Melbourne-based Matthew Dettmer's work spans painting and sculpture, but in Dettmer's hands, those practices become relatively indistinct from one another. "During art school, I was painting photos and images that I'd found. But there was no reason the outcome needed to be a painting when it could just exist as a photo. So I started making sculptures of found objects or forms that didn’t exist — ones that I wished did."
People always ask where exactly we find our story subjects, and for the past two years, the most frequent answer has invariably been Instagram. And it’s true, in the case of Belgian-born graphic designer Stephanie Specht, we were fans of her @spechtstudio handle long before we ever knew who was behind it. But our interest was piqued even further in recent months after Specht got the imprimatur from two friends with an impeccable knack for collaborations: Sandeep Salter of McNally Jackson Picture Room, where Specht released an edition earlier this year, and Alex Proba, with whom Specht created this series of plant-inspired posters.
Unlike most of his contemporaries, Dutch artist Thomas Raat — whose colorful and intricate compositions recall the great European modernist graphic design tradition — isn't particularly concerned with the emotional aspects of art but instead focuses purely on the visual techniques and functionality of the medium. Referencing a deep and thorough understanding of modernist philosophy and analytical thinking, Raat creates large-scale paintings and sculptures that employ the use of symmetry, repetition, and other basic principles of design to create pleasing and visually stimulating compositions.
Growing up in China, designer Ejing Zhang was fascinated by traditional calligraphy and ink painting — art forms that are both fine and expressive, requiring a fluid interaction with brush and ink. Zhang is now based in London, but at the heart of her work is the same sensitivity to materials that she observed growing up. Four years ago, while studying at the Royal College of Art, she developed a new technique for creating work that involved taking spalted beech wood (partially decayed wood that has a marble-like pattern), wrapping it with colored thread, and casting it in resin, before sanding and polishing it to reveal its beautiful cross-sections.
Though she studied textiles at London's Royal College of Art, Lily Kamper spent most of her time in the jewelry department experimenting with acrylic, resin, and offcuts of Corian. The lathe became her tool of choice, enabling her to machine pillar-like, geometric forms that could transform those everyday materials into vibrant, beautifully crafted pendants and accessories.
It can be hard to pin down exactly what it is Brooklyn-based artist and designer Justin Hunt Sloane actually does. He graduated with a BFA in printmaking and interactive design from Art Center, but while there, he became interested in the school's famed automotive program and began dabbling in classes like rapid prototyping and fabrication technology. Since moving to New York, he's held day jobs as a website designer for Creative Time, or, currently, senior designer at the branding agency Wolff Olins, but in his freelance work and spare time, he makes everything from drawings to etchings to self-published books to album covers to sculptures.
“One of the most important ideas in traditional Korean architecture and art is the aesthetic of emptiness — practicing the beauty of the void,” Nina Cho explains to me over the phone from her studio in Detroit, where she recently set up camp after graduating from Cranbrook. “In painting, the unpainted portion is as important as the portion that was painted; it’s about respecting the emptiness as much as the object.” Cho should know; she was born in the States but grew up in Seoul, and as a child she would often visit traditional Korean architecture sites. But little did she know the impact those visits would have on her future career.
About six or seven years ago, when Jill and I were still editors at the late, great I.D. magazine, we had a gut feeling that something was happening in Italian design. For years its reputation had been seemingly stuck in the '80s — no one ever, ever talked about its contemporary scene — and yet suddenly we were seeing a few young talents pop up here and there. We commissioned a story on the subject, but despite our prescience (as evidenced in part by the subsequent head-spinning rise of Luca Nichetto), we missed something seriously major: Fabrica. Neither of us realized the impact its residency program and Sam Baron–led design studio would have in nurturing Italy's brightest new voices, from Matteo Cibic to Matteo Zorzenoni to today's subject, Giorgia Zanellato.
When designers approach their medium with such a religiosity that it pushes their work into an unattainable or off-putting place, it can make the viewer a bit uncomfortable. On the other hand, not taking your work seriously enough is a recipe for kitsch, and being relegated to that dustbin of history. Enter Bridie Picot and Matt Smith, two native New Zealanders behind the design studio Thing Industries, whose work flits back and forth between the arch and the architectural.
After her family bribed their way out of Poland in the ’80s, says Aleksandra Pollner, they spent years moving from place to place to place. Her perpetually uprooted childhood, she says, had a profound effect on her work as an adult: “I became fascinated with boundaries, tensions, spaces in between, where we find solace, and what makes us feel comfort and discomfort,” concepts that inspired pieces like her new Line and Circle table and Ma floor light, pictured above.
For those of you who follow our website religiously, the name Branden M. Collins may ring a few bells: You may remember his poppy, brushstroke patterns for our Sight Unseen x Print All Over Me collab at the Standard Shop during Art Basel Design Miami last December. Or maybe you recall seeing his black-and-white zig-zag vases at our recent pop-up Think Big! at Space 15 Twenty in Los Angeles. Collins — who along with Madeline Moore operates as the San Francisco–based multi-disciplinary duo The Young Never Sleep — is more than just a graphic designer though. He’s also an art director, stylist, illustrator, photographer, product and costume designer, and serial collaborator.
We first came across the work of UK photographer Kate Jackling through a collaboration with COS that was endlessly re-pinned a few months back. That campaign — with its clothes draped over pink, yellow, and blue geometric forms — was so good that we had to know more about the photographer responsible for styling such a fun and playful set. Once we came across her website, we knew we'd hit the jackpot. Jackling’s photos are clean, playing with shadows and reflections to elevate product photography into something more artistic — photos that sell the product, yet also sell Jackling herself as someone who clearly understands her craft.