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Category Archives: Q+A

  1. 10.14.14
    Q+A
    Jonathan Nesci in Conversation With Matt Olson of RO/LU

    When it comes to design, it’s easy to forget about Indiana. Easy, but unfair — just ask anyone familiar with the legacy of Columbus natives Irwin and Xenia Miller, whose Eero Saarinen house is one of many architectural landmarks the pair commissioned in and around their hometown. Or ask the editors of Sight Unseen, who included not one but two Indiana-based talents in our American Design Hot List last week. One of them, Jonathan Nesci, debuted a project over the weekend that underscored both arguments: Invited by curator Christopher West to create a site-specific installation on the grounds of Eliel Saarinen’s First Christian Church — also a Miller commission — Nesci conceived the stunning project 100 Variations, consisting of 100 unique, mirror-polished tables aligned in a grid in the church’s courtyard. He developed the tables using the Golden Ratio, an ongoing preoccupation in his work that similarly informed Saarinen’s. We snagged the first photos of the installation, which was on view for only three days, then invited Matt Olson of the Minneapolis studio RO/LU to discuss the project — and its oft-overlooked setting — with Nesci. Read their conversation after the jump.

  2. 09.05.14
    Q&A
    Ricky Swallow vs. Matt Paweski, for Herald St London

    As much fun as it is, as journalists, to the pick the brains of the artists and designers who inspire us every day, there’s something we enjoy even more: being a fly on the wall as two of our favorite creatives spar back and forth about their craft. It’s something we’ll never understand as intimately as those who are makers themselves, and when those makers are as thoughtful about their work as Los Angeles artists Ricky Swallow and Matt Paweski are, it makes for a most excellent Friday read. Swallow interviewed Paweski in advance of the latter’s solo exhibition, opening tomorrow at Herald St gallery in London, and we were lucky enough to nab a transcription of that Q&A. Read on to find out what makes a Matt Paweski, which direction his work is going in, and what the heck a “kerf” actually is.

  3. 09.02.14
    Q&A
    12 Dozen Egg Cups

    Here at Sight Unseen, we have a pretty strict bias against kitsch. But every so often we stumble upon a project that, while somewhat gimmicky, injects so much fun into the daily routine and has such roots in formal and material investigation, that it’s impossible to deny its utter lovability. We discovered such a project from the Leicester, England–based creative duo 12 Dozen Egg Cups, whose initial outing to a pottery class at a local community center developed into a challenge to repurpose the ubiquitous egg cup 144 different ways in the space of 12 months.

  4. 08.12.14
    Q+A
    Jamie Wolfond of Good Thing

    When we’re asked by other journalists to talk about the evolution of American design, we pretty much always point to the same thing: the rise of independent designers and studios producing and selling their own work. Young American designers have increasingly become entrepreneurs in the past ten years, leveraging local manufacturing resources and online shopping platforms in order to bypass the need to wait around for big brands to do it for them. The latest such endeavor is Good Thing, a new company founded by designer Jamie Wolfond and based in New York that launches next week at NY NOW. Good Thing’s first collection consists of nine products by six different designers, from a sand-cast aluminum trivet to a coiled-plastic vase to a handmade clay mug. We spoke to Wolfond about the new venture and how he’s making it work.

  5. 06.05.14
    Q+A
    20th Century Carpets at Wright

    At the modern design auction house Wright, rugs have long suffered that classic rom-com affliction: Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Despite being the key focal point of most interiors and often being as artful as art itself, they’ve only played supporting roles in larger furniture auctions — a tendency not exclusive to Wright, either. Next week, though, the Chicago- and New York–based dealer is hosting its first sale devoted entirely to the genre: “20th Century Carpets,” comprising nearly 150 lots curated by Nader Bolour of Doris Leslie Blau, beginning with a late 19th-century animal-themed Indian tapestry and ending with contemporary kilims. In the middle, there’s an incidental emphasis on Swedish rugs, particularly mid-century examples made by the manufacturer Märta Måås-Fjetterström. To jazz up the sale’s catalog, Wright shot the images you see here, pairing some of its most beautiful lots with furniture and art by the likes of Jonathan Muecke and Ben Jones. Read more about it after the jump, in our interview with Wright’s Senior VP, Michael Jefferson.

