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Category Archives: Up and Coming

  1. 04.03.14
    Up and Coming
    Grain, furniture and product designers

    To hear the story of James and Chelsea Minola — the married couple behind Seattle’s Grain design studio — you begin to wonder how it’s possible their paths didn’t cross even earlier in life. Both grew up in Southern California — James in San Diego, and Chelsea in Los Angeles, where her parents were the owners of a punk rock store at the Sherman Oaks Galleria. In the early ’90s, both families relocated to the Pacific Northwest, and James and Chelsea moved east to Providence, Rhode Island, around the same time to attend RISD — James as an undergrad in engineering and Chelsea as a graduate in industrial design. But the two didn’t meet until they both enrolled in a short course called “Bridging Cultures Through Design,” where they worked first in Providence, tinkering with ideas about weaving, and then for a few weeks in Guatemala, where they learned how to work with talented local artisans. The trip would eventually lead the two friends down the path to marriage but it also introduced them to the way in which their future studio would run.

  2. 04.02.14
    Up and Coming
    Nicholas Nyland, artist

    Nicholas Nyland studied to be a painter for years, first as an undergrad at the University of Washington and then as a graduate at the University of Pennsylvania. But it only took one night for him to figure out that his heart belonged to ceramics. “I discovered ceramics through a friend who invited people over just to play around and make things,” says the Seattle-based artist. “It was like a light bulb went off over my head. It was the best combination of my interests in painting and color and surface, with the immediacy of sculptural practice and the ability to then glaze.”

  3. 03.27.14
    Up and Coming
    MPGMB, Industrial Designers

    We never really thought we’d be featuring someone who’d also graced the pages of Modern Cat magazine. But that’s exactly where Montreal designers Marie-Pier Guilmain and Maud Beauchamp ended up a few years ago after they hit it big with their chic, flat-packed cardboard teepees and cabins for cats. Back then, the two were known as Loyal Luxe, friends and designers who’d met and hit it off studying industrial design at the Université de Montréal. But a year ago, the two decided to change course. Their Loyal Luxe designs now mostly licensed to Suck UK, Guilmain and Beauchamp embarked on a new adventure, which they called mpgmb. In some ways, their mission is the same as it was when they were known as Loyal Luxe — to imbue everyday objects with beauty and sophistication through the manipulation of materials, textures, proportions, and form. But here, they’re more interested in items at a human scale: beautiful, turned wood and marble pedestals, patterned stoneware, and colorful wall decals that all have in common a major graphic impact. We recently spoke to the two designers by email to find out more about what’s influenced them in the past (we love the Sottsass table they chose!) and where they’re going next.

  4. 03.24.14
    Up and Coming
    Tim Colmant, Illustrator

    For everyone who’s ever bought, coveted, or loved the famous laminates of the Memphis design group — or is semi-ashamedly stalking the new Nathalie Du Pasquier collection at American Apparel — it is nearly impossible not to fall for the work of the young Belgian illustrator Tim Colmant. We succumbed the moment we discovered his cheerful illustrations a little over a year ago, and went on to recommend him to Jonah Takagi, furniture designer and co-founder of the housewares brand Field, when he curated an exhibition for our Noho Design District event last year. A few weeks ago, we found out that our little matchmaking scheme had evolved even further, into a collaboration between Colmant and Takagi’s insanely talented girlfriend Mary Timony, whose new band Ex Hex has hired him to wrap its merch in his signature Microsoft Paint–inspired designs. We figured it was time to check in and see what else Colmant has been up to in the year since we first featured him.

  5. 02.19.14
    Up and Coming
    Studio Visibility, Product Designers

    Sina Sohrab was born in Tehran and raised in Detroit; Joseph Guerra is a native Los Angelean who grew up outside Atlanta. Yet when the pair met as undergrads at RISD, their backgrounds turned out to be their most influential commonality: “There was this emphasis in both our families on earning your possessions and respecting them — it’s something we really connected on,” recalls Sohrab. “Joey’s dad, for example, had this idea that he wanted all of his possessions to reference an older possession he’d had at another point in his life. This timeline of objects and the idea of emotional value became really important to us.” Upon graduating in 2012, the duo knew they wanted to team up; Sohrab moved to New York and took a job at Bec Brittain studio, while Guerra spent six months in Europe working for Industrial Facility and Big-Game before joining him. They’re now hunkered down in Brooklyn preparing to launch their first collaborative collection during ICFF in May, under the name Studio Visibility.

