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Category Archives: Studio Visit

  1. 09.24.12
    Studio Visit
    Building Block, designers

    This time last year, Kimberly Wu was designing cars in Tokyo for Honda’s Advanced Studio and her sister, Nancy, was in Portland, designing shoes for Nike. In spare moments, Kimberly would visit hardware stores and collect the sort of everyday objects that seem to come into focus in other countries, and that somehow encapsulate the dilemma of being a transplant: how a change of scenery can sharpen your appreciation for the small details around you, and yet also remind you in their strangeness that it’s not quite like home. “The world can be as big or small as you want it to be,” Kimberly says, “And Tokyo is this place where you feel like the world is gigantic, but you also feel tiny in it. There are so many people around you always, but it’s so alone and solitary.” Meanwhile, across the choppy Pacific, Nancy was coming to a similar emotional conclusion, but drawn from a different set of observations. “Portland is like the opposite of Tokyo,” Nancy says. “It’s so small and quiet, and that can also be really lonely. I think we were both lonely.” So when Kimberly’s experiments combining those hardware-store finds with simple, pared-down bag shapes began to gain deserved notice, the sisters decided to leave their corporate lives and start Building Block together, trading too-infrequent visits for a joint move back to Southern California, where they grew up. “We’ve never worked together before, but in our heads we’ve always been working together,” Kimberly says.

  2. 09.12.12
    Studio Visit
    New Friends, weavers

    Back in 2009, Kelly Rakowski was a graphic designer at Todd Oldham in New York, and Alex Segreti was living in Philadelphia, working in the textiles department at Urban Outfitters. In her free time, Rakowski ran a blog called Nothing is New, for which she scoured image archives on the web, unearthing old exhibition catalogs, classic spreads from magazines like Domus, and vintage ceramics and textiles. Segreti had a blog as well, called Weird Friends, where she documented similar obsessions: craft, pattern, art, ceramics, textiles, and dogs. The two had never met, but when Rakowski emailed Segreti on a whim one day to tell her how much she liked her site, they began to bond; when both expressed a desire to learn how to weave by hand, they decided to embark on an experiment. They shipped each other yarn, so they’d have the same palette to work from, and a few months later Rakowski made the trip to Philly. They had dinner, retired to Segreti’s apartment, and showed each other their weavings. “They kind of looked the same,” Rakowski remembers. “It was crazy. Now we always come up with the idea together but work separately, and when we meet, we forget who did what because everything magically works.” The two eventually made their design partnership official, merging the names of their online identities into a fitting moniker: New Friends.

  3. 08.27.12
    Studio Visit
    Ryan Wallace, Artist

    To get an idea of how Ryan Wallace approaches materials, look no further than one of the walls of his studio, paneled with the kind of slatboard that a Chinatown souvenir shop might use to stack metal shelves full of I ♥ New York T-shirts. When Wallace found the studio last year, it was perfect otherwise — a clean, well-lit space above Paulie Gee’s pizza in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, right near his apartment. “At first I thought the wall was kind of gross,” he says. But he slowly began to accept it on a purely functional level; the way things could be hung at different heights was ideal for a painter. “I thought, ‘What can I do with this?’ A thing like that gets planted in my head, and eventually it finds its way into the next thing I’m doing.”

  4. 07.06.12
    Studio Visit
    Prince Ruth for Urban Outfitters

    When we first got wind of the new Scandances by Prince Ruth textile collection for Urban Outfitters, we had two questions: Who is Prince Ruth? And what the heck is a scandance? The latter question, we found, was easy to answer: It’s that jittery, seismograph-through-the-lens-of-an-acid-trip effect you get when you manipulate an image while it’s in the process of being scanned. As for the former, we assumed — this being Urban, who has an additional collaboration out this month with Sight Unseen favorite Caitlin Mociun, and who’s previously worked with friends like Rich Brilliant Willing — that Prince Ruth was some under-the-radar designer we somehow weren’t cool enough to have noticed. And in a way, that’s exactly what it is: Prince Ruth is the name of a Brooklyn-based surface design studio run by Zoe Latta, a 24-year-old textile artist and RISD grad whose work is more famous than her pseudonym would suggest.