  6. 04.28.14
    Q+A
    Ferruccio Laviani on his Good Vibrations Series

    Partly as a consequence of being based in Italy, one of the biggest furniture-making centers in the world, Ferruccio Laviani does a lot of different work for a lot of different manufacturers, from sleek plastic lamps to futuristic lounge chairs. So when he was invited to collaborate with a manufacturer of baroque furniture founded in 1928 by a craftsman making Louis XV replicas — he accepted the challenge, creating a provocative series called “F* THE CLASSICS!” that puts a contemporary twist on the company’s traditional style. The latest piece in the collection, Good Vibrations — a computer controlled robotic router-carved wooden cabinet that looks like a warped VHS video — is so striking, it went viral on over a dozen design blogs shortly after renderings of it were released in advance of the 2013 Salone del Mobile in Milan (even though it was so difficult to produce that the real cabinet, pictured after the jump, wasn’t even exhibited until the 2014 fair that took place a few weeks ago). For the Lincoln Now project that Sight Unseen recently participated in, Laviani took some time to tell us how (and why) he created it.

  7. 03.03.14
    Q+A
    Nicole Patel on Her Textile Wall Panels

    When we first met the multi-talented Nicole and Sweetu Patel back in 2004, they were running Brooklyn’s Citizen Citizen, a high-concept British design showroom that sold objects like crucifix-shaped brushes by FredriksonStallard. But they gave up the project shortly afterward, and have continued to evolve creatively in the last decade: Nicole went on to focus on her interior design business and form a creative partnership with curator Josee Lepage, while Sweetu went on to work for Cappellini and later founded the men’s heritage clothing shop C.H.C.M. It was there that we recently spotted Nicole’s latest brilliant endeavor, a series of wall panels that she makes from the likes of Japanese indigo textiles and Belgian linen, meticulously stretched and then embellished with things like handmade rope or tone-on-tone embroidery. Beyond hanging them in her husband’s store, she hadn’t yet put them out in the world, so we decided to do the honors.

  8. 02.26.14
    Q+A
    Alex Proba on A Poster A Day

    In her day job, Alex Proba works as a graphic designer at Kickstarter. But every night when she comes home from work, Proba sits down for 30 minutes at her computer and creates a poster, either from manipulated found imagery or from shapes and patterns she’s created on her own. Then she posts the final product to Tumblr, as she has every day for the past 250 days. It’s the kind of experiment that every creative person says they’ll do — what writer hasn’t vowed to pound out words in the early hours of the morning? — but hardly anyone ever makes good on.

  9. 01.22.14
    Q+A
    Henny Nistelrooy on I’m Revolting

    Like so many small-town kids before him, Henny van Nistelrooy didn’t move to just any city. He moved to the most tightly layered and epochally dense cities he could find, the sorts of places that have already had a dozen lifetimes. After graduating from London’s Royal College of Art, Van Nistelrooy launched his design studio in London in 2008 and then moved to Beijing, another capital with more than a bit of historical fiber. They’re fitting locales for Van Nistelrooy’s textile process of taking seemingly finished material and slowly unraveling the threads for an entirely new weave.

  10. 01.16.14
    Q+A
    Dario Buzzini and Barbara Busatta on Machine Series

    For all the excitement around the game-changing rise of rapid prototyping, it’s always felt a little abstract to us — mostly limited to actual prototyping, MakerBot-style tinkering, and a few crazy, high-end projects meant above all to flaunt the capabilities of the technology. Yet with the launch of Machine Series, a new brand of housewares made using fused deposition modeling (FDM), co-founders Dario Buzzini and Barbara Busatta are attempting to make a case for the potential of 3-D printing to create a commercially viable line of attractive and functional everyday objects. “The focus of this exploration has been to elevate 3-D printing, a technology that is very much talked about but is relegated to either cumbersome, amateurish results or over-expensive artistic applications,” write the Italian-born, New York–based pair in the brand’s press release. “We believe that by exploring the full potential of FDM, we are able to create items that are as simple as they are sophisticated and as elegant as they are innovative.” The designs are also fully open-source, so all the files used to produce them are available online. Buzzini and Busatta took some time to tell us more about the project, after the jump.

