, we started out doing mostly architecture,” Javanbahkt told me one day earlier this winter when I visited her home in Los Angeles. “We did Gianni Versace’s office and store; we would do set design for companies like Sebastian. In some of the buildings, we would do panels or dividers in resin, and eventually we made the Dada clock, which is what successfully started us in product design. But now we make it in glass!”

  16. 02.16.11
    8 Things
    Renata Abbade, designer and stylist

    A lot of designers call themselves multidisciplinary, but they’ve got nothing on Renata Abbade. A former stylist for magazines like Purple and fashion brands like VPL, the São Paulo–born, Los Angeles–based designer has spent the better part of the last decade involved in a wonderfully weird array of activities: creating a cult jewelry line in ceramics, dancing on stage at Lollapalooza with the Brazilian band CSS, starring in a series of self-produced dance and workout videos (including one for CSS, in which she wore masks depicting each of the band members’ faces), designing terrariums, landscapes, rugs, tapestries, and fabrics, DJing down in Brazil, and performing with a semi-fictitious band called High Waisted. She refers to herself both as a freestylist and a fashion artist, but in truth, what she’s often creating amounts to something more like performance art, where she is the subject, channeling personal interests and experiences into new and different media. “To me, it feels like I’m only doing one thing, even if I’m involved in a lot of different things,” says Abbade. “Like with the terrariums, it’s basically styling with plants instead of clothes, and land instead of people.”

  17. 01.21.11
    8 Things
    Form Us With Love, Furniture Designers

    Does the world really need another beanbag chair? That was the question that presented itself to the Stockholm-based trio Form Us With Love when they visited the factory of Swedish furniture manufacturer Voice in the summer of 2009. “We were led on a tour of the facilities by the managing director,” they say. “Upon arrival at a production line of beanbags, the director stopped. The facility, once churning out bags by the minute, now stood motionless. Trend and low-quality copies had severely stunted production. The brief was concise — design a piece of furniture that would make the machines run again.” The group — made up of Jonas Pettersson, John Löfgren, and Petrus Palmer, who met as students in the first-year design program at Kalmer University — responded the only way they know how: By stripping the beanbag of its passé, dorm-room connotations, and using a powder-coated wire frame and a sophisticated color palette to recast it not as a piece of childhood ephemera but as a contemporary take on the easy chair, fit for any modern-day living room.

  18. 01.14.11
    8 Things
    Dokter and Misses, Furniture and Fashion Designers

    There’s a lot that’s hard for Westerners to understand about Adriaan Hugo and Katy Taplin, the husband and wife who make up the South African furniture and fashion duo Dokter and Misses. First, there’s the fact that they hail from Johannesburg, a city whose art scene has held sway in the international market for years but whose few industrial designers are hardly household names. Then there are their references, which remain resolutely sub-equatorial: In our interview, we talked about game reserves, braais (the South African term for barbecue), a Nigerian dancehall/reggae musician named Dr. Alban, and an artist who uses the techniques of the Ndebele tribe, from the Mpumalanga region of the country. Perhaps most confounding is their name, which mixes English and Dutch honorifics and calls to mind everything from sci-fi movies to secretaries — and which the two refuse to explain. It’s lucky, then, that their work is so instantly likable and wonderfully easy to grasp.

  19. 12.17.10
    8 Things
    Stephan Jaklitsch, architect

    In the world of retail, there is a tendency towards sameness, a familiarity designed to lull shoppers into a complacent state in which they might begin to feel it’s okay to spend a lot of money. A Zara, anywhere in the world, is immediately identifiable by its gold-toned lighting and rows of shoes lined up haphazardly underneath the clothes; a Marni boutique leaves its mark with swooping stainless-steel rails and elliptical cutouts in the ceilings. As a brand, Marc Jacobs has never been about uniformity, though — this is a fashion designer, after all, who’s gone from the most infamous collection of grunge in history to the luxurious heights of Louis Vuitton — so why should his stores? “There are certain iconic elements that are repeated,” admits Stephan Jaklitsch, the New York–based architect who’s been responsible for Jacobs’s bricks-and-mortar for more than 10 years, “but in general, each store relates to its own specific building type, to the city’s specific urban condition, and to the architecture of the individual space. Although they’re identifiably connected, every one of them has a particular feel.”

