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Category Archives: Up and Coming

  1. 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.”

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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.”

  5. 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.

  6. 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.”

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.”

  13. 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.

  14. 02.04.13
    Up and Coming
    Stephanie Hornig, Furniture Designer

    One of our favorite things to do when we discover the work of a new designer is to play the internship guessing game. You can typically spot a former Bouroullec acolyte, for example, just by their use of shape and color. But Stephanie Hornig? With forms this clean and utilitarian, we never would have guessed she once worked for the doyenne of decoration, Patricia Urquiola. Perhaps a more telling clue in Hornig’s case is the fact that the Austrian-born talent went to design school in Berlin before moving on to her current home in London — her geometric tables, accordion shelves, and minimalist chairs lean more towards functionalism and the beauty of classic everyday objects, albeit subtly tweaked with new colors and ideas. We asked the recent graduate to tell us a bit more about her fledgling practice, which we’ll no doubt be keeping an eye on.

  15. 01.09.13
    Up and Coming
    Gemma Holt, designer

    Gemma Holt is one of those designers who seems to be both everywhere and nowhere at once. If you’re organizing a group exhibition heavy on young designers or putting together a collection of talents for an expertly curated new shop, chances are she’s on your list: The RCA-trained, London-based designer’s work often has conceptually rigorous thinking behind it, but her forms are usually quite simple and her jewelry pieces are the sort of elegantly crafted bits that tend to fly off the shelves. If you’re the average Pinterest-happy design-lover, however, you might not know a whit about her, considering there’s maddeningly little written about Holt on the web. It’s possible she keeps a purposefully low profile; after all, she’s worked for years for one of the biggest names in furniture design (Martino Gamper). But today the secret’s out: We’re taking it upon ourselves to introduce you both to Holt herself and to three of her incredible pieces, which we’ve recently launched in the shop. (Above: O&D bangles, $380)

  16. 12.20.12
    Up and Coming
    Fabien Cappello, Furniture Designer

    Whatever Fabien Cappello’s studies at ECAL may have taught him about luxury, his subsequent grad degree at the RCA may have un-taught him: The London-based designer has made stools carved from trashed Christmas trees, Venetian glass vessels melted onto lowly bricks, and benches constructed from shipping pallets or punctuated with cheap street-vendors’ umbrellas. That’s not to say, of course, that Cappello’s work isn’t high end — it’s been shown at the likes of Libby Sellers Gallery and has won him an Elle Decoration New Designers Award — just that the materials and ideas he sees value in wouldn’t exactly be considered the norm. If he’s come a long way since setting up his own studio in 2009, it’s because his focus on local and overlooked resources has captured the curiosity of the design world, not just its eyes or its wallets. That said, with the world headed where it’s headed, his style of economical chic may become the new luxury before long, so we figured he was worth checking in with. He gave Sight Unseen a quick glimpse into his practice below.

  17. 12.04.12
    Up and Coming
    Ladies & Gentlemen Studio, Furniture and Product Designers

    After Jean Lee met Dylan Davis while studying industrial design at the University of Washington, and after a string of successful school collaborations led them to start dating, the two of them did a semester abroad together in Rome. “Those were the good times,” laughs Lee. “We saw all these independent studios there, and designers working more as artists, and it was really inspiring for us. That wasn’t happening at all in Seattle.” And so after they graduated in 2005, Lee went on to work for a messenger bag company based in Philadelphia, while Davis joined the team at Henrybuilt. They did a small trade selling vintage finds on Etsy for awhile, and eventually started repurposing those objects into new designs as a hobby. But what finally led them to join forces as Ladies & Gentlemen in 2009 were the first signs that they might be able to find in Seattle what they experienced in Rome after all: Not only had studios like Iacoli & Mcallister and Grain begun to flourish by making and selling their own work, their new coalition Join was gathering together local designers to collaborate and exhibit together. “Jamie Iacoli asked us to contribute to a show, and were like ‘What the hell? Let’s do it!’”