  11. 08.07.13
    Q+A
    The Grantchester Pottery

    What happens when two conceptual artists meet on a retreat in the English countryside and get to grips with ceramics in an abandoned studio? In the case of The Grantchester Pottery, they form a decorative arts collective that feels more like a piece of conceptual art — which is a bit misleading, considering The Grantchester Pottery sounds a lot like a heritage brand, and these guys don’t just throw pots. In fact, they don’t throw at all. “It’s not that we have not tried!” says co-founder Giles Round.

  12. 04.08.13
    Q+A
    Melissa Bartley, Field Visual Manager of Terrain at Styers

    When we first began hearing rumblings a few years back about Terrain, the garden center/home store/plant nirvana/farm-to-table café/dreamy wedding venue located 40 minutes outside of Philadelphia, we had no idea that the place was founded and operated by Urban Outfitters. Wouldn’t it be nice, we thought, to do a profile one day on the sweet couple who must own the place? But don’t laugh at our cluelessness just yet. Though its flagship campus is huge — nearly a dozen buildings spread out over five acres — Terrain has the intimate vibe and the quirkily curated stock of a much smaller operation. Credit for projecting that cozy vibe, despite being part of one of the biggest retail conglomerates in the country, goes in large part to Terrain’s visual team — the buyers, merchandisers, and creatives who stock the place with mason jars, ticking stripe aprons, vintage planters, sea salt soaps, bocce ball sets, and terrariums.

  13. 03.14.13
    Q+A
    Kevin Appel, artist

    In the long list of ways that New York differs from Los Angeles, we’ve always been particularly fascinated by one: New York can be a very physically demanding place to live, but it is not a difficult city to understand on a psychological level. In Los Angeles, the living is easier, but there seems to be — especially among artists — a constant grappling to define and understand LA as a place. L.A. artist Kevin Appel explains it this way: “Los Angeles has always had a bit of an identity crisis partially due to the external view of LA as having this superficial mentality tied to the film industry. It doesn’t have a long lineage of a canonical or intellectual history, as opposed to New York.” He should know: Appel is a native Angeleno who has called the city home for almost his entire life — save for a brief stint at Parsons for his BFA — and he’s been steeped in the city’s history and vocabulary since birth. His father was an architect and his mother an interior designer, so it makes sense that the city’s structures and surroundings would eventually become his subject matter.

  14. 12.14.12
    Q+A
    Morgan Peck at Totokaelo

    When Jill Wenger opened the first incarnation of the Seattle store Totokaelo in 2003, she had a few goals: showcasing the work of local designers, improving choices for all-weather gear. But as she grew to be the most fashion-forward resource in the city, she took on the more important mandate of helping to raise Seattle’s style profile in general, banishing annoying sartorial habits like square-toed shoes, embroidery, and pleather handbags. While there’s still work to be done in that arena, this year — with the opening of her massive new store and its “Art—Object” component — Wenger expanded her tastemaking activities beyond the body and into the home. Her stable contains more than a few of our favorite players, from Philip Low to Seattle’s hometown heroes Iacoli & McAllister, but months ago, it was Morgan Peck who really caught our eye. Not only was the ceramicist suddenly showing up on shelves at Iko Iko and Mociun, among others, there was almost no information about her on the web. And so we invited Wenger to take a stab at interviewing the Los Angeles–based talent for our Peer Review column.