  5. 06.27.12
    Studio Visit
    Jennifer Parry Dodge of Ermie

    Jennifer Parry Dodge is a Los Angeles–based designer, whose beautifully printed textiles are often the result of photographs or scans of vintage textiles that have been manipulated in Photoshop. Her online store Ermie, named after a great-aunt Ermengarde who encouraged her creativity, encompasses a collection of works ranging from braided embroidered belts to watery cool crepe de chine garments made from her own textile creations. In addition to creating textiles, she maintains a blog that documents her transforming fascinations with color, textures, food, the desert, and her trips abroad. The first time I met Jennifer over coffee in downtown Los Angeles, I was immediately struck by the intensity of the colors in her work — colors that vibrated in the California sun, and intensified as the sun grew stronger. “Each pattern or print that I design has a history, however brief, of how it came to be. I’m sure the meaning for me differs from that of the viewer/ wearer/ user, but I hope some of the story comes through,” she says.

  6. 06.11.12
    Studio Visit
    Symbols + Rituals, via Where They Create

    We first spotted the collaboration between Nanse Kawashima and Eri Nagasaka on Dossier magazine’s website, where the writer noted that “it’s kind of hard to describe what exactly Symbols + Rituals is.” To us, it looked like a perfectly curated collection of vintage curios, some sleek and some dark and witchy — Super Normal meets supernatural. But beyond the objects that caught our eye, Symbols + Rituals is also a freewheeling creative agency where Nagasaka’s interior design background and Kawashima’s work in fashion combine to produce everything from videos to art exhibitions. If their activities resist definition, they don’t mind a bit; read their interview with Sight Unseen to learn more about what they do, then check these exclusive photos by contributor Paul Barbera of Where They Create to get a glimpse at how and where they do it.

  7. 03.27.12
    Studio Visit
    Red Hook Design Tour, Part II

    Last week, armed with the new Marc Newson–designed Pentax K-01 digital camera, we popped in on five different design studios in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn, taking sneak peeks at work destined both for this past weekend’s Architectural Digest Home Design show and the upcoming New York Design Week. The result is a two-part Red Hook Studio Visit series, the second installation of which debuts today with visits to designers Bec Brittain and Uhuru. Brittain’s studio, where she works alone without the aid of interns or assistants, is inside what can only be called a complex belonging to Rhett Butler of E.R. Butler fame. And while we’d been inside Uhuru’s 10,000-sqft. studio before, we couldn’t come back to Red Hook without a fresh look at what they were up to.

  8. 03.26.12
    Studio Visit
    Red Hook Design Tour

    A subway-less industrial bastion perched halfway down the western coast of Brooklyn, Red Hook is a pain in the ass to get to. But when the weather’s nice, you never want to leave. Last week when we showed up, it was 70 degrees and blindingly sunny, and from all around the warehouse that some of New York’s brightest up-and-coming designers share with Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie, the East River sparkled at us suggestively, with the Statue of Liberty looming not too far in the distance. It was the kind of day that seemed made for boat-spotting, beers, and an impromptu Fairway picnic, and yet we were there for one reason and one reason only: To make a few long-overdue house calls. Armed with the new Pentax K-01 digital camera — designed by Marc Newson with a sleek, Braun-like aesthetic that’s even more striking in person — we popped in on five different design studios in the neighborhood, taking sneak peeks at work destined both for this past weekend’s Architectural Digest Home Design show and the upcoming New York Design Week. The result is a two-part Red Hook Studio Visit series — all shot with the Pentax K-01 — which kicks off today with Liberty Warehouse occupants Fort Standard, Piet Houtenbos, and recent Pratt grads Persico + Dublin. We aren’t professional photographers, but we think the results turned out pretty swell.

