Toogood’s projects usually begin with a theme she’s been stuck on for weeks. For The Hatch, an interactive installation at last fall's London Design Festival, she says: "I had been on holiday and picked up a book on Memphis. Somehow the Memphis group suddenly made sense to me in a way it hadn’t in the past — the humor, the simple geometric shapes, the colors, the fact that everything wasn’t black and slick and serious. It seemed like a reaction against everything that had come before, and in that way felt relevant. The funny thing about The Hatch is that all these creative people, architects and designers, were coming in and getting stuck, like, ‘Oh no, I have to make it myself?’ It was a joy watching them liberate themselves inside what was essentially a play den.”

Faye Toogood, stylist and creative director

Faye Toogood, the London-based interiors stylist and creative consultant, has designed exhibition stands for Tom Dixon, windows for Liberty, displays for Dover Street Market, and sets for Wallpaper. But in all of her career, she’s had only one job interview. At the tender age of 21, having just graduated from Bristol University with degrees in fine art and art history, Toogood was called for an interview with Min Hogg, legendary founding editor of the British design bible The World of Interiors. “I had found out about a stylist job and decided I would go for it, even though I didn’t even know what that meant,” says Toogood. “I went in and it was the strangest thing. She asked me, ‘Can you sew, and can you tie a bow?’ I actually couldn’t sew, so I lied and when I got the job, I had someone do it for me.”
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Jennifer McCurdy: One of the craftswomen showcased in Alhadeff's 2007 "Three Women" show at The Future Perfect, McCurdy makes wheel-thrown and hand-carved porcelain vessels so intricate, they look like they've been made in a mold or even rapid-prototyped.

David Alhadeff, Owner of The Future Perfect

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.
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“I have a thing for school supplies, but what I love most about old erasers is the typography. It’s actually what I love most about a lot of the things that I collect. I also love the shades of pink and how some are really worn and some are pristine. Erasers this old aren’t really usable anymore anyway, so I feel like I’m rescuing something that would otherwise be thrown away. I have been collecting erasers for years and have a place in San Francisco where I find them fairly easily, but I don’t want to reveal my source. This was the first collection I posted for my project back in January.”

Lisa Congdon’s “A Collection a Day”

On January 1, the San Francisco–based artist and illustrator Lisa Congdon began documenting her various collections on a new blog, A Collection a Day. A new day, a new grouping: vintage Boy Scout cards, delicate sewing notions, paint tubes, plastic charms, erasers, paintbrushes, pencil leads, even — strangely — multicolored buoys. “No, I don’t have a collection of buoys,” Congdon laughs. Or a collection of Victorian shoes, for that matter. As her website explains, while she photographs the collections that decorate her house and studio, "some are imagined; those I will draw or occasionally paint.” Scroll through her site, and you’ll find twigs and toiletries drawn with ink on paper, and, yes, buoys painted with gouache on Masonite.
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"Abstract thought is a warm puppy" —Art Spiegelman: "There's a theory in art that good things come from your stomach and aren't thought about, and I disagree with that exclusion of thinking and of the senses. I like that Spiegelman doesn't exclude it. I used this quote as the name of a 2008 installation I made at the Center for Contemporary Non-Objective Art in Brussels."

Esther Stocker, Artist

It's funny to hear Esther Stocker talk about reading between the lines. The Vienna-based painter is known for manipulating spatial geometry using the framework of the grid — both on canvas and in her trippy 3-D installations — until the mind starts making linear connections that aren't really there, trying to find order in the optically illusive chaos. But that's not what Stocker's referring to. She's talking about Charles Schultz's Peanuts.
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As a print textile designer in the fashion industry, Annie Papadimitriou loves to work with existing patterns and shapes but then alter them beyond recognition. The final pattern for Circles was generated by experimenting in Photoshop with filters, layering techniques, and extreme scales. “In general my work is very colorful and busy,” she says. “For this project I wanted to do something different.”