  15. 11.30.12
    Q+A
    Milena Silvano on Intelligent Clashing

    Rhiannon Gilmore’s posts on Intelligent Clashing often begin with a tiny nugget of an idea — a pattern, a color, a shape — that after a bit of research flourishes into a loose, visually driven narrative. In her most recent post, though, the nugget wasn’t so much tiny as nearly floor-length: a beautifully draped woven silk poncho trimmed with fringe and edged with reclaimed and antique textiles. The poncho was the creation of Milena Silvano, a UK stylist-turned-slow fashion enthusiast who’s become something of an obsession for Gilmore in recent weeks: “For some time I’d been wondering: Where were the UK designers producing small, slow collections like those coming out of the States? I was thinking along the lines of ERMIE or Wiksten — collections that hold the personalities and the passions of the women who make them and are small enough to feel truly intimate and exclusive, in a warm wholesome way. I’d started to think there just wasn’t anyone working in this way here in the UK, and then I found Milena Silvano.”

  16. 11.16.12
    Q+A
    Caroline Achaintre on Arcademi

    The biggest reason why we love our new Peer Review column: because it lets us heap mountains of credit onto blogs like Arcademi — the source of more of our “holy shit” moments than almost any other site — while giving us good reason to borrow their content. Namely, the opportunity to hear their subjects wax poetic about things like hairy tufting and multiple personalities, like today’s subject, Caroline Achaintre. We were lucky enough to convince Arcademi editor Moritz Firchow to interview the London-based artist, who trained as a blacksmith before finding her way to a multidisciplinary practice inspired by the way German expressionism, post-war British sculpture, and Primitivism merge influences from both ancient and modern culture.

  17. 10.08.12
    Q+A
    With Eric Timothy Carlson, Artist

    Certain people, whenever they mention an artist or a designer or an exhibition you’ve never heard of, make your ears automatically prick up — some might call them tastemakers, we suppose, though that word sounds too jargony to our ears. Regardless, we here at Sight Unseen like to believe that maybe, just maybe, we fulfill that type of role for even just a few of our more devoted followers — and of course we have our own hallowed sources of information, like Kristin Dickson of Iko Iko and Patrick Parrish of Mondo Cane/Mondo Blogo, both of whom have a knack for sending us into a flurry of OMGs. When Parrish announced he was mounting a fall show of art by Eric Timothy Carlson, whose name we only barely recognized from a collaboration with our friends at ROLU, our first thought was, “We need to interview this man!” Our second was, “But we know nothing about him,” and so in the spirit of discovery, we devised a series of top-five lists by which Carlson might introduce himself and his Memphis-inflected work to both us and our readers. Check out his incredibly detailed responses here, then rush over to see Building Something: Tearing it Down at Mondo before it closes this Wednesday.

  18. 08.31.12
    Q+A
    Future Eyes on I’m Revolting

    When we first began following the inspiration blog mysteriously known as I’m Revolting, we knew we’d found a kindred spirit, at least aesthetically. (If you’re even the slightest fan of our Pinterest, you should know that many of our posts originate with I’m Revolting’s boards, or result from tumbling down the internet rabbit hole after reading one of her posts.) But it was only when we asked the Los Angeles–based blogger — whose real name is Su Wu — to pen one of our Peer Review columns that we truly knew we’d stumbled upon one of our own: A former journalist who threw the contents of her interior world online after the publication for which she was writing folded, Wu is an image collector, a thinker, and a fantastic writer to boot. Today for Sight Unseen she interviews Brent Pearson, the artist behind a heavy, handmade pair of kaleidoscopic glasses known as Future Eyes.

  19. 06.22.12
    Q+A
    Ace&Jig on Intelligent Clashing

    You might be a devoted fan of Rhiannon Gilmore’s work without even knowing it; you might even look at it every day. And yet on the off chance that you actually know who she is — the force behind the four-year-old inspiration blog Intelligent Clashing — did you also know that she’s both an artist and a writer? Intelligent Clashing belongs to that universe of curated image blogs that provide a steady stream of visual inspiration for creatives, but whose editors rarely express themselves in words. Rarer still are the moments when we see them exploring their fascination with a certain image by engaging with its maker. In that missing link, we here at Sight Unseen saw an opportunity: Why not give these bloggers a platform for mounting small investigations into subjects that had recently caught their fancy? Every Friday (or so) for our new column Peer Review, we’ll ask the curator of an inspiration blog to pick a recent post from their site and ask the featured artist, or else an expert on the topic at hand, three questions of their choosing. Our first participant is Gilmore herself, who relished the opportunity to interview the New York fashion duo ace&jig, who left behind their role as founders of LaROK to start a label based on hand-woven textiles and vintage influences.