  6. 01.24.14
    Up and Coming
    Natalie Herrera of High Gloss Ceramics

    If you want to get a sense of exactly how new to the scene Natalie Herrera is — well, she just launched her online shop last night. It’s not that she’s a newly minted graduate — Herrera got a BFA from RISD in 2009, after all — it’s only that it took her this long to figure out she was really, really good at ceramics. A glimpse at her work can immediately tell you why: When you look at her forms, which have more rigorous lines than your usual wheel-thrown vessels, as well as hand-built surface decoration in the form of shapes and squiggles, it comes as no surprise that what she was doing before she stumbled into ceramics was graphic design.

  7. 01.09.14
    Up and Coming
    Josephine Choquet, Designer

    As longtime talent scouts in the field of design, we can say this with absolute confidence: There are only a handful of schools out there whose students consistently produce well-resolved, magazine-ready work. ECAL, of course, is one of them, and you’ll see several of its recent grads on Sight Unseen in the coming months, starting with today’s interview with Joséphine Choquet. We featured one of the French talent’s projects just before the holidays — a line of acetate sunglasses made in collaboration with another ECAL up-and-comer, Virgile Thévoz — but wanted to come back and finish the job with a short profile cementing her status as one to watch. Like many young designers these days, Choquet is particularly interested in old craft techniques and simple materials, which she then marries with her love of line, pattern, and contemporary art. Check out some of her past and present work after the jump.

  8. 12.24.13
    Up and Coming
    Studio AH–HA, Graphic Designers

    Working as a design journalist confers some pretty amazing benefits — travel to international design fairs, VIP invitations to parties, the occasional holiday gift — but this, right here, is hands down our favorite part of the job: discovering something so new and exciting we get a rush just from being the first to be able to share it with you. We originally met Portuguese graphic designer Catarina Carreiras a few years ago during the Milan Furniture Fair, where she was helping staff the installation of her then-employer, Fabrica, and we’ve kept in touch with her ever since; in 2011 she joined forces with fellow designer (and OMA alum) Carolina Cantante to start the communication and design agency Studio AH—HA, which now operates out of Sam Baron’s office in Lisbon. Carreiras still does work for Sam and Fabrica, but as of this very story, she and Cantante are officially announcing the existence of their burgeoning practice — and its brand new website — to the rest of the world. You’ll want to stare at the duo’s gorgeous work for ages; seeing as it’s the last story we’ll be posting until January 2 as we embark our annual holiday hiatus, you’ll have plenty of time to do just that. Happy new year, and enjoy!

  9. 12.18.13
    Up and Coming
    Lola Lely, furniture designer

    Lola Lely was born in Hanoi, Vietnam, but, having moved to London when she was only five, the rising design star can claim native east Londoner status — a rare feat in the area’s bustling international design scene. Her interest in making dates back nearly as far; her mother, a seamstress, was always “knitting or crocheting, making clothes or coasters.” Her Foundation tutor, ceramicist Bo Davies, guided Lely down the path to product design, to satisfy her interest in various disciplines and materials. But now that she’s there, she says, “none of my projects seem to have an end point. I like restlessness, when I don’t know where something is going. It’s a little bit serendipitous.”

  10. 11.14.13
    Up and Coming
    Knauf & Brown, furniture designers

    Formafantasma, Ladies & Gentlemen, Rich Brilliant Willing: The list of design partnerships that began in art school is pretty endless. But rare is the pair who knew and liked each other enough to not only register at the same university at the same time but also to enroll in all of the same classes, “to keep each other on our toes.” That’s Calen Knauf and Conrad Brown of the emerging Vancouver-based design studio Knauf & Brown talking; the two met through skateboarding more than a decade ago. Brown was a photographer and Knauf a graphic designer, and once they graduated from their industrial design program at Emily Carr, the natural thing to do was to go into business together. “It’s a good partnership,” they say, “because we both have different strengths, but fairly similar aesthetics.” What exactly defines that aesthetic is still a bit up in the air, considering that the two graduated only last year. But what’s emerged so far has shown an emphasis on simple and honest natural materials, like ash and marble, as well as a healthy sense of humor that occasionally surfaces in the form of performance art. For “despite how much of our lives we dedicate to design and our studio, we still place a high priority on having as much fun as possible,” they say. “We both still skateboard, and regularly get up to no good.” Read on for a deeper look into their brand-new practice.

