Jacqueline Klassen didn’t grow up around design; her father was a therapist and her mom a case management worker, and their family’s greatest joy was good food. She didn’t study it either; she holds an undergraduate degree in English literature and was often told, “Go to school! You’d be a great teacher!” But rather than teach, Klassen instead signed up for more classes herself — only this time it was a six-week course in ceramics. “I immediately was in love,” Klassen remembers. “I was always grasping for something that would be a good fit for me; I was trying to make something work, but I hadn’t yet found it.” Over the next year, she toyed with the idea of going to grad school for art history. But when she found herself in the studio, at the wheel more often than not, it became apparent that perhaps she should listen to her gut.
If you go looking on the internet for information about a Cornwall-based maker named Ferris McGuinty, chances are you won't find much. Yes, McGuinty is on the younger side (we were born in the same year, so at least that's what I'm telling myself) but even more than that: Ferris McGuinty didn't exist until 2009. The name was merely a pseudonym the artist took on to allow himself the freedom to make work that was unlike anything he'd done before. Having graduated from art school in the early 2000s, McGuinty previously made work that was smaller in scale, tiny, almost architectural-like models. As a respite from that, he began gathering found objects — "I'm quite a prolific hoarder," he says proudly — and marrying them with elements of his own creation to make the kind of assemblage objects you see at the top of this post. "Ferris came about because because the work really had that day-off vibe. McGuinty somehow naturally followed suit. But it allowed me a sense of detachment from my own work. I could be much more playful and not worried about what direction it went in."
Sometimes you can take one look at a designer's body of work and deduce that they have a background in architecture before ever meeting or talking with them. Amsterdam-based Michael Schoner — who worked his way through multiple architecture firms across Europe before settling in Amsterdam and founding his own design studio in 2010 — definitely falls into this category. His approach to design is uniquely architectural, building from a visual vocabulary of simple shapes and forms that are often bisected, stacked, or spliced.
Utah-based artist Daniel Everett has a BFA in photography from Brigham Young and a master’s from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. But it may have been what happened between his two degrees that had the biggest impact on Everett’s career. “I’d done an internship as part of my undergraduate degree with Edward Burtynsky, and after I finished my undergrad, I traveled with him for just over a year,” Everett remembers. “If you know his work, Burtynsky photographs, like, manmade manipulations of the landscape: the largest open-pit copper mine, or the largest oil field. We were always traveling to some superlative location — the biggest, the widest, the greatest — and I got really interested in the in-between places that we passed through: the nondescript, transitory spaces like subway systems, airports, parking garages, and hotels. Spaces that are meant to be legible regardless of the language, and where the aesthetics are governed by function.”
Lina Zedig and Marcus Åhrén, of the Stockholm-based studio Oyyo, take a best-of-both-worlds approach to their work. If Zedig is the self-described perfectionist who obsesses over color and composition, Åhrén is the “action person, always keen to get new projects going and thinking that everything is possible.” For their first collection, which launched in 2013, they employed age-old techniques to craft flat-weave dhurries, but imbued the familiar form with unexpected geometric and architectural patterns. And while their carpets — in combinations of pastel pinks, yellows, and oranges, deep blues, greens, and black — have a cozy, at-home feel, they also reflect the restless, roving spirit in which Åhrén and Zedig, avid travelers, created them. It’s design for settling in, not settling down.
As we prepare to welcome the new year, let's all take a moment to reminisce about how great 2014 was. Sure, some had better years than others, but there's one thing that can't be contested — Norwegian designer Hallgeir Homstvedt had an immensely successful run, launching four products to the market and cementing relationships with companies like Muuto, Lexon, and Established & Sons. So what is it exactly that brings manufacturers knocking at his door? We've got a hunch that it's the designer’s ability to be adaptable and cooperative throughout the design process, whilst sticking to a very distinct concept, something he learned on the job during a three-year stint with design studio Norway Says. His products are tactile and interactive, smart and perfectly proportioned.
For all its perks — freedom, travel, never having to take off your pajamas — the freelance life has one perpetual drawback: the panic that starts to creep in whenever you're between jobs. Add that to the sense of creative fulfillment that every designer and artist craves, and it's no wonder so many of them start their own projects on the side. For the Paris-based couple Mathieu Julien and Jin Angdoo, whenever they don't have work as a freelance illustrator (Julien) and a film and animation director (Angdoo), they dream up new projects to release under the extra-wide umbrella of their shared endeavor, Amateurs; launched in June, the website comprises projects that are experimental, hand-crafted, and fall somewhere between art and design, like painted tea towels and flags, embroidered sweaters and blankets, plus actual paintings as well. We checked in with the duo to find out more about the collaboration.
