When we asked Brooklyn's Wintercheck Factory — who debuted their latest collection with us at Sight Unseen OFFSITE last month — to shoot those new pieces in the most appropriate scenario they could imagine for our Self Portrait column, their choice of venues ended up being even more fitting than they themselves realized. A 1910 bank building in Bed-Stuy is about to become the duo's new studio, and clearly it makes for a stunning backdrop, but having been ripped up, painted, retiled, left to rot, bricked up, and, now, appropriated as a creative space, it can also be read as a symbol of Wintercheck Factory's own gradual reinvention.
There's a kind of genius in the way that Josephine Heilpern runs her ceramics studio, Recreation Center. Maybe not in the fact that she does everything — from designing to fabricating to filling orders — 100% on her own, with no help, running herself perpetually (yet gleefully) ragged, but more in how she knows exactly when to keep things simple versus when to let her imagination run wild. In the three years since she's been making the mugs, lamps, and mobiles we've been fortunate enough to stock in our online shop, she's barely changed her design formula, hewing to basic shapes and consistent patterns that resist becoming tiresome with daily use, yet on her site and her popular Instagram feed, she markets those objects with all the visual pizzazz of a 28-year-old raised on internet culture. When we invited her to shoot some of her creations exclusively for Sight Unseen, she turned up the styling charm, busting out the dollar-store props and studio scraps to bring her aesthetic vision to life.
When we first interviewed Jean Lee and Dylan Davis of Seattle's Ladies & Gentlemen Studio back in 2012, they revealed that a sizable chunk of their design process happens on and around the shelves that line every room in their home studio and serve as a kind of 3-D inspiration board.
You might not recognize it at first glance, but Sebastian Herkner's new ultra-shiny glass Containers for the German brand Pulpo have a serious high-low thing going on — and not just in one sense, but two. Not only are they inspired by the cheap plastic containers normally used to store things like distilled water and Cheez-Balls, they're also made using a technique that's gone from rags to riches in recent history. "Mercury glass was once used as a substitute for real silverware, which was too expensive for poor people to afford," says Herkner. "Nowadays, though, it's thought of as unique and rare; there's one company in Czech Republic which specializes in mercury glass, and Pulpo produces the Containers there." Like most of our favorite tastemakers, Herkner's appreciation of both the lowly and the luxurious extends to his personal style, too, which is why we thought it fitting that he should photograph his Containers for us amidst the landscape of his own home, just outside Frankfurt. He told us more about his process and his possessions below.
How do you know when someone's a child of the '80s? Posting photos of Lisa Frank's headquarters on their blog is a pretty obvious clue. Brooklyn interior designer Keehnan Konyha has been tracking his eccentric tastes on his freestyling eponymous site for the past three years, and dipping into his formative decades liberally, so it didn't surprise us a bit when he totally went there for his Sight Unseen Self Portrait. His newest project is a bedding textile company called Safe House USA that's inspired by streetwear and the visual influences he tracks on the web, and he couldn't imagine a better way to showcase his first collection than to pin it up to a white metal grid in a way that should be familiar to anyone who grew up in the era of cheesy department store displays and layaways at TJMaxx. Published here are the exclusive photos Konyha shot of the series — which is printed with internet-approved motifs like faux marble, punctuation marks, and the black and white mottle unique to composition notebooks — along with the backstory behind both the collection and his vision for this project.
Earlier this month, Jamie Gray of New York’s Matter was named a “game-changer” for his patronage role in the American design scene, and we've got to give the man his credit. Though we pride ourselves on unearthing emerging talents in design, it was Gray who introduced us to Meg Callahan, the recent RISD grad whose coolly geometric, midcentury-meets-Ma Walton quilts were released through Mattermade, his in-house furniture line, last spring. Callahan quickly became one of our favorites, for the way she mixes the traditional with the new, alternating hand-stitching with machine-quilting, color-blocking with digital printing. “I started making quilts because I really like the aesthetic nature of things, but I also like figuring out how things are made,” Callahan says. “A quilt is a functional, 3-D object but it’s also 2-D, a composition of color blocks; you have to figure out the math of how to construct it. The combination of the two intrigued me.” When she approached us with a series of images she shot back home in Oklahoma of her new Caddo quilt — well, we’d have been crazy if we didn’t publish them and get the story behind their making.
When we last did a studio visit with Bec Brittain, we made a brief mention of her new candelabra design, which — as depicted in that slideshow — was just a formless pile of metal tube segments at the time. While it's still something of a work in progress, Brittain decided to share it with Sight Unseen readers today anyway, originally planning to photograph it on the High Line and then ultimately finding inspiration a bit closer to home. And when we say home, we mean the building that houses her Red Hook studio, also referenced briefly in our March story: the E.R. Butler headquarters and production facility, which we only got a quick glimpse of that day, but whose awesomeness we may have failed to properly convey. It's a 10,000 square foot renovated warehouse with a hauntingly beautiful courtyard and the kind of gritty factory floor most makers go nuts for, and in the photos she shot for us, Brittain borrowed that industrial scenery to use as a metaphor for her own working process.
When we asked Lindsey Adelman to shoot one of her new pieces for our Self Portrait column earlier this winter, she took this photo of her newest Agnes chandelier for Roll & Hill, aiming to contrast its luxe slickness with the industrial backdrop she’d discovered just outside her studio window. But she didn’t stop there — having gone to the trouble of descending all the way into the bowels of her building’s shaftway, she figured why not make a day of it? With her studio assistants dangling from poles and teetering atop ladders, she managed to hang two more new fixtures in the dingy setting: a wood-encased update on her signature Branching Bubble chandelier, and a series of lamps for The Future Perfect made from c-clamps and blown glass blobs. Here, she tells us how she got the shots.
For all of their industrial elements — cold metal surfaces, exposed screws and joints — Lindsey Adelman’s light fixtures are better known for their refined sense of timelessness, and the way their easy aesthetic appeal allows them to slip perfectly into everything from socialites’ Park Avenue apartments to the James Hotel. And yet if you ask the New York–based designer what kind of environment she prefers to picture her chandeliers in, she conjures the dirtiest, darkest urban corners, delighting in how this fantasy contrasts with the realities of her everyday contract work. She got her wish last May, when she took over a windowless corner of the Noho Design District’s 45 Great Jones building, a former lumber warehouse that was barely fit for visitors, much less a pair of $30,000 lamps. Last month, at Sight Unseen’s behest, she created this similar scene outside the window of her own studio, featuring a new edition of her Agnes chandelier for Roll & Hill. Adelman also shot two other soon-to-be-released products that day, and we’ll debut those images in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, we asked her to tell us exactly how (and why) she got the shot.
Credit where credit is due: The idea for Sight Unseen's newest column, Self Portrait, came from a chat we had recently with Pin-Up editor Felix Burrichter, over lunch in Soho. "Why don't you feature more products?" he asked us, to which we replied that our site is really about process — not products. Felix suggested we ask designers to pose with their latest works, something more personal than just reporting the news. The notion rattled around in our brains for a few months until it evolved into something even more exciting, at least we think so: A series inviting designers and artists to visually present their creations to us in a unique way, photographing them firsthand in a setting or setup that somehow illuminates the ideas behind the object. Our first submission comes from Oskar Peet, who with his partner Sophie Mensen founded the Eindhoven-based firm OS ∆ OOS this fall, launching with a trio of lamps so beautiful and intriguing that we actually feel grateful to Burrichter for inspiring the perfect platform with which to share them. Check out Peet and Mensen's submission above, then read below about how — and why — they got the shot.