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  1. 08.11.14
    Excerpt: Book
    Strange Plants by Zio Baritaux

    We’ve all been thinking it, but the Los Angeles writer and publisher Zio Baritaux finally did it — put together a project capturing the prevalence of plants in contemporary art these days. Her new book Strange Plants contains interviews with ten artists of varying mediums who focus on flora in their work — three of which we’ve excerpted below — plus selections from the portfolios of 15 more, including an interlude featuring tattoo artists. Baritaux says she was inspired to create the book not necessarily by the trend she was witnessing in the art world, but by the elaborate gardens full of koi ponds and topiaries that her mother grew when she was a child. “I didn’t really appreciate these gardens until I was an adult, living in an apartment in L.A. with no outdoor space or plants to call my own,” Baritaux says. “There were plants throughout the neighborhood, like night-blooming jasmine and overgrown bougainvillea, but it wasn’t the same. I wanted to experience them. So I brought plants inside my apartment — a hanging terrarium, a potted cactus, and so on. These plants brought back memories and inspired me, just like the art I had hanging on the walls. So it seemed natural to create a book that combined the two.”

  2. 12.20.13
    Excerpt: Book
    Dixonary

    If we had to elect the most Sight Unseen–like book ever published, Tom Dixon’s Dixonary might land at the very top of that list. In the intro he writes, “A book about me? I wasn’t sure I needed one — at least until I am dead, at which point people can write what they like.” But personally we wish this kind of book existed for all of our favorite visual artists. In it, Dixon pairs photographs of his own designs, dating all the way back to his early-’80s punk days, with the images that inspired them, and then tells the micro-stories behind each one. There are obvious pairings (Dixon’s Lustre lights with an oil spill, for example) and those that are more obscure (his 1994 Jack Light with concrete sea defenses from Yakushima Island, Japan). The book fleshes out the more well-known contours of Dixon’s story. For instance, we knew he was a welder, but did we imagine that meant he spent time in the early ’80s making chairs out of things like frying pans and ladles? Those early experiments — so far from the more polished work Dixon creates under his own label these days — are one of the most fascinating aspects of the book, so we’ve excerpted a few of our favorites after the jump.

  3. 11.15.13
    Excerpt: Book
    David Altmejd, from Studio Life by Sarah Trigg

    Sarah Trigg spent more than two years photographing the ateliers of 100 artists around the country for her new book Studio Life: Rituals, Collections, Tools, and Observations on the Artistic Process — including boldfaced names like Carol Bove, Rob Pruitt, Theaster Gates, Tauba Auerbach, and Nick Cave. And yet you won’t see any of their actual artwork in its pages (we’ve added our own to the David Altmejd excerpt below), nor will you see any overall depictions of their spaces. That’s because Trigg, an artist herself, took inspiration from the most important elements of her own Brooklyn studio and decided to exclusively zoom in on any residue, mascots, collected objects, rituals, makeshift tools, and architectural details she found during her visits. “I placed a lens on daily studio life without expecting artists to defend or explain their work,” she writes of her process. “It was crucial, therefore, not to overshadow the results with portraits, artwork, or depictions of the overall grandeur of the studios — all of which have established venues for exposure elsewhere.”

  4. 10.04.13
    Excerpt: Book
    PIN-UP Interviews

    It’s quite nice to write, as we do here at Sight Unseen, for ourselves, but it’s equally — if not sometimes more — fun to write for PIN-UP. When you’re a writer assigned to conduct a Q+A in the “magazine for architectural entertainment,” as I was earlier this year, you take one look at past examples and breathe a huge sigh of relief. Because PIN-UP has always encouraged both writer and subject to be absolutely themselves, and its founder and editor-in-chief Felix Burrichter has always allowed transcripts into the magazine complete with exclamation points, interjected giggles, and tangents about things like Beyonce’s hair, Philippe Malouin’s “lustrous beard” or what kind of stationery is Shigeru Ban’s favorite — in other words, all of the fun, non-jargony things that often make an interview entertaining to conduct but that usually get edited out. This week, PIN-UP Interviews — a book filled with seven years’ worth of those conversations — was published by PowerHouse Books.

