A new book documents the jaw-dropping collaboration between Japanese plant whisperer Kohei Oda and longtime Sight Unseen favorite Adam Silverman, who over the past year have made a series of potted cacti that are amazing in their complete and total eccentricity.
If there's anyone we'd trust to put together a beautiful book of ephemera, it's JP Williams, the New York–based graphic designer whose collections — of baseball cards, of balls of twine, of Swiss office supplies, and the like — are legendary. But Williams's first book doesn't in fact catalog his own accumulations from years past but rather those of the iconic graphic designer Paul Rand, who Williams used to visit at his home before Rand's death in the late 1990s. But, Williams writes, "it was not until visiting Mrs. Rand that I discovered Mr. Rand's cache of items that he had saved from his travels. A large variety of items: packages, shopping bags, dolls, toys. So many were unfamiliar to me. As soon as I saw them I asked then and there if I could have them photographed. I asked the photographer Grant Peterson to shoot all of these items in hopes of doing a book. Well, 18 years later, here it is."
There's nothing we love better than when our very talented, creative friends introduce us to their very talented, creative friends, and this week didn't disappoint: In our inboxes arrived the most beautiful submission from Mary Gaudin, a New Zealand photographer living in Montpellier, France, who was introduced to us through Brian Ferry, one of Sight Unseen's contributors and a wonderful photographer in his own right. Gaudin recently published a book on modernist New Zealand homes in collaboration Matthew Arnold of Sons & Co called Down the Long Driveway, You'll See It; the title is a quote from one of the book's subjects, upon giving directions to his home. The book documents 14 homes built between 1950 and 1974, and it's a revelation not only for the beautiful way in which it's photographed but for the peek it gives into New Zealand's architectural history.
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."
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.