  9. 03.22.12
    Studio Visit
    Sarah Applebaum, Artist

    It’s not every day that one of our subjects answers the phone by giddily announcing she’s just opened the mail to find the Legend soundtrack she ordered and proclaiming that 1985 Tom Cruise fantasy flick to be her favorite movie. But then San Francisco artist Sarah Applebaum has always tended to march to the beat of her own drum: Paying no mind when her work meanders back and forth between craft and art, she mostly uses dime-store materials like yarn, papier mâché, and felt. Unlike most crafters, she often turns those materials into three-dimensional symbols plucked from her subconscious. And yet unlike most artists, she’s self-taught with a degree in politics, sells her objects at Jonathan Adler and in her own online shop, moonlights as a personal chef, and isn’t at all goal-oriented when it comes to gallery shows. When Applebaum makes things, alone in her home studio in the Lower Haight, it’s above all for making’s sake.

  10. 03.05.12
    Studio Visit
    Todosomething, Furniture Designers

    Todosomething is a Los Angeles–based design and fabrication studio that specializes in custom furniture and cabinetry with precise, exquisite finishes and subdued color palettes. But in the last few years, as their studio has grown, partners Chad Petersen and Dakota Witzenburg have begun producing their own products as well, which are extensions of their minimal design aesthetic—the ’60s-inflected, powder-coated metal (S)tool, the paint-tipped plywood A(+) Chair, a scorched-pine slab table with spindly steel legs. Between the two practices, which overlap in more than just appearance, they’ve cultivated a reputation as representatives of a certain Modern American style, one influenced by everything from Sol Lewitt to Shaker furniture.

  11. 02.09.12
    Studio Visit
    Correll Correll, Fashion Designers

    You can learn a lot about Daphne and Vera Correll’s clothing line, Correll Correll, just by looking at who they employ: No unpaid interns, for one. When their sunny Chinatown studio is at full production capacity — as it has been in the weeks leading up to their Ecco Domani Award–sponsored Fall/Winter 2012 presentation this Friday — it’s staffed almost entirely by proper assistants. It’s not really fair, Vera reasons, to get by on free labor when the labor itself is what sells the clothes. “They look precious because you can tell we spend a lot of time on them,” she says, pointing to a recent jacket made using one of their signature techniques, where more than 40 different kinds of yarns and vintage fabric strips are woven together into a textile befitting what Vera refers to as a “shepherd from the future.” Each of the jackets takes a day’s work to create, and the sisters can make 30 or 40 such garments in a season. “Our clothes go through so many levels of work, all this sewing and knitting, and people can see that,” she says.

  12. 02.03.12
    Studio Visit
    Emily Counts, Artist

    Portland is a place where, so the saying goes, the ’90s are alive and well. And it may very well be the only place that could have spawned an artist like Emily Counts, who deals with the self-reflective nostalgia of outdated technological innovations once found in her childhood home: dial-up telephones sculpted in porcelain and stoneware, a life-size fax machine, an interactive Mac SE computer made from walnut, casting epoxy, glass, porcelain, copper, and electrical wiring that acts as a two-way mirror after a button is pressed on the keyboard, lighting up the sculpture’s interior. “I’m interested in the mystery of these inventions that we seem to take for granted in our everyday life,” says the 35-year-old Seattle native, who we first spotted on photographer Carlie Armstrong’s blog Work.Place. “For me, there’s a thin line between technology and magic.”

  13. 12.13.11
    Studio Visit
    Regina Dabdab, Jewelry Designer

    “Paris is so beautiful, but it’s also way too cold,” says jewelry maker Regina Dabdab of the city she’s called home for the past six years, referring to its disposition rather than its weather. Despite generations of fashion designers adopting Parisian women as muses — Yves Saint-Laurent had Loulou de La Faliase; Balenciaga loves a classic Françoise Hardy silhouette — for Dabdab, their no-nonsense élan is far too restrained, and too much in contrast with the raw and untamed ethos of her native Brazil. It’s the latter qualities, combined with a strong sense of geometry, Dabdab tries to imbue her work with. “I don’t design for the reserved Parisian woman,” she says. “I think of home.”