  5. 08.22.13
    Excerpt: Book
    Pattern Box

    We were already pretty sold on the idea of Pattern Box — a new postcard box set curated by New York’s Textile Arts Center — which gathers together 100 different prints by 10 of our favorite illustrators and textile designers. We imagined sending off thank yous backed by Eskayel’s dreamy, washed-out blues or get well soons accompanied by Leah Goren’s graphic black cats. (With 100 cards to blow through, even our garage guy might get a holiday bonus paper clipped to Helen Dealtry’s abstract florals.) But then we found the little booklet tucked inside, which contains wonderful, Sight Unseen–like Q&As that delve into the inspiration and process behind each designer and we knew we had to share.

  6. 02.27.13
    Excerpt: Book
    Carl Auböck: The Workshop by Clemens Kois and Brian Janusiak

    Is it possible to love something too much? What about when you’re an avid collector of something that teeters on the line between fame and obscurity? For Austrian photographer Clemens Kois, a longtime devotion for the century-old Viennese design workshop Carl Auböck carried a particularly trying dilemma: He had the chance to make a book that could finally introduce the long-overlooked brand to the mainstream, vindicating his fervor and helping to build up the very collecting market he was engaged in, but that would in all likelihood make it harder for him to acquire the objects he loved so much. Luckily for the rest of us, he chose to follow his passion, joining forces with Brian Janusiak of Project No. 8 and powerHouse Books to create Carl Auböck: The Workshop, which came out this past fall. We’ve excerpted eight of the objects Kois shot for the book, along with their backstories, as told to he and Janusiak by Carl Auböck IV, the latest son to run this multi-generational atelier.

  7. 02.26.13
    Excerpt: Book
    Katrin Greiling’s Tata Lookbook

    The first time Katrin Greiling visited Indonesia, back in 2011 on a Swedish Arts Grant, she arrived, as she always does, with her camera. The Stockholm-based designer got her first camera when she was 10, flirted with the idea of photography school, and now, in addition to her design practice, shoots portraits and interiors for publications like Wallpaper, Abitare, and Form. But photography is more than just a hobby for Greiling. She was in Indodesia to produce a daybed for Kvadrat’s Hallingdal 65 project, but she soon found that she couldn’t stop herself from photographing the rattan production going on in the same furniture workshop, a sheet-metal structure wedged among Java’s dense architecture. “Photography legitimizes me to be in certain circumstances, to come closer to a subject than a normal visitor would,” she says. By photographing the workers and their process, she came to understand rattan’s properties. It suddenly came to her: “Of course I had to work with rattan.”

  8. 02.07.13
    Excerpt: Book
    Irving Harper: Works in Paper

    To say Irving Harper once worked in the office of George Nelson is kind of like saying Hillary Clinton once worked in the office of Barack Obama — Harper’s contributions were almost too many to count. He worked under Nelson for 17 years and was responsible for some of the studio’s — and design history’s — most famous works, including the Marshmallow sofa and Herman Miller’s still-current logo. Rizzoli recently published a book on Harper, but it wasn’t to set the record straight about who did what (there’s long been controversy over Nelson receiving credit for things that were actually authored by Harper.) No, the book, Irving Harper: Works in Paper, reveals Harper’s even more secret life.

  9. 10.24.12
    Excerpt: Book
    Designers of the Future Photo Essay

    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.

  10. 10.16.12
    Excerpt: Book
    Cabinets of Wonder

    Back in 2006, when Freeman’s opened in New York and Jason Miller’s Antler chandelier was selling like hotcakes at The Future Perfect in Williamsburg (it probably still is), that whole taxidermy thing hit hard — stuffed deer heads suddenly becoming the de facto symbol for a style movement dedicated to the return to nature, the embracing of all things old-fashioned, and in many cases, the compulsion to dress like a bearded woodsman. Six years later, some of the less meaningful elements of that trend have subsided, while its obsession with authenticity and craftsmanship have, thankfully, hung on strong. We would also argue for the longevity of another development that arose around that time but strikes us as evergreen: the fascination with curiosities, and cabinets of curiosity, that may have hit its modern fever pitch recently but seems somehow endemic to the human psyche. We are by nature collectors, prone to hunting, preserving, and displaying our treasures both for our own amusement and to impress others. And most of us, too, have a dark side — the kind that can’t help but find beauty in bones, bugs, and dead things, provided they’re presented to us in the right context. That’s why we felt so compelled to share with our readers the contents of a new book out on Abrams this month called Cabinets of Wonder, which is a full-color romp through the world of natural oddities, memento mori, and other dark artifacts.