  18. 11.26.12
    Up and Coming
    Assembly, Furniture Designers

    Even for struggling post-grads, the constraints under which Pete Oyler and Nora Mattingly of the fledgling design studio Assembly created their debut furniture collection would be considered rather limiting. The couple — he a Kentucky-born RISD furniture grad, she a Pratt-educated interior design major — were living in a cramped apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant with a third roommate, sharing a studio space in even farther-out Brooklyn, and commuting nearly four hours to a woodworking shop in Westhampton, Massachusetts, where Oyler had apprenticed for two years before grad school. But rather than chafing against such strictures of space, the two worked with them, creating pieces that were easily transportable and could be effortlessly placed in any small space: side chairs with smaller-than-usual footprints, glass-and-blackened-steel lamps with hand-blown shades hardly bigger than the bulb, even a stripped-down toilet paper–holder that doesn’t consist of much more than a brass cylinder that mounts directly into the wall.

  19. 10.23.12
    Up and Coming
    Josep Román Barri, Graphic Designer

    Josep Román Barri’s latest project happens to be the art direction for a new website that’s in the exact same spirit as our own: It goes behind the scenes in design, focusing on process rather than the final result. Should you ever have doubted that the world needs more of this kind of reporting, though, try searching for behind-the-scenes information on young talents like Román Barri himself, whose work has certainly made the blog rounds as of late but who might scarcely have a turn under the microscope if it weren’t for sites like ours. When we first caught a glimpse of his fledgling oeuvre, all we could glean was that he was a 26-year-old Barcelona-born graphics graduate who studied technical engineering before turning his hand to two-dimensional design, and that he had a way with color and typography. So we emailed him and asked him to introduce his work, and he gladly obliged — now that wasn’t so hard, was it?

  20. 09.10.12
    Up and Coming
    PUTPUT, artists and photographers

    In some ways, the work of the Danish-Swiss duo Putput could be considered a response to sites like this one: If we’re constantly bombarded by scrolls of images, the two designers seem to ask, how can we be convinced to reconsider objects that at first glance seem so quaintly familiar? Projects like their Popsicle series (above), which found the icy treats replaced by scrubbing sponges, or Inflorescence — for which the two employed the visual language of still life to depict cleaning implements as potted plants — play with subverting our expectations in a way that could seem cliché if the resulting images weren’t so exceedingly lovely. The two work at an increasingly trafficked intersection where photography, styling, art and design meet, which allows creators to control both the product and the way it’s presented — both the input and the output, as it were, which is where their clever studio name comes from. We recently caught up with the two recent grads as they were dipping a toe into the contemporary art world and looking for new studio space.

  21. 09.07.12
    Up and Coming
    The Fundamental Group, Architects and Furniture Designers

    The Fundamental Group’s designs may be inspired by geometric principles, but the burgeoning Berlin studio owes its existence, at least in an abstract sense, to another realm entirely: physics, ie, the field in which opposites attract. As architecture students at Berlin’s University of the Arts back in 2003, Gunnar Rönsch and Stephen Molloy worked as assistants to rival department chairs, which in the world of academia, meant that they were automatically rivals, too. “If you sign up with one, you hate the other,” Rönsch explains. “Mine was building construction and detail design, while Stephen’s was based on a programmatic approach to structure — my chair basically had to solve all the problems created by his.” In time, however, the pair realized the inevitable — that by joining forces, they’d be stronger. First they became roommates, noticing how smoothly their collaboration on the apartment went, and then they began working together professionally, on projects like a friend’s house remodel. Their only other major conflict came when it was time, in 2010, to choose a name for their new company: Rönsch & Molloy, or Molloy & Rönsch? “A mathematician friend of ours was sitting in our kitchen talking about the fundamental group — a term from algebraic topology that describes very complicated 3-D surfaces,” says Molloy. “It was the perfect compromise.”

