“The corrupted part is all gray and then I paint over it again with smooth, colored urethane, but because the corrupted part is still reactive it makes these other bubbles. It looks kind of like a ceramic glaze, like Adam Silverman’s for Heath. It makes me wonder what he does.” Above is a completed geode. "I build them up layer after layer, and I totally forget what I’ve put in.  Every time I open one it’s a total surprise."

Elyse Graham’s Geodes

It seems fitting that we were first introduced to Elyse Graham’s Geodes during our Hotel California show at last year’s Noho Design District. After all, there’s something distinctly Californian in the born-and-bred Los Angeles artist’s work. In her Geodes project, for which Graham casts layers of colorful urethane around a balloon mold, there are hints of the desert, psychedelia, yoga, and the wind. If that all sounds a little fuzzy, the objects themselves are not: Sawed open, they reveal incredibly beautiful swirls of color and texture that are the result of a process that's somehow both carefully calibrated and entirely left to chance. We asked Graham herself to explain how she achieves that effect, and to take us through her entire process.
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Shatter Vases by Pete Oyler and Misha Kahn for Assembly

If you have a great design sense, and if you enjoy sending people flowers, you've probably noticed by now that the two don't exactly tend to play well together. Unless you're clued into a place like The Sill, our new favorite Brooklyn-based succulent delivery service, you know your lucky recipient is most likely going to receive their posies in some boring glass trifle that will inevitably end up in the freebie box at his or her next garage sale. That's why when young designers Misha Kahn and Pete Oyler hit up a Salvation Army looking for castoff vessels to experiment with for their latest project, they had absolutely no trouble filling up their cart. It's tough out there for a generic FTD vase, especially one whose emptiness eventually reminds you of a failed relationship or a hospital stay. Kahn and Oyler decided that, just in time for Valentine's Day, they'd take their thrifted castoffs and give them new lives as objets d'art, filling them with colored resin and shattering them in place (hence the name). "We wanted to capture the instantaneous," the pair write in their project description. "The gesture of shattering and freezing the vases simultaneously subverts their typical use and life-cycle while reconstituting them as extraordinary objects: Each is completely unique in both in its contents and configuration." Kahn and Oyler have described to us in detail after the jump the process behind the vases; as of tomorrow, you'll be able to buy one for your sweetheart — or yourself — on Assembly's website.
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Archivo Diario by Melinda Santillan and Marco Rountree Cruz

If you're the kind of person who pays attention to Pinterest, you may have spotted the playful image above making the rounds there as of late. But we can pretty much guarantee you don't know the story of the two Mexican artists who created it — and the blog it's pulled from, Archivo Diario — which turns out to be one of the more amusing tales we've heard in awhile. We were lucky enough to meet Marco Rountree Cruz and Melinda Santillan at a party thrown this fall by Jennilee Marigomen of 01 Magazine, and we decided to keep in touch with the Mexico City–based couple, who launched Archivo Diario three months ago both as a way to force themselves to create something new every day and to try their hand at working together (Cruz being a successful installation artist and Santillan more of an art director). But when we dug a little deeper, we found out that the endeavor was technically their second collaboration, and was in many ways a direct reaction to the failure of first: an elaborate script for a stylized telenovela that they dreamed of actually producing, but that has since languished in their desk drawer. We were so impressed by the couple's boundless creative ambitions — just wait until you hear about the crazy project Cruz is working on now — that we begged them to tell us everything
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Malin Gabriela Nordin’s Children’s Workshop

Malin Gabriela Nordin isn’t the type who’d be quick to align herself with an art movement — the 24-year-old prefers to stay as insulated as possible from outside influences, which is why she left her friends and family in Stockholm four years ago to attend art school in comparably tiny Bergen, Norway. But as it turns out, Nordin is something of a Surrealist, at least from where we’re standing: Everything about her process is geared towards connecting with her subconscious, from letting her sculptures develop intuitively and spontaneously to painting with quick-dry acrylics, eliminating any lag between her mind and the canvas. And then there’s her obsession with children. “My work has to do with reconstructing fragments from memories, and I've been working with my own childhood a lot,” she says. “I think of kids at that age as more free.” It’s that notion that led Dalí and Picasso to pay homage to the creativity of the pint-sized, and that led Nordin to make them the subject of her senior graduation project, inviting eleven children to participate in her artistic process.
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Office by Studio Swine