  11. 04.10.12
    Excerpt: Book
    Max Lamb Outtakes from Paper View, Launching Today

    It’s official: Sight Unseen’s first printed edition, Paper View, is finally out, and we’ve held it in our very own hands. Tonight, we’ll celebrate with Karlsson’s Vodka, whose Unfiltered initiative also officially launches with the debut of our project. But today, we’ve prepared something special for you in honor of the occasion, a series of outtakes from one of the articles published in Paper View: A catalog of Max Lamb’s personal collections, which first ran on Sight Unseen early last year. While the vast majority of the 24 stories in the printed edition are brand new, and won’t be found anywhere else but in its pages, we couldn’t resist including Lamb’s Inventory, which seemed to perfectly encapsulate what we’re all about at Sight Unseen — personal photos of things normally off limits to the general public, depicting not just a series of hoarded objects but a veritable roadmap to Lamb’s design practice. “It’s often the physicality or materiality of these objects that inspires me to try my hand at working with a particular material, or to develop a version of the process used to shape it,” he said in the original interview. For this web excerpt, Lamb dug out five additional images for us and offered quick insights into their contents. Check out his explanations below, then follow the link at the bottom to purchase a copy of Paper View.

  12. 03.02.12
    Excerpt: Book
    The Sight Unseen Book, Part VI

    The launch of the first-ever Sight Unseen printed edition — debuting in April as part of the Karlsson’s Vodka Unfiltered project — is just around the corner. As of today, we’re putting the first 100 copies up for pre-sale in the Sight Unseen Shop, which will ship to buyers on approximately April 13. We’re only printing 400 for now, so click here to grab one while you can! An 88-page softcover designed by Studio Lin, it’s packed with 21 brand new, up-close-and-personal stories on Peter Shire, Anntian, Keegan McHargue, Shabd, Shin Okuda, Wary Meyers, Andy Rementer, Raven & Boar, Cmmnwlth, Sanntu Mustonen, Leutton Postle, Chen Chen and Kai Williams, New Friends, Jade Lai, Nacho Alegre, Patrick Parrish, Brian Janusiak and Elizabeth Beer, Felix Burrichter, Roanne Adams, Roman and Williams, and Sebastian Wrong. Meanwhile, today is your last chance to guess the subject of our sneak peek photograph for a chance to win a free copy.

  13. 02.29.12
    Excerpt: Book
    The Sight Unseen Book

    The launch of the first-ever Sight Unseen book — debuting in April as part of the Karlsson’s Vodka Unfiltered project — is just around the corner. This week, we’re posting sneak peek images and asking our readers to guess who the subject of each photograph might be. Here’s a quote from today’s featured designer, an illustrator and University of the Arts grad who spent some formative years at Fabrica, where he became inspired by these vintage Italian comics: “There is a fun, visually approachable quality to my work but ultimately I try to convey some darkness or satirical angle. If it’s too nice, then it’s boring for me.”

  14. 02.27.12
    Excerpt: Book
    The Sight Unseen Book

    The launch of the first-ever Sight Unseen book — debuting in April as part of the Karlsson’s Vodka Unfiltered project — is just around the corner. Now through Friday, when we’ll go back to business as usual with a story by a brand new Sight Unseen guest contributor, we’re posting sneak peek images and asking our readers to guess who the subject of each photograph might be. Here’s a quote from today’s featured designers, a duo whose colorful Berlin-based fashion line seamlessly incorporates objects like teacups, pillows, and rugs: “I almost always start our prints from photos. I collect structures — for example for the last winter season, we were walking down the street photographing different surfaces from the ground, which gave us ideas for the graphics. Those images were taken out and put together again to create a digital print.”

  15. 02.24.12
    Excerpt: Book
    The Sight Unseen Book

    The launch of the first-ever Sight Unseen book — debuting in April as part of the Karlsson’s Vodka Unfiltered project — is just around the corner. Over the next two weeks, we’re posting sneak peek images and asking our readers to guess who the subject of each photograph might be. Here’s a quote from today’s featured designers, who manufacture their latest product line at the upstate New York woodworking shop shown here: “We have a facility with complex forms, but that’s not appreciated sometimes. For this project, it was almost like let’s work with the dumbest inspiration possible.”