It can be easy to become immune to the Postmodern references and patterns currently littering the digital ether, but there’s something different about Sarah Kissell, the Los Angeles–based designer behind the graphically-fitting guise Pure Magenta. As she describes it, it’s the simultaneous practice of excess and restraint — especially while exploring questionable taste — that Kissell values the most. “Riding the line between the two is when things become interesting to me,” she says. “It also widens the opportunity to succeed or fail, which is a healthy place to be a young designer.” And healthy is exactly where the designer is right now, dividing her time as senior art director for the terminally trendy fashion retailer Nasty Gal, as well as developing Pure Magenta’s graphic identity and soon-to-launch jewelry line.
The first work we ever knew from Portland, Oregon–based furniture designer Matthew Philip Williams was a collection he calls The Step-Family. The pieces, which were designed individually but at the same time, include a pinchpot mug in Yves Klein blue, a laminate and maple bench, and a steel and Douglas fir coat rack. The items are so aggressively functional — and make use of such logical and simple material choices — that you would never guess that Williams’s first inclination was to be a fine artist. After graduating from a material studies program in Richmond, Virginia, Williams headed to Portland to get an MFA in applied craft and design. “I had this vision of being in galleries, but I soon realized I was more mentally suited for functional stuff,” he says. “At the same time, I try to keep my hands and my head in both worlds, thinking about art and furniture and doing what seems right for each project.”
Swedish designer and architect Jonas Wagell has products in production with Scandinavian companies like Normann Copenhagen, Muuto, Menu, and Mitab, but it was only a few weeks ago — when we featured one of Wagell's lighting prototype in our Saturday post — that we began to understand the vast reserves of cute designs coming out of Wagell's Stockholm studio. Wagell's pieces are brightly colored, exhibiting a certain playfulness he's become recognized for as a designer, and he calls what he does generous minimalism — creating "simplistic objects that are easy to understand and use, but try to add something personal and expressive." Given his background in communications (he worked in that industry before heading to design school at Konstfack in the early 2000s), he's able to understand the relationship between people and the everyday objects they use. He approaches design not from an artistic perspective, which can be isolating and potentially pretentious, but from one based in functionality. Wagell wants his objects to be affectionately used, not admired from a shelf, so he uses readily available materials and steers clear of elaborate or expensive processes. In addition to the designer's firm JWDA, he also founded an in-house label named Hello Industry in 2011, and was named one of Wallpaper's 50 hottest young architects in recognition of his work with prefabs. Keep reading to learn more about why you ought to be keeping an eye firmly on this Stockholm-based studio.
We've heard of people putting their art career on hold in order to be a designer, or their finance career on hold in order to be an artist, but Shane Krepakevich is probably the first person we've known who put his geology career on hold to make furniture. The Edmonton native initially chose science over art when attending college in the late '90s, but realized after graduating that it would be easier for him to return to geology later than vice versa. After painting and then sculpting his way through an MFA in 2010 — with a focus on functional objects and architectural measurements — he began moonlighting for the Montreal lighting studio Lambert & Fils. The rest, as they say, is history: Krepakevich moved to Toronto this past September, set up his own design studio under the name Mercury Bureau, and released a collection of lights, tables, and shelves that dovetail with his still-ongoing art practice.
Before she got hooked on weaving, Rachel Gottesman was both a painter and a jewelry-maker, and the influence of those preoccupations is wonderfully obvious in her small-scale textiles, which she creates under the name Heddle & Needle. Gottesman treats each small weaving as a tiny canvas on which to work out ideas about things like color, composition, linearity, topography, and adornment. Formerly a director of artist relations at Threadless in Chicago, Gottesman moved back to New York about a year ago, and in the short time since she discovered her affinity for the medium, she's made weavings that incorporate grids, geometrics, hieroglyphs, brass charms — even tiny squares made to look like Boucherouite rugs. The weavings are small – usually no more than a foot wide and two feet long, though she has plans to go big — and accessibly priced, which is why we immediately looked her up when we needed someone to create a textile series for our recent pop-up at Space Ninety 8. At the same time, we thought it was the perfect time to get to know her a little bit better on the site.