  20. 06.05.12
    Q+A
    With Martin Lorenz, Co-Editor of Pretty Ugly

    There are moments, when leafing through the pages of Gestalten’s latest opus Pretty Ugly, that you’ll feel a little perplexed. Not by the stretched and layered type that practitioners of the New Ugly graphics movement use to obscure the messages contained in their work, nor by the fact that brands and organizations are trying to sell themselves with these deliberately obtuse images. What you’ll find so confusing, rather, is just how beautiful most of the projects appear, despite their creators’ best attempts at visual rebellion — a fact acknowledged by the book’s editors, Lupi Asensio and Martin Lorenz of the Barcelona-based firm twopoints.net, in its oxymoronic title. There are two reasons for this, Lorenz revealed when Sight Unseen sat down to interview him about the project. The first and most obvious is that we’re closer to the end of the New Ugly movement than the beginning, which is precisely what made the couple feel the time was ripe for a retrospective; Steven Heller has written about it, Urban Outfitters has embraced it, and we’ve gotten increasingly used to it — and desensitized to its shock value — ever since Mike Meiré used it to redesign 032c magazine in 2007. The second reason, and the one your editors found particularly compelling, is that somewhere along the line the New Ugly actually became less about rule-breaking and more about documenting process, with designers creating works that aim to expose the mechanics behind their boundary-pushing techniques. Read more of Lorenz’s thoughts about Pretty Ugly in our interview, after the jump.

  21. 10.05.11
    Q+A
    Misaki Kawai, Artist

    Misaki Kawai’s work is insane. In a good way. When Sweden’s LOYAL gallery sent us these images from her new solo show, “Wet Shiny Surprise,” we were taken with their use of geometry and pattern — not to mention their resemblance to Memphis design — but we had no idea the Japanese-born, New York–based artist also made paintings of weightlifting robots, surfing octopuses, and people pooping in the woods. What unites all of Kawai’s art, from the beautiful to the bizarre, is her talent for blending childlike imagery with absurdist humor, a quality she suspects might have something to do with spending her childhood in Osaka, the center of Japan’s comedy scene. But to the extent that her pieces seem like windows onto a strange and addictive parallel world, she gets most of her inspiration from navigating this one: After a post-graduate trip to Turkey, Nepal, and Thailand left her “greatly influenced by handmade dolls, textiles, and low-quality manufactured objects,” Kawai began traveling regularly, collecting both physical and experiential scraps and incorporating them into her paintings and sculptures. When we interviewed her for this story, she had just finished opening the show at LOYAL and had moved on to Beijing and Mongolia, where she was riding camels and investigating the local dress. What she’ll do with that fodder, we can only imagine.

  22. 09.26.11
    Q+A
    Faye Toogood on Assemblage 3, for Phillips de Pury

    When we — and the rest of the design world — were first introduced to her at the 2009 London Design Festival, Faye Toogood already seemed like Superwoman: Having just left her post as a stylist at the UK shelter magazine World of Interiors and cast out on her own, she’d engineered a coming-out party for herself that included a collaborative installation with Gallery Fumi featuring designs made from corn, a Memphis-inspired playroom with an Arabeschi di Latte egg bar, and a temporary shop for Tom Dixon that showcased how she’d begun to transform his brand image. Just seeing her do it was enough to make us feel stressed, and that was before we knew that she was about to reinvent herself again, this time as a furniture designer. Her first collection, Assemblage 1, was inspired by modernist sculpture, British craftsmanship, and her childhood growing up in the English countryside; it gave way to Assemblage 2 in Milan earlier this year, which took a darker, edgier turn. Finally, with Phillips de Pury last week, Toogood unveiled the third chapter in the series, and the most ambitious to date — it’s based around her fascination with iridescence, and it took a motorcycle fabricator, a gun maker, and a studio full of assistants in gas masks to complete. I was asked by Phillips to conduct an in-depth interview with Toogood to appear in the show’s catalog, and so Sight Unseen received special permission to reprint that interview here. It’s lengthy, but it offers a good deal of insight into the mind of one of the most intriguing and ambitious personalities working in design right now.