  14. 09.02.11
    Studio Visit
    Uglycute, Furniture and Interior Designers

    For Uglycute, it all began with a Bruno Matthson knockoff. It was 1999 and Swedish design was having a moment, but not, it seemed to the group’s four fledgling members, for the kinds of edgy experimental crafts and artistic hybrids being made by the emerging scene at the time — Wallpaper magazine and its ilk were still peering into the long shadows of Sweden’s old modernist icons. And so architecture grad Fredrik Stenberg and artists Jonas Nobel, Andreas Nobel, and Markus Degerman vented their frustration in the only way they knew how: by mounting a show around a sarcastic simulacrum of Matthson’s Eva chair made from a clunky particle-board box and cheap nylon straps. Complemented by a set of primitive clay pinch pots and a crude plywood table, the installation served as a launch pad for the group, and its subject matter — elevating cheap materials in order to question traditional norms of beauty and value — lent their firm its distinctive name. “It was meant as a new take on formalistic values,” says Nobel, who with the other three partners has since built a thriving practice known for its work with museums and clients like Cheap Monday.

  15. 08.03.11
    Studio Visit
    Shanan Campanaro of Eskayel, Wallpaper and Textile Designer

    Had you visited eskayel.com back in 2004, when Shanan Campanaro was still an art student at Central Saint Martins in London, you would have seen a very different site from the one posted at that address today. That’s because the whimsical high-end wallpaper and fabric company Campanaro now runs out of her studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, was once a homespun t-shirt label she started with a college friend, featuring the booze- and boyfriend-related escapades of a comic-book character she’d invented. “My tutors at Saint Martins encouraged me to get really honest,” she explains of the project. “It was right when all the YBAs were coming out and Tracey Emin won a Turner Prize making personal quilts — that’s what everyone was into.” For her, the original Eskayel was like one entry in a diary that’s seen the San Diego native reinvent herself several times over the years, from her childhood as the science-obsessed daughter of the bodybuilder who founded Total Gym, to her switch from physics to fine art while studying abroad in Italy, to her time as a graphic designer for the shopping-mall staple Express. In Campanaro’s case, it’s turned out to be more about the destination than the journey.

  16. 07.07.11
    Studio Visit
    Doshi Levien, Product and Furniture Designers

    If you’d expect anyone to spend their days working amidst a snowdrift’s worth of process and ephemera, it’s London designers Doshi Levien. What you see piled atop the shelves and pinned to the walls of the couple’s Shoreditch studio, after all, is the product of two very different yet equally prolific minds working through their own approaches to the same tasks — Nipa Doshi being the Bombay-born lover of handicraft who collages, paints, and draws her way towards ideas from the ground up, and her Scottish husband Jonathan Levien, who spent his childhood in his parents’ toy factory and developed the more exacting methods of an industrial designer, prototyping proclivities and all. While both enjoy surrounding themselves with collected objects like Italian ice cream cups and Chinese pencil boxes, it’s impossible to understate the importance of the couple’s divergent interests to their work’s unique point of view; the designs that made them famous, after all, were daybeds and sofas for Moroso that combined industrially produced furnishings with hand-embroidery and textiles sourced from Indian artisans. It would be a cliché way of characterizing the pair if it weren’t so overwhelmingly true, even by their own admission: “After ten years of working together, I see it as an essential ingredient in what we do, almost a layer in the approach without which it would feel naked,” says Levien.

  17. 06.30.11
    Studio Visit
    Kneeland Co

    If you’ve ever spent an afternoon gazing out the window, futilely hoping that design inspiration might strike, you’ve probably wished you knew someone like Joanna Williams. As the proprietor of Kneeland Co., a Los Angeles–based, appointment-only studio that sources vintage prints, textiles, garments, and jewelry for the fashion and interiors industries, it’s Williams’s job to scour the globe, bringing back creative inspiration for sale. In Williams’s world, a book of early 20th-century decorative medallions, snagged from Pasadena’s legendary Rose Bowl Flea Market, might serve as inspiration for a new tile pattern, and the striped detail from a Moroccan wedding blanket might one day mutate into a maxidress for Anthropologie. As glamorous a life as that might sound, Williams concedes that it’s still a lot of hard work: “You’re definitely always searching and looking, trying to meet the right people, and making sure you don’t get ripped off,” she told me when I visited her new Atwater Village studio earlier this month.