  20. 12.01.10
    8 Things
    Rich, Brilliant, Willing, Furniture Designers

    If there’s one thing that’s defined a Rich, Brilliant, Willing product since the studio’s three members graduated from RISD in 2007 and banded together to make furniture, it’s the idea of the mash-up. In most of their pieces, seemingly disparate materials and odd colors come together in a sort of joyful schizophrenia — a lamp with differently colored, awkwardly placed dowel legs, a wood-and-metal coat rack with copper, steel, and plastic pegs, and even a candle holder crowded with tapers, birthday candles, and fat, number-shaped votives. But a funny thing happened this spring: The trio released a series of cast-glass pendant lights with the Los Angeles–based design company Artecnica that were notable not only for their pretty, industrial aesthetic but for their adherence to a single, monochromatic material. “It’s unusual for any object to made of a single part these days,” says Theo Richardson, who with Charles Brill and Alex Williams makes up the trio, their surnames forming the basis for the studio’s cheeky name. “Most of the time, things are glued together, screwed together. But for us, this was going from assemblage work to something that’s made of a single piece.”

  21. 11.19.10
    8 Things
    William Hundley, Artist

    The artist William Hundley — known for photographing plumes of fabric hovering enigmatically in mid-air and strange objects balancing atop cheeseburgers — recently began experimenting with self-portraits. Which wouldn’t be out of the ordinary, except that Hundley happens to hate letting people know what he looks like, so he obscures the photos of his face with collages of weird body parts and other incongruous images. He’s also been playing with masks, shooting the results of elaborate tribal-inspired face-painting sessions with his fiancée. “There’s this perception that I’m this badass artist who doesn’t give a fuck, this imagined character,” says Hundley, a boyish Texas native who lives deep in the suburbs of Austin. “But I work at a hospital in IT. So that’s why I don’t like putting images of myself or a biography out there — I mean look at me, I’m all-American white-boy looking. It would ruin the illusion.”

  22. 11.12.10
    8 Things
    Jill Singer, Co-Editor

    In honor of Sight Unseen’s first anniversary, we, the editors, decided to turn the lens on ourselves, revealing what inspires us as writers about and champions of design and art. If you’re an especially devoted reader of Sight Unseen, you might have noticed that Monica — who spent her childhood putting bugs under a kiddie microscope and was at the head of her high-school calculus class — often tends towards subjects inspired by geometry and science, while Jill — whose love for color and pattern likely began with an uncommonly large novelty earring collection — favors maximalist, throw-every-color-at-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks types. We were interested to see how those formative experiences would play out in a documention of our own reference points. Here’s a closer look at eight of Jill’s editor’s picks.

  23. 11.12.10
    8 Things
    Monica Khemsurov, Co-Editor

    In honor of Sight Unseen’s first anniversary, we, the editors, decided to turn the lens on ourselves, revealing what inspires us as writers about and champions of design and art. If you’re an especially devoted reader of Sight Unseen, you might have noticed that Monica — who spent her childhood putting bugs under a kiddie microscope and was at the head of her high-school calculus class — often tends towards subjects inspired by geometry and science, while Jill — whose love for color and pattern likely began with an uncommonly large novelty earring collection — favors maximalist, throw-every-color-at-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks types. We were interested to see how those formative experiences would play out in a documention of our own reference points. Here’s a closer look at eight of Monica’s editor’s picks.

  24. 10.01.10
    8 Things
    Jens Martin Skibsted of Biomega

    As the founder and creative director of Biomega, Copenhagen’s Jens Martin Skibsted is one of the most respected names in bicycle design. But to hear him tell the story of how he got there, you’d think he’d done everything in his power to avoid that fate. After believing for most of his life that he would grow up to be a poet, he decided to study film in Paris — “writing sci-fi movies about giant ants” — then dropped it altogether and took up philosophy for six years. It was during that time that he took a trip to Barcelona with his girlfriend and was struck by the random conviction that he ought to start a company making city bicycles. “I started drawing bikes, but tried to forget about it because I have so many ideas, and I can’t do everything,” recalls Skibsted, who as a child filled notepads with inventions like chopsticks connected at one end, many of which he says exist now. “But this was one idea I couldn’t really forget.”

  25. 09.15.10
    8 Things
    Fashion Designer Kristen Lee of TenOverSix

    Most people, if given the luxury of a third bedroom in a house they share only with a spouse, might choose to turn it into a guestroom, or a studio, or maybe a study. Kristen Lee, a stylist and co-owner of L.A.’s fashion and design emporium TenOverSix, turned hers into a walk-in closet. Step inside and you’ll discover rolling racks of designer and vintage, scarves tossed carelessly around a dress form, shoes lined up in neat little rows, a steamer in the corner, and accessories spilling out over the dresser. And yet for someone so clearly attuned to and obsessed with fashion, it’s not the clothes you first sense when you enter the Ed Fickett–designed, mid-century, Nichols Canyon home she bought last year with her husband and then “renovated the shit out of,” as she says. It’s the incredible proliferation of art. Stephen Shore, Banksy, Leopold Seyffert, Nan Goldin — and that’s just in the living room.