  11. 10.24.13
    Up and Coming
    Misha Kahn, furniture designer

    The first time we met Misha Kahn, he was slapping gold metallic wallpaper with long-lashed googly eyes onto the walls of a tiny room we’d afforded four RISD students at our 2011 Noho Design District showcase. We were never sure quite what to make of the wallpaper — was it technically even “furniture design,” or was it more a piece of Surrealist art? — but we knew from first sight that we loved it. Which is pretty much how we’ve felt about all of the work that’s followed from the Brooklyn-based, Duluth, Minnesota–born designer’s studio, whether it’s a pink bench made from layers of resin and trash, a series of tables that resemble Froebel blocks on acid, or sewn cement pieces that look like the work of a woozy Jeff Koons.

  12. 09.27.13
    Up and Coming
    Helen Levi, ceramicist

    If, like us, you began hearing the name Helen Levi only a few months ago — well, there’s a pretty good reason for it. At this time last year, Levi was balancing four part-time jobs, working as a photo assistant, a pottery teacher, a bartender and a waitress. “I’d been doing pottery since I was a little kid, but mostly gifts or for myself,” she told me when I visited her Greenpoint studio last month. “It’s the dream to be able to make stuff you want to make and have that support you, but I never really thought that was possible.” Then, at a random cocktail event last fall at one of the Steven Alan shops in Manhattan, Levi met the man himself: “I met Steven Alan by chance and was telling him about my work, and he was like, ‘Send it to me.’ I didn’t even have one photograph!” Levi laughs. “But once I met him, it was the spark. I quit all my other jobs and I just tried to do this. Maybe it doesn’t work out and I go back to balancing four things, but it didn’t take a huge investment of money. And so far it’s working.”

  13. 09.03.13
    Up and Coming
    James Shaw, Furniture Designer

    I recently wrote an article for a forthcoming issue of Architectural Digest on the London talent Anton Alvarez, whose Thread-Wrapping Machine has captivated the design world as of late, and in it, his gallerist Libby Sellers makes the point that what’s so of the moment about his work is that he isn’t just making objects, he’s making the object that makes the objects. And it’s so true: Many of the more interesting young designers we’ve come across in the past few years have been the ones shifting their focus towards developing their own weird and wonderful production processes, like Silo Studio for instance. There’s just something about this unexpected inventiveness that captures people’s curiosity, which explains why the latest project by newcomer James Shaw — a series of homemade “guns” that spray or extrude materials into or onto furnishings — went viral on the design blogs shortly after he presented it at his RCA graduation show. In work like his, it’s about the journey, not just the destination. So Sight Unseen, right?

  14. 08.23.13
    Up and Coming
    The American Design Hot List

    Last week on Ambra Medda’s new site L’Arcobaleno, Jill was asked to cover the recent rebirth of New York design, discussing the transformation with key players like Jason Miller, Lindsey Adelman, and Dave Alhadeff. “Once again there’s a scene that’s celebrated internationally,” said Alhadeff, and we couldn’t agree more — ever since we founded the Noho Design District in 2010, which is largely devoted to American talents, we ourselves have been asked countless times by global designers and journalists to share our take on all the exciting things happening on our home turf, and we’re always happy to oblige. After awhile, though, it got us thinking: Why wait for people to ask? Why not create an easy resource we can share with everyone? And so, introducing the American Design Hot List, a totally unscientific, unapologetically subjective portfolio of the 25 emerging and semi-emerging furniture and product designers we think you should know now. Is it comprehensive? No. Will some folks feel left out? Inevitably. But without enumerating them here, we had our reasons for every choice, whether it’s the fact that they have a big show coming up this fall/winter — Katie Stout, Misha Kahn, Snarkitecture, Jonathan Muecke — or they had a game-changing launch this year, or they just seem to be ubiquitous at the moment. Because these things (and our minds) are constantly changing, we’ll be publishing new versions of the list periodically. Meanwhile, Sight Unseen is taking a short summer hiatus next week, returning September 2, so you’ll have plenty of time to peruse this one! See the names after the jump!