  18. 06.01.11
    Studio Visit
    Adam Silverman, Studio Director at Heath Ceramics

    To identify yourself as a potter in this day and age sounds strangely old-fashioned. A ceramicist, yes; a ceramic artist, sure. And yet there really is no other way to describe Adam Silverman, the Los Angeles–based studio director for Heath Ceramics, who jokes that he keeps a banker’s hours behind the wheel he runs from the back of Heath’s Commune-designed retail facility. Silverman, of course, wasn’t always a potter by trade — he was first a RISD-trained architect and then a fashion entrepreneur who founded the late-’90s fashion label X-Large with his college roommate. But he always had a nagging feeling that he was ignoring his calling. “For me, it was a hobby. If you invited me to your house, I would bring you a pot instead of a bottle of wine,” Silverman told me when I visited his studio earlier this year. Finally in 2002, he attended a summer ceramics program at Alfred University and went about setting up a proper studio in Atwater Village. “I basically gave myself a year, and I have kids, so I couldn’t fuck around. When you do it like that, getting up every day to do the work, your progress is relatively immediate. I had also stepped into this weird vacuum where there was nobody else here doing this kind of thing.”

  19. 05.27.11
    Studio Visit
    Study O Portable, Product and Jewelry Designers

    You can learn a lot about Dutch designer Bernadette Deddens by just looking at her. First there are the shoes, which — depending on the day and the whims of London’s weather — she very well may have made herself. One pair of sandals constructed from $25 worth of pale leather and black cording could be mistaken for Margielas, yet are no less awe-inspiring for the fact that Deddens actually nicked the look from Tommy Hilfiger. After all, who makes their own shoes, anyway? Then there’s her jewelry, which is almost always her design, unless it’s a collaboration with her husband Tetsuo Mukai, with whom she formed Study O Portable two years ago. The jewelry is their way of giving people a form of creative expression that can be carried outside the house and into the wider world, as Deddens so poignantly demonstrates — hence their otherwise peculiar studio name.

  20. 05.12.11
    Studio Visit
    Ross Menuez of Salvor Projects

    There’s no real way to put this delicately: It can be somewhat difficult getting Ross Menuez to focus. Talk to the designer of the fashion label Salvor Projects for an hour, and your conversation might touch upon everything from the migratory patterns of birds to the intricacies of intarsia; ask him about his process, and he’s apt to fret instead about what to do with the signage for his first retail shop, which opened last week on a sleepy stretch of New York’s Lower East Side. His career has been equally hopscotched: He’d built houses for the Sandinista in Nicaragua, designed under Tom Dixon at Habitat, and run a metal shop in Brooklyn before finally, a few years back, committing himself fully to the world of fashion, complete with seasonal presentations and showroom representation. But as with any talent whose creativity flows faster than the mind can apprehend, it’s the unscripted aspect of Menuez’s work that makes it so compelling — you never know quite what to expect.

  21. 04.25.11
    Studio Visit
    Baggu

    “Always listen to your mother” isn’t exactly the kind of central tenet they teach you at Harvard Business School. But for Emily Sugihara, the California-raised, Brooklyn-based designer behind the reusable bag line Baggu, it’s a piece of advice that’s been invaluable to the brand’s runaway success since its founding in 2007. Back then Sugihara was a Parsons grad working as an assistant designer at J. Crew, just coming to realize that a corporate job wasn’t her calling. “As a kid, I was very entrepreneurial, and I always knew I wanted to have my own company,” she says. At home over Christmas break one year, Sugihara and her mother began talking about making a line of reusable shopping bags. Her mom was “sort of a treehugger” and an artist in her own right — an expert seamstress who learned to sew making her own clothes as a kid in rural Michigan — and Sugihara was a die-hard New Yorker-in-training, sporting fingers turned purple each week as she lugged home bags full of groceries. Together they came up with a bag that’s almost exactly like the original ripstop nylon Baggu that sells today: long handles that fit comfortably over the shoulder, gussets along the bottom that allow things like milk and eggs to stack, and a single, double-reinforced seam that’s the result, Sugihara says, of her mother’s “sewing genius.”