Things are winding down here at Sight Unseen HQ, where as of tomorrow we'll be on a much-needed summer holiday for two weeks. So today, we bring you an appropriately tiny story about a very tiny project: an office by Studio Swine in London's Soho neighborhood where three people share a 100 square-foot space. We first learned about the duo — RCA product-design grads Azusa Murakami and Alexander Groves — during this year's Noho Design District, where they showed a series of golden geometric button covers in the Once Removed show at our 22 Bond space. We were further intrigued by works like their recycled-plastic Sea Chair. But if you read our story yesterday on Kent Fonn Skåre, you already know why we find this simple office scheme particularly endearing — not only does it take advantage of pegboard to maximize wall space, but it's also inspired by "New York Art Deco meets Memphis," say the designers, and it uses a freewheeling mix of contrasting materials like marble, colored steel, linoleum, and reclaimed wood. After reading a bit more below from Murakami and Groves about how they constructed the various elements of the office, stay tuned for your chance to purchase their geometric marmoleum wall pouches, coming soon to the Sight Unseen shop!
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Lex Pott’s True Colours Series

In some ways, it seems fate that Dutch designer Lex Pott would end up working in a studio housed in an old shipyard in the northern precincts of Amsterdam. As a child growing up in Hilversum, 30 miles outside the city, Pott was obsessed with boats, constantly crafting miniature ones from the natural debris he’d find in the forest around his house, and using old plastic bags as sails. And in the short time since he set up his studio, after graduating from Design Academy Eindhoven in 2009, he’s built up a small body of work centered around the very phenomenon that’s known to wreak havoc on seafaring vessels: oxidation. Pott has shot to fame in recent months on the basis of Transience, a series of silvered geometric mirrors designed in collaboration with fellow Eindhoven grad David Derksen. But the project that started it all, True Colours, was less a product than an investigation into the nature of color: Pott took standard sheets of industrial metals — copper, brass, steel, and aluminum — and played with oxidizing them by various methods, in the process creating a highly individualized palette he could, in theory, apply to any metal object.
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Philippe Malouin’s Intarsia Bowl for Carwan Gallery

On Friday we introduced you to Oeuffice's Ziggurat Towers for the Beirut-based Carwan Gallery, and today it's the gallery's contribution from London designer Philippe Malouin, who's also showing with Plus Design and Kvadrat in Milan this week. Malouin was one of nine designers — along with Karen Chekerdjian, Khalid Shafar, Lindsey Adelman, Studio mischer’traxler, Nada Debs, Oeuffice, Paul Loebach, and Tamer Nakisci — who traveled to the Middle East late last year for a grand tour of artisan’s studios, each pairing up with a different craftsperson to produce a new twist on an old archetype or technique. What caught Malouin's eye was the wood-inlay method called intarsia, in which pieces of various types of wood are cut and assembled into a jigsaw-puzzle like image or pattern that often has the illusion of depth. Rather than using the method in a conventional way, however — as a decorative add-on — he tried something a little bit different; here, he explains how he arrived at the final design for his Intarsia Bowl.
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Oeuffice’s Ziggurat Tower for Carwan Gallery

The Milan furniture fair starts next Tuesday and, crazy enough, the editors of Sight Unseen are sitting this one out — we've got too much going on at home this year, between our pop-up shop at Creatures of Comfort and the 2012 Noho Design District, which is shaping up to be much bigger and better than ever. We'll still be reporting on Milan via the snapshots of a select group of friends and collaborators, but meanwhile, we figured we'd at least bring you one or two previews of pieces you'll be seeing next week, beginning with the latest offerings from the Beirut-based Carwan Gallery. Founded by architect Pascale Wakim and jetsetter Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte, who's also a partner in Montreal's Samare and the newer Milan-based design outfit Oeuffice, Carwan began its second collection — which technically launched last month at Design Days Dubai — by organizing a field trip of sorts for its designers. Karen Chekerdjian, Khalid Shafar, Lindsey Adelman, Studio mischer'traxler, Nada Debs, Oeuffice, Paul Loebach, Philippe Malouin, and Tamer Nakisci all traveled to the Middle East for a grand tour of artisan's studios, each pairing up with a different craftsperson to produce a new twist on an old archetype or technique. Here, the duo behind Oeuffice, whose work revolves around research into architectural forms, reveal the story behind their contribution to the exhibition, a series of boxes inspired by ancient Middle Eastern structures.
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Max Lipsey’s Acciaio Series