  16. 02.22.12
    Excerpt: Book
    The Sight Unseen Book

    The launch of the first-ever Sight Unseen book — debuting in early April with a bash co-hosted by Creatures of Comfort and the Karlsson’s Vodka Unfiltered project — is just around the corner. Over the next two weeks, we’re posting sneak peek images and asking our readers to guess who the subject of each photograph might be. Here’s a quote from today’s featured designer: “We both nerd out a lot when it comes to materials. We like finding something new and researching it. For a month we were playing around with shellac. Basically it’s beetle excrement, and when you order it really raw, it comes with beetle parts and bark dust still in it.”

  17. 02.20.12
    Excerpt: Book
    The Sight Unseen Book

    Here at Sight Unseen, we typically only take a break from our regular programming in order to retreat to someplace warm and sunny, where we can subsist primarily on fish tacos and beer. But for the next two weeks, we’ll actually be hunkering down in our New York apartments, spinning out stories for the imminent publication of the first Sight Unseen book, which is set to debut in early April as part of the Unfiltered project by Karlsson’s Vodka. We’re especially excited to announce that our book launch will coincide with the debut of a Sight Unseen pop-up shop taking place at the New York branch of Creatures of Comfort for the entire month of April. Both the book and the shop will be populated with amazing work both by makers we’ve already covered for the site, and by those we’ve always longed to feature. Over the next two weeks, we’ll be posting preview images here from some of the book’s features, but we’re leaving it up to you, our readers, to guess who the subject of each photograph might be.

  18. 12.15.11
    Excerpt: Book
    DIY Furniture: A Step-By-Step Guide

    As lovers of and writers about design, there’s one question we’re constantly asking ourselves: How can we get designers to make us their amazing pieces at cost? But what we nearly always fail to wonder is: Would it actually be possible to make these pieces ourselves? DIY Furniture changes all that, presenting 30 projects from the likes of Peter Marigold, Uhuru, Lindsey Adelman, and Paul Loebach, along with blueprints on how to make each one with off-the-shelf parts ranging from plastic water pipes to zip ties (a Sight Unseen obsession, they pop up in at least four projects). The entries range from the ultra-practical (a woven rug made from cargo rope knotted with twine) to the semi-ridiculous (kudos to anyone who attempts Julia Lohmann’s cast-concrete and wool Resilience Table, which the designer created for her solo exhibition at 2008’s Design Miami/Basel and which now sells for an undisclosed sum at Moss).

  19. 11.15.11
    Excerpt: Book
    Where They Create, by Paul Barbera

    Because he’s been doing it since he was 16 — when he used his very first camera to shoot the art studio of a friend’s father — documenting the workspaces of creatives is second nature to Australian photographer Paul Barbera. So much so that he can now identify his own memes: piles of rubbish on a table, trash cans, air conditioners, outdated technology. “How many fax machines have I found that are covered in dust but powered up, just in case I get a fax?” laughs Barbera, whose new book Where They Create and three-year-old website of the same name are full of such telling references. Then there are the potted plants, which are perhaps his greatest weakness: “Whether they’re dead, alive, half-alive, someone’s put ashes into them, or the pot’s cracked, I love it — there’s such variation in that stupid little element.” It’s an inexplicable yet undeniable urge that we’re quite familiar with around here, searching for flashes of personality in unexpected details, which is why we felt drawn to Barbera’s work in the first place (he’s a Sight Unseen contributor). It’s also why we decided to excerpt a chapter of his book, the one devoted to the New York–based designers Cmmnwlth, in this post.

  20. 10.31.11
    Excerpt: Book
    The Dezeen Book of Ideas

    It’s highly probable that the genius of Dezeen lies in its simplicity — an inspiring jumble of random people, products, and buildings fly by in a constant, daily stream, uncluttered with concept or commentary. For most of us in the design industry, it’s like an IV drip of news and information, easy to process and vital for understanding what’s going on in the world outside our studios. On first glance, Dezeen’s new Book of Ideas, edited by founder Marcus Fairs, could be mistaken for a direct translation of that ethos; a kind of excerpt of the site’s greatest hits, repackaged at print resolution. But while its 116 entries do represent many of the most popular posts since Dezeen launched in 2006, this — as its title makes plain — is a book about ideas, not simply news, which gives it a specific point of view that the site has never really purported to have. Inside, Fairs personally guides readers through the wonders of innovations like a balancing barn, a textile-skinned car, and the first aesthetically pleasing CFL — all of which share an “I wish I’d thought of that” awe factor — meditating on how they’ve impacted design and how websites like his have empowered them do so. We asked Fairs to go one step further for us and identify five of the book’s projects that have made an especially big impression on him.