  15. 08.19.13
    Up and Coming
    David Kirshoff, Designer

    If New York designer David Kirshoff’s bright, blobby lamps and chairs have an element of the grotesque to them, to some degree it was fated: “I was raised around a shop that makes special effects for movies and TV, where my brother and I used to hide out and coat each other with fake blood,” says the 25-year-old Pratt grad. “I’ve been welding and machining, blowing things up, setting things on fire, and most importantly, making things with my hands since I was a little kid. That’s how I learned to be a craftsman.” Thanks to these formative experiences, Kirshoff developed a healthy knack for experimentation, and for not being afraid to work outside the normal boundaries of form and function. We discovered his wacky work through Zoe Fisher, whose upcoming Handjob Gallery Store project includes a special edition of his lamps. We’ll be helping Fisher launch her entire collection very soon, but in the meantime, you can get a sneak peek by way of our interview with Kirshoff after the jump.

  16. 07.26.13
    Up and Coming
    Katie Stout, Furniture Designer

    What were you doing at age 24? Muddling through grad school? Working as a CAD monkey? Moving back in with your parents? If so, you might be more than a little jealous of recent RISD grad Katie Stout, who at that tender age already holds the post of gallery director at New York’s Johnson Trading Gallery, where Paul Johnson not only represents her work but encourages her to introduce him to that of her peers (like Noho Next alum and future SU subject Misha Kahn, for example). Before she landed the job, Stout’s only previous employment was a one-summer college internship for the novelty housewares brand Fred and Friends: “I showed the creative director my portfolio, and when he saw a table I’d made as a sophomore that was an udder with milk squirting out of its teats, he asked me what I was on,” she recalls. “Obviously I said nothing.”

  17. 07.10.13
    Up and Coming
    Pauline Deltour, Product and Furniture Designer

    Okay, let’s get this out of the way as quickly as possible: Yes, Pauline Deltour spent a few years as a designer in Konstantin Grcic’s studio. And yes, Grcic may have made a few strategic phone calls on her behalf, jumpstarting her career once she struck out on her own in 2009. But considering that was four years ago, and the 30-year-old Paris-based talent has since turned out more than a few painfully elegant designs for the likes of Discipline and Kvadrat, we thought it was worth stating for the record that she’s become quite the rising star in her own right — not to mention one of design’s most promising new female voices. We checked in with Deltour, who describes her practice as aspiring to create “self-evident” objects, to find out what she’s been up to lately.

  18. 06.04.13
    Up and Coming
    Hazel Stark, designer

    If this is what Hazel Stark can come up with spending only one or two days a week in the studio, we’d love to see what she could do working fulltime. The London-based designer spends most days tending the website, marketing and events for bagmaker Ally Capellino, but on her off days she slips away to a shared studio space in Hackney to dabble in ceramics and textiles infused with the same lighthearted cheer she exhibited when I phoned her up last month. But who’s to say she’ll ever take the fulltime plunge? “I started out as an artist’s assistant, and it helped me figure out the ways to run a design business before I ever started designing,” Stark says. “In some ways, seeing other people struggle put me off a bit! So it’s baby steps for now.”

  19. 05.06.13
    Up and Coming
    Poetic Lab & Studio Shikai, Designers

    As anyone who’s spent even a passing amount of time with us knows, one of our favorite games is playing “spot the next design star.” There are lots of places to look, of course — our most recent obsession being the treasure trove that is Instagram — but the granddaddy of them all is Salone Satellite, the young designers showcase that sets up shop on the edge of Milan’s fairgrounds each year. Before blogs, before ICFF Studio, before the London Design Festival even existed, there was Satellite, which in the past has been a launching pad for designers like Front, Nendo, Paul Loebach, Jonah Takagi, and Matali Crasset, to name a few.

  20. 04.18.13
    Up and Coming
    Jason Rens, Furniture Designer

    Jason Rens’s future as a designer pretty much began — though unbeknownst to him at the time — the day his grandpa bought him a Taliesin West t-shirt. Rens was still a kid growing up in Arizona, and his grandpa, Al Farnsworth, was an architect who liked to make pilgrimages to Frank Lloyd Wright’s famed winter home each time he came to visit. When Rens grew up and graduated high school, he worked at a clothing company slash record label for awhile, but then a random job at a design/build company activated some long-dormant impulse buried inside him: I want to be an architect, too. He made it halfway through architecture school in Boulder before shifting gears and finishing his degree in crafts in Portland, where he’s now known for both his interiors and, increasingly, his Rason Jens line of sculptural objects.