  22. 08.30.12
    Up and Coming
    Ian McDonald, Artist and Ceramicist

    To understand what it was like for Ian McDonald growing up in California’s Laguna Beach, it helps to refer back to one of the greatest television dramas of all time. Not, mind you, MTV’s vapid reality show of the same name, but the heart-wrenching high-school football epic Friday Night Lights — McDonald’s hometown being pretty much the diametrical opposite of Dillon, Texas. “Laguna was founded as an artists’ colony,” he says. “Our school mascot, The Artist, ran around with a brush and palette and a beret. Even the football stars took art classes.” In fact, one of McDonald’s earliest run-ins with the medium that would eventually become his life’s work happened when his own sports-star brothers brought their ceramics projects home from school, where their art teacher was a local studio potter. “Most kids would ask their mom for milk money; my older brothers were always asking for clay money,” he recalls. By the time he himself got to high school, he says, “it hit me really hard: This is what I want to do.”

  23. 08.17.12
    Up and Coming
    Hilda Hellström, designer

    In any designer’s career, there are hundreds of split-second decisions that conspire to create the precise conditions under which good work can emerge. For the Swedish-born, London-based designer Hilda Hellström, it came down to this one: When she was asked to create a project for this year’s Royal College of Art exhibition at the Milan Furniture Fair, she says with a laugh, “the wood workshop was quite busy, but the resin workshop was nice and quiet.” Of course, there’s more to the recent grad’s breakout Sedimentation vases than that; Hellström is obsessed with the idea of imbuing her objects with a myth and narrative of their own. But in many ways the vessels — which are made from layers of pigmented Jesmonite, a non-toxic acrylic-based plaster often used in ceilings and restoration work — are a reaction against something else. “My father was a carpenter, so I was used to working with wood, and I was bored of how you have to consider that it’s a living material,” she says. “Wood tells you what to make, but working with a moldable material like Jesmonite is almost like playing God.”

  24. 07.30.12
    Up and Coming
    Kent Fonn Skåre, Artist and Graphic Designer

    Being that he’s still a student at Konstfack in Stockholm, you’ve probably never heard of Norwegian artist and graphic designer Kent Fonn Skåre. But his work, even at first glance, is ridiculously easy to love: It’s got a heavy focus on materials, lots of marble, and a whiff of Memphis — yes, the three “M”s, the golden trifecta of the current avant-garde, or at least the little corner of it that we’re obsessed with, which also includes folks like Clemence Seilles and Jens Praet. We discovered Fonn Skåre via a fleeting image on Pinterest, but found surprisingly little information on him and the ideas behind his work, so we did what we do best, harassing the poor man until we were able to tease out a bit of insight into his practice. Check out the interview and accompanying photos here, then bookmark Fonn Skåre’s Flickr feed to browse more of his graphic design work and follow his future projects.

  25. 07.23.12
    Up and Coming
    International, furniture designers

    Brian Eno is playing, green tea is brewing, and there are half-finished projects and prototypes stacked up ’round the place. I could be in any East London live-work space. But as I talk more to my hosts — Marc Bell and Robin Grasby of the emerging London design firm International — I realize there’s something simple that sets these two Northumbria grads apart from the thousands of hip creatives populating this corner of the city. They started the studio a year or so back, with the intention of doing something a little out of fashion in the design world: “Our approach is quite commercial,” admits Grasby. “We are looking to create a mass-produced product.” Yes, he’s used the c-word — and it wasn’t crafted. By opting for production, rather than taking advantage of London’s buoyant collectors’ market, the two are aware they’re taking a tougher route. Bell puts it plainly: “Rather than shapes we enjoy making or colors we like, our designs really are function-led.” Their work always seems to boil down to intended use, and at this stage they aren’t interested in seeing their pieces in galleries. But while there have only been a handful of designs released to date, International have been getting the right kind of attention.