  22. 04.01.11
    Studio Visit
    Sruli Recht, fashion designer

    Sruli Recht was born in Jerusalem, spent most of his life in Australia, and for the past few years has called Reykjavik, Iceland, his home. But even before he was a foreign-born talent rising to prominence in a city of fiercely local independence, he was already a bit of an outsider. “We traveled to different countries a lot as a kid,” says Recht. “I was always confused about what people wore and the language of clothing. I was very anxious about what to wear and how to fit in. That’s probably why I now just wear jeans and a T-shirt — like everybody else, I just wanted to blend in.” It’s an ironic thing coming from a designer who in January released his first full menswear line, a 55-piece collection of beautifully constructed garments — at once futuristic and cozy — that aren’t exactly for the faint of fashion heart. Or from a designer who calls his studio in the city’s Fishpacking District The Armoury. “The Icelanders don’t seem to get it. They really do think we sell weapons, and we have maybe three visitors to the store a day just looking for guns,” Recht has said.

  23. 03.16.11
    Studio Visit
    Christian Wijnants, Fashion Designer

    Christian Wijnants attended the fashion program at Antwerp’s prestigious Royal Academy, and upon graduating, won the Hyéres prize, the Dries Van Noten prize, and a coveted assistant spot in Van Noten’s atelier. Then, two years after starting his own line in 2003, he banked 100,000 euros as the winner of the Swiss Textile Award, beating out Giles Deacon and Charles Anastase. “I never thought I would even be nominated,” Wijnants told i-D magazine at the time, before proceeding to watch his collection trickle into all of the world’s most respected boutiques and department stores. He was just being modest, of course — the man has unmistakable talent, especially when it comes to his imaginative textiles and knits — but there is something surprising about his success, when you think about it: In a country whose fashion scene skews towards all things experimental, nonconformist, androgynous, and/or dark, the cherub-faced designer is known for both his colorful, feminine aesthetic and his charming geniality. He’s almost too perfect to be cool.

  24. 02.28.11
    Studio Visit
    Heaven Tanudiredja, Jewelry Designer

    Heaven Tanudiredja didn’t have a chance to tidy up the day I visited his Antwerp studio in early February, leaving his desk a maelstrom of beads, tools, and findings, punctuated by the odd Marlboro package. “Cigarettes and Red Bull — this is the real me,” he joked, apologizing for the mess. But to the uninitiated visitor, of course, it was a fascinating sight, a glimpse at the primordial soup that would soon be transformed into Tanudiredja’s ever-more-elaborate fall jewelry collection, which he’ll show this week in Paris. Because everything is made by hand in the studio, his desk is actually a production hub; with his line Heaven now in its ninth season, and his elaborate bead-encrusted necklaces selling for $5,000 at the likes of Barneys New York, Tanudiredja and his three-person team are responsible for churning out upwards of 300 pieces every six months, each of which takes 48 hours of exacting beadwork to construct. Hence the stimulants — not to mention the thick-rimmed glasses he has to wear while working as a consequence of his failing eyesight.

  25. 02.25.11
    Studio Visit
    David Wiseman, designer

    For a designer whose most high-profile interiors client is Christian Dior, David Wiseman has none of the flamboyance you might expect — neither the stylized degeneracy of John Galliano nor the leather chaps–wearing showmanship of Peter Marino, the architect who in the past year-and-a-half has hired Wiseman to create massive, site-specific installations in his newly renovated Dior flagships from Shanghai to New York. Rather, Wiseman is a 29-year-old RISD grad whose studio is located in a former sweatshop in the industrial Glassell Park area of Los Angeles, just behind an unmarked door in the shadow of a taco truck. For a commission like the Shanghai Dior installation — a ceiling full of more than 500 porcelain lily-of-the-valley blossoms cascading down the walls — Wiseman tends to hunker down just inside the doorway of his warehouse-like space, chalk in hand, sketching out tentative blueprints on the concrete floor before prefabricating the work in parts on tiles that can be reassembled on-site.