While Portugal is probably best known, these days, for manufacturing clothing and shoes for big brands like COS, Zara, and Camper — or if you're a product designer, for supplying 50% of the world's cork — Porto-based designer and printmaker Célia Esteves homed in on its longtime flat-weave rug-making tradition when she founded GUR two years ago. After meeting a weaver in her hometown of Viana de Castelo, who for 15 years had been handcrafting the style of rug that she'd seen on "every Portuguese kitchen floor" since she was a child, Esteves decided to hire the weaver to use the same technique to produce colorful limited-edition designs commissioned from illustrators she knew and admired, like Atelier Bingo and Ferreol Babin. We recently interviewed Esteves about the project, which has collabs with Après Ski and Reality Studio on the way; scroll down to read more about how she transformed a local craft into a contemporary design brand.
There's this thing we do constantly at Sight Unseen that we don't even realize we're doing: We gravitate towards creatives who work in other disciplines, like art or fashion, only to find out they've either gone to school for or been massively inspired by design. Upon visiting, last June, the Oslo studio of sculptor Camilla Løw, whose work we'd seen on a few Tumblrs and fallen for, we quickly learned that she, too, fell into the latter camp — although she studied fine art, she spoke to us about architecture and her dreams of someday designing furniture, and showed us her prized books on Bauhaus jewelry and the work of Andrea Branzi. Some of her own pieces even function as vases or stools. But make no mistake, she is an artist, one who's shown at galleries like Jack Hanley and Andrew Kreps, fairs like Frieze, and museums like the Astrup Fearnley. Read on to learn more about her process and ideas, and how design fits into it all.
I had a long conversation over email this week with Matthias Kaiser, whose masterful ceramic work was a personal highlight of the show I curated for Sight Unseen OFFSITE earlier this year. The exchange reaffirmed my sometimes-waning faith in ceramics, or in anything that suddenly becomes so widely hyped that it can feel like we’re too busy being professionals to remember what struck us through about the practice in the first place. Kaiser, who now lives in the Austrian countryside having previously apprenticed with Japanese master potters and spent a combined two years traveling on the Indian subcontinent, speaks with the deep humility that comes with not taking shortcuts — with digging for your own clay, for example, or moving to Isfahan to study Sufi mysticism. He compares himself to “bad clay,” talks about how losses are a part of the game, and makes a joke about beards.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.