It was hard not to feel a burst of pride when, after introducing Matter's Jamie Gray to Max Lipsey in advance of his appearance in our 2011 Noho Next showcase, we heard the pair had a major collab in the works. Unveiled at the Qubique fair in Berlin in October, Lipsey's Acciaio: Stage 2 collection for MatterMade picks up where the Eindhoven-based designer's first bicycle-inspired series left off, ratcheting up the proportions of the welded-steel objects and forming them into more complicated, experimental shapes, like the turquoise table/cabinet hybrid pictured above. There is, however, one significant difference: While the new pieces are limited-edition only, Lipsey himself manufactures the originals, slaving away in his workshop to produce each and every order by hand. Earlier this week, he sent Sight Unseen a short video documenting how he does it — which you can watch here — and obliged to answer a few questions for us about how the process has since evolved.
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A better view of the Aalto piece and an assortment of the baskets that served as raw material for the exhibition. Hanging in the right corner is one of Burks’s basket abstracted objects: a pendant lamp made from the recycled HDPE of milk jugs and water bottles that Burks found in the streets of Brooklyn and cleaned for reuse.

Stephen Burks’s Man Made exhibition at the Studio Museum

In search of inspiration, the Chicago-born designer Stephen Burks has often traveled to places like Peru, South Africa, Haiti, India, Australia, and Kenya. But the idea for his latest project began a bit closer to home: “Three or four years ago, I met this basket salesman at a street fair in New York,” remembers Burks. “His name was Serigne Diouck, and I told him I was interested in his technique.” The two became friends instantly, and Burks soon learned that the baskets were constructed from spiraled sweet grass, stitched together with colorful strands of recycled plastic and made in Diouck’s birthplace of Thies, a tiny village outside of Dakar. Their collaboration, though, was longer in coming. “Since 2006, I’ve been shooting this documentary of my work in the developing world,” says Burks. “Finally in 2009, the Sundance Channel came forward and wanted to produce a pilot. We did a four-day shoot in Senegal with Serigne where I did a bunch of experiments around these traditional baskets.” One of the products to come out of the shoot was the Starburst lamp, a cluster of Diouck’s baskets turned into readymades and strung together with bulbs until they resembled some sort of third-world Castiglioni lamp. On a studio visit last fall, Thelma Golden and Naomi Beckwith — the curators of New York’s Studio Museum in Harlem — spied the Starburst and commissioned Burks on the spot to create the museum’s first-ever industrial design exhibit around the theme of those hybrid experiments. The resulting show, called Stephen Burks: Man Made, opened this spring at the museum.
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FORT STANDARD: Briefly explain your process. “On a mini-lathe we brought in, I began turning the feet of the stool from solid aluminum blanks I'd cut to size in our shop. I had to remove about 40 percent of the material from each blank in order to properly shape each foot. Each foot had to have two very precise dimensions: the outside diameter of the legs it would be inserted into, and the inside diameter, which had to have a slight taper so it could be pressed — or 'friction fit' — into the leg in order to stay without any additional hardware.” Above: Buntain on the lathe, which the studio typically uses to make jewelry.

The American Design Club at MAD

The brief itself was simple: Design and build something to sit on. It was the execution part that was hard. From April 16–21, four sets of young American furniture designers each took a turn in the open studios at New York’s Museum of Arts and Design, each with a single purpose: to build and assemble a chair from start to finish, between the time the museum opened at 9AM to the minute the last straggler was ushered out the door at 6. The designers could use any materials they chose, and they were allowed to make preliminary design studies or prototypes before arriving at the museum, but the bulk of the construction work had to be executed on the museum’s 6th floor — in full view of school tours, visiting tourists, families, and itinerant design geeks who wanted a peek at the action. But the exercise wasn’t some reality show–like competition to pit designers against each other or to see whose design would reign supreme. The event was part of The Home Front, a museum project curated by Surface editor Dan Rubinstein, who spearheaded the whole thing in order explore in-depth the business of being a designer in America today.
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David Huycke’s Granulation Series

The history of the metalworking technique known as granulation stretches back some 5,000 years, to when ancient goldsmiths in Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean began fusing tiny ornamental gold balls onto jewelry surfaces using a painstaking invisible soldering process. It was used to decorate the rings of the queen of Ur in the Bronze Age, perfected by the Etruscans in the 7th century BC, and resurrected in 1933 by a jewelry maker looking to copy pieces from the British Museum's collection. Yet only when the contemporary Belgian silversmith David Huycke began experimenting with the obscure technique in 1996 did it feel like granulation had finally evolved — beyond the realm of fussy antique jewelry and into the world of modern design. For Re-Thinking Granulation, Huycke's show of granulated vessels and atomic sculptures on view now at the design museum Z33 in Hasselt, Belgium, he's worked on a blown-up scale and forsaken the idea of ornamentation in favor of letting each object's form grow organically from the process used to make it.
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