39.22.’s Wallpaper Designers

Long ago, wallpaper was reserved for royalty — a handcrafted thing made with high artistry and hung with equally high aspirations. But since then, with a few very recent notable exceptions, it's become the ambitionless cop-out of modern-day interior design, a failure blamed on wimpy printing techniques but which probably has to do more with a lack of imagination. Among those getting it right is the Athens-based design collective 39.22., which draws both its name and its stable of talent from its own geographical coordinates.
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"I have always been interested in fashion," Verschueren says. "My parents were both linguists, and they organized congresses all over the world — Mexico, China, South Africa, Australia. My brother and sister and I would go with them, and it was fascinating to see different ethnicities through the lens of fashion."

Alexandra Verschueren, Fashion Designer

At 22, Alexandra Verschueren has interned for Preen, Proenza Schouler, and Derek Lam. She’s been honored by a jury that included former Rochas creative director Olivier Theyskens and the International Herald Tribune’s fashion critic Suzy Menkes. And in the last six months, her graduate collection Medium has been fêted by Wallpaper magazine and the Mode Museum in her hometown of Antwerp. So why, when she applied to that city’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts straight out of high school, did no one expect she’d get in?
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Polderceramics-Atelier NL (01)ope

Atelier NL, Product Designers

Atelier NL’s Nadine Sterk and Lonny van Ryswyck keep a studio in the airy loft of a ’70s-style church in Eindhoven. They live there, too, but you wouldn’t exactly say that’s where they work. More often than not, the designers can be found doing fieldwork, whether that means scouring the area’s secondhand shops for mechanical knickknacks to inspire their more analog designs — like van Ryswyck’s hand-cranked radio — or digging up clay in the Noordoostpolder, an area of reclaimed farmland north of Amsterdam that until the 1940s was submerged under a shallow inlet of the North Sea.
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A look from Kovin's Spring/Summer 2010 collection, shot at her parents' house in Pennsylvania. The fireplace in the background was custom-designed by her mother, and the table is by Ettore Sottsass.

Lauren Kovin, Clothing Designer

Lauren Kovin had one of those creatively privileged childhoods we all dream about: Her father was a graphic designer, her mother an interior designer who stocked their New Hope, Pennsylvania, home with Memphis furniture and modern art. Kovin spent more time in galleries than in shopping malls. An Avedon portrait of a nude Nastassja Kinski hung over the family’s dining room table. Heaven, right? Wrong.
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Mathematically speaking, the Rubik’s Snake — a twistable length of 24 right isosceles triangular prisms — can attain more than a zillion possible configurations. This made it a go-to toy in Dror’s childhood repertoire. “It’s a very simple joinery of triangles, and yet the possibilities are incredible,” he explains. “You keep on discovering new geometries.”

Dror Benshetrit, Designer

This story was originally published on November 3, 2009. A year and a half later, Dror Benshetrit unveiled at the New Museum a simple, scalable structural joint system called QuaDror, which just may turn out to be his magnum opus. It takes obvious inspiration from the kinds of toys he shared with Sight Unseen here. // Some furniture expands if you’re having extra dinner guests, or folds if you’re schlepping it to a picnic. But most of it just sits there, content to be rather than do. This drives New York–based designer Dror Benshetrit crazy. “Static freaks me out,” he’s said, and so the Design Academy Eindhoven graduate has spent the entirety of his young career making things that either capture a state of transformation (his progressively shattered series of vases for Rosenthal) or actually transform themselves (the Pick Chair and Folding Sofa that flatten using simple mechanics). When I first saw Dror’s latest project, a trivet for Alessi whose concentric metal arcs are magnetized so they can be reconfigured endlessly — and even, the designer enthusiasticaly suggests, worn as a necklace — I thought: If he can’t even let a trivet sit still then his fascination with movement must be more than a design philosophy, it’s probably coded in his DNA. I was right. Dror has been obsessed with kinetic toys since he was a child.
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