  23. 07.25.11
    Q&A
    Lukas and Oskar Peet, Product Designers

    There’s a reason why one of the first questions we always ask Sight Unseen subjects is “What did your parents do?” In the nearly two years we’ve been producing this site, it’s become apparent that the ideas and habits of ultra-creative people usually germinate in childhood, and that the environments in which they were raised tend to have played a part — whether their formative years resembled those of Kiki van Eijk, whose father competed on the 1976 Dutch Olympic field hockey team but also taught her to paint, or Lauren Kovin, whose parents filled the house with Ettore Sottsass furniture. The more designers and artists in a given family, the more interesting things tend to get, which is why we decided to start this new Related column. In it, we’ll periodically ask creative talents who are related to interview one another about their respective practices and what it was like growing up in close proximity. First up are brothers Lukas Peet, 24, and Oskar Peet, 27, up-and-coming designers who were born and raised in the Canadian mountain resort town of Banff, attended the Design Academy Eindhoven together, and whose Dutch-born father Rudi Peet immigrated to Banff in 1974 and has since established himself as a successful jewelry designer there.

  24. 06.23.11
    Q+A
    Irene Alvarez, Artist

    Antwerp’s Irene Alvarez was a sculptor and recent Royal Academy art grad when she got the call from the cult concept shop Ra — the city’s version of Opening Ceremony — asking her to design a custom installation. But it was the far less glamorous moment that came next that has since marked a pivotal moment in her nascent career: She discovered the Netherlands’ Textile Museum Tilburg, which is not only a museum but also an experimental production lab where creatives can apply for technical assistance on machines capable of knitting, embroidering, lasering, printing, tufting, dyeing, and weaving almost anything the mind can conceive. Despite having no previous experience with textiles, she collaborated with the museum on the half-woven Inti Altar sculpture that’s held court on Ra’s second floor for the last two years, and she’s been addicted to the furry medium ever since. Today marks the opening of her first solo show, at Belgium’s other hallowed retail emporium, Hunting and Collecting, and it demonstrates just how far Alvarez has come in her obsession with knits — it contains no traditional sculpture at all, only a textile teepee (above), a line of t-shirts, and a series of three tapestries woven with a psychedelic clash of pop-culture icons and op-art patterning. Sight Unseen recently spoke with the artist about her work with the museum and the ethnic influences behind her imagery.

  25. 06.17.11
    Q+A
    With Matylda Krzykowski, Designer and Curator of The Clash Project

    By now we’re used to furniture designers making art, artists making furniture, and every possible variation along that spectrum. But in 2009, when three of her friends started the Fashion Clash festival in her hometown of Maastricht, the Netherlands, designer and blogger Matylda Krzykowski was convinced her colleagues outside the fashion industry might have something to contribute. She rounded up 10 furniture, textile, and graphic designers and asked them to modify their work for the catwalk — in most cases having no idea what they would come up with until the final “outfit” was delivered to her door. The first year, artist Tanja Ritterbex donned a glittery pink Barbie dress and asked to be rolled down the catwalk while she waved at the audience like Queen Elizabeth. The second year, a designer-artist couple from London created a massive, wearable Tyvek tote bag and requested it be modeled by an old man. And for the 2011 show, presented last weekend, one of the designers encased her model in a mountainous wooden cake, with only her head poking out at the summit — in other words, nothing you wouldn’t expect to see at an actual fashion show. We asked Krzykowski to tell us a little bit more about the project and about five selections from this year’s collection which are shown here, alongside the participant’s usual work.