"Skin specimens of birds, nineteenth century. The specimens are stuffed but not mounted, retaining their shape and dimensions if left flat (collections of the city of Strasbourg, Musée Zoologique, Strasbourg)." © Christine Fleurent

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.

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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. 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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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?

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In your words, what do you do? [C] "We are trained as architects but have drifted from the profession to become furniture designers with hands deeply in the art world."

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.

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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.

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Hecht and Colin divide their collected objects into five distinct categories: those that exhibit an unusual degree of Care in their manufacture or materials; existing products that have been Modified slightly in their function; objects that share a down-to-earth, Straightforward simplicity; Situation, for objects that meet the needs of a specific locality; and Duality (shown above) for single objects that share two functions.

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.

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