  21. 03.28.13
    Up and Coming
    David des Moutis, Furniture Designer

    Like many of his peers, 29-year-old Parisian David des Moutis is obsessed with finding new possibilities for traditional handicrafts, and if he could, he’d probably spend all of his time geeking out in workshops watching glass being blown, stone being carved, or metal being spun. One of his pieces — an eyeball-shaped bentwood stool he showed at IMM Cologne in 2010 — even came about after he discovered an old manual wood press in the back of a local shop that its own employees didn’t even know how to operate. One could say he’s the ultimate tinkerer; even when he’s not the one fabricating his own designs, he can’t help but leap in and try to learn the ropes. Check out some of the results here.

  22. 03.04.13
    Up and Coming
    Fredrik Paulsen, furniture designer

    Fredrik Paulsen’s work, both as a designer and as a co-founder of Stockholm’s brilliant Örnsbergsauktionen is shaking the foundations of what you think Scandinavian design ought to be. “Here you are taught to produce work for the everyman,” Paulsen says. “It’s the legacy of IKEA: Good design for everyone. But if your work doesn’t really fit into mass production and it is not intended for it, then there is no platform or venue to show it.” It was this void that led Paulsen and his friends and fellow designers Simon Klenell and Kristoffer Sundin to stage their first auction during last year’s Stockholm’s Design Week. They invited contemporaries — some they knew, others they only knew of — to submit diverse, self-made works that went beyond the cookie-cutter forms they’d grown tired of, and put them up for bidding. It paid off.

  23. 02.25.13
    Up and Coming
    Till Wiedeck of HelloMe, Graphic Designer

    If you’re wondering why we chose to kick off a story about a graphic designer with a series of objects that fall squarely in the art/furniture realm, there are two reasons: First, they were our first introduction — via Pinterest — to Till Wiedeck’s work, and second, they illustrate perfectly what’s so great about the Berlin-based talent. Though he refers to himself as a hyper-functionalist, preoccupied with detail and simplicity and too serious to answer our sillier interview questions about Google searches and fictional characters, somehow he’s still the kind of guy who would take a sizeable chunk of time out of his client schedule to build a suite of semi-useless objects like these. You’ll find the same juxtapositions in the portfolio of his graphics studio, HelloMe, where he might pair spare typography with lush hyper-color flower arrangements, creepy Photoshop smears, or experimental acid-trip paintings he and his cohorts have made by hand. It all comes together in our interview with Wiedeck, who has a thing for both Bauhaus and Memphis, modernist chairs and tchotchkes. Whatever it is, it’s working.

  24. 02.13.13
    Up and Coming
    Asaf Weinbroom, Lighting Designer

    If Asaf Weinbroom had ended up a fashion designer, the way he intended from a young age growing up in Tel Aviv, it’s easy to envision what the hallmarks of his design might have been: unconventional draping, vintage buttons or clasps, and an obsession with transforming materials that would normally be considered pedestrian. After all, as a lighting designer — the path he chose after being rejected from a fashion program — his pieces have all followed a similar formula. “I begin to design from the inside out,” he says. “I’ll start with small details, joints, or mechanisms, and when those are done I decide which type of light it will be.”

  25. 02.08.13
    Up and Coming
    Ya Wen Chou, Textile and Product Designer

    Ahh, design school — where navel-gazing and the pretentions of identity art are not only tolerated, but encouraged (on days when the lesson plan doesn’t focus on sustainability or people with disabilities, of course). It’s easy for lesser talents to get sucked too far into these themes and end up with over-baked work that either borders on kitsch or is completely irrelevant to the wider world, but when done right, the results can be both beautiful and culturally illuminating — as in the case of Ya Wen Chou, who used her time in the RCA’s textile department to dig into the traditions of her grandmother and her home country of Taiwan. “My grandmother’s house was always full of handicrafts made by Taiwanese artisans,” she told the Arts Thread blog last year, explaining a main source of her inspiration. And her Precious Objects project — which first caught our eye on Pinterest — explores her culture’s traditional reverence for nature’s role in everyday life, which does feel rather universal, having a lot in common with everything from Icelandic elf mythology to Native American spirituality. Read more about Chou’s point of view in our interview after the jump.