  21. 07.08.11
    Excerpt: Book
    Usefulness in Small Things

    Yesterday on Sight Unseen, we featured a London design couple whose work seems to flourish under the very weight of their creative differences. Today, we turn our attentions to a London design couple whose outlooks are so similar, and whose work so beautifully streamlined, that it can often be difficult to tell where the mind of one ends and the other begins. We’ve been fans of the work of Industrial Facility’s Kim Colin and Sam Hecht since the very earliest days of our design journalism, but while the book they released earlier this year doesn’t include a single image from that output, it speaks volumes about the way the two begin to design together. Usefulness in Small Things: Items from the Under a Fiver Collection brings together the couple’s collection of mass-produced, locally sourced, everyday objects that Hecht has been amassing for nearly 20 years — cheese knives from Japan, plastering tools from Greece, vomit bags from the UK, wine bottle sponges from France, and the like, all chosen for low cost — under five pounds — and for their ability to tell Hecht when he traveled something about where he was. “Each of the objects I found appealed to me for a specific reason: the ability to address and identify a small and localized need, even when some were hopelessly flawed in their execution,” he writes in the introduction.

  22. 06.15.11
    Excerpt: Book
    Cutting Edges

    Who knows why an artist is compelled to collage? The reasons can be as highbrow as an homage to the Dadaists, as basic as a way to test the possibilities of Photoshop, or as ordinary as a destination for the found materials that tend to accumulate in the corners of creative studios. For Brooklyn-based artist James Gallagher, the discovery of the medium two decades ago happened entirely by chance. As an art-school grad and a new dad, Gallagher writes in the preface to Cutting Edges — the book he curated earlier this year for Gestalten — “I had little time to get to the print shop (let alone anywhere else) so for one particular project, I began cutting apart old prints and piecing them together to form a new composition. The results completely reinvigorated my creativity… there was something truly cathartic about stripping images down to their simplest form and then building them back up again.”

  23. 03.21.11
    Excerpt: Book
    Architects’ Sketchbooks

    In the context of the hysteria currently surrounding all things old-fashioned and handmade, it makes a certain sense to mount an examination of architecture’s low-tech roots: those hand-rendered sketches and schematics that still tend to quietly precede even the most digitally advanced structures. It’s debatable whether the practice as a whole is consciously returning to those roots, as the new book Architects’ Sketchbooks argues, but when the architects who find joy in committing their thoughts to paper open their notepads for all to see, the appeal runs deeper than any cultural trend. “For me, the process is often more fascinating than the end result, and at the heart of architecture, which is part of the process of building worlds, lies the language of drawing,” writes Narinder Sagoo of Foster + Partners in the book’s foreword.

  24. 10.11.10
    Excerpt: Book
    Handcrafted Modern

    It’s possible you’ve spent hours foraging flea markets, wondering how a Russel Wright pitcher or an Eames shell chair or a Jens Risom credenza might fit into your home décor. But did you ever stop to wonder how those pieces may have figured into the homes of their own makers? Leslie Williamson, a San Francisco–based photographer, did — and the result is Handcrafted Modern, a new book that offers an intimate glimpse inside the houses of 14 of America’s most beloved mid-century designers.

  25. 09.22.10
    Excerpt: Book
    American Fashion Designers At Home

    There’s a certain taboo attached to pop stars who attempt to forge acting careers, and vice versa. Painters aren’t normally supposed to take up fashion design, and just because you’re a great photographer doesn’t mean you’ll make a great chef. But here at Sight Unseen, where we attempt to travel to the very heart of creativity, we delight in any and all cross-disciplinary meanderings, which is why our ears perked up when we heard about American Fashion Designers at Home, by Rima Suqi. Even if some of the more than 100 CFDA members featured in the book hired professionals to craft their spaces, the translation of their aesthetics from one genre to the other is an endless source of curiosity.