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Category Archives: Up and Coming

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.”

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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)

  10. 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.

  11. 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!’”

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

  14. 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.

  15. 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.”

  16. 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.”

  17. 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.”

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 06.13.12
    Up and Coming
    Shin Okuda (an excerpt from Paper View)

    Today, we introduced a selection of housewares to the Sight Unseen Shop, including Shin Okuda’s whimsical plywood and steel Shaped Bookends. We thought this was the perfect opportunity to introduce you to the Los Angeles designer’s inspirations and work, which we originally showcased in Paper View, Sight Unseen’s first-ever printed edition. Though the book has a limited run, copies are still for sale in our online shop. Get yours here before it’s too late, and read on to find out more about one of our favorite up and coming designers.

  21. 03.29.12
    Up and Coming
    Andreas Ervik, graphics artist

    When asked if the mountainous landscape of his native Norway influences his art, 24-year-old graphics artist Andreas Ervik suggests it’s actually the opposite: Growing up in Aalesund, a small city of about 40,000 inhabitants, he says, Norway’s cold, dark climate is what kept him indoors playing on his computer, surfing the net, and perfecting his craft — a mix of distorted prints and digital collages in which geological representations form an overarching motif. In fact, the internet has played such an integral role in the development of his aesthetic that Ervik admits he’s developed carpal tunnel syndrome in his wrists. Like a true millennial, he says, “I feel like I’m always connected. If not with hands to keyboard or touchscreen, I’m there online in spirit.”

  22. 01.11.12
    Up and Coming
    ROLU, Designers

    Before Matt Olson and Mike Brady of the Minneapolis studio ROLU began making boxy plywood furniture in 2010 — earning them serious contemporary design cred and a reputation for channeling Donald Judd — they spent seven years designing landscapes, minimalist geometric compositions in steel, wood, concrete, and grass. It was those projects, says Olson, that have helped define the group’s work since, from their love for earthy materials to their awareness of design’s larger experiential qualities. “A landscape is a dynamic thing,” Olson explains. “It has smells, it grows and dies and changes. That taught me to pay attention to what’s really happening with an object; the chair as a visual and functional thing is only the start.” In ROLU’s case, chairs can also interact with users, reference sculptures and performance art and drawings, or become performances themselves, often by way of little more than a few planes of OSB.

  23. 12.09.11
    Up and Coming
    Thaddeus Wolfe, Glass Artist

    When asked if he identifies more as an artist or a designer, Thaddeus Wolfe seems genuinely stumped. But perhaps it’s that way for anyone working with glass, a material that’s notoriously hard to confine: “I don’t think I’m a great designer,” he muses. “Maybe it’s because I’m not a master of glass yet that I never quite get what I intend. But sometimes cool things happen from mistakes.” It’s a pretty self-deprecating summation of process coming from someone whose chaotic, mysteriously opaque Assemblage vases for MatterMade are the subject of a solo exhibition opening tomorrow at Chicago’s Volume Gallery, which has in the year and a half since it opened become somewhat of a barometer for the Next Big Thing.

  24. 10.25.11
    Up and Coming
    A Drawn Interview with Mieke Meijer

    If you read Sight Unseen often enough, you know that we’re supporters of all things creative, collaborative, and multidisciplinary. Matylda Krzykowski may be known for her curating talents (which we’ve featured here once or twice before), but she’s also a designer and a blogger — in other words, she’s someone who gets as few hours of sleep each week as we do. Being such a like-minded individual, we invited Krzykowski to contribute a guest post for Sight Unseen in a format similar to the one she employs on her own site, Mat and Me: Interviews that invite personalities from the design world to respond to questions with small, charming pencil drawings rather than mere spoken words. She in turn posed the challenge to Mieke Meijer, an Eindhoven-based product designer who recently contributed to the first in a series of projects at the new Depot Basel space, an open-ended design workshop in an old Swiss grain silo for which Krzykowski sits on the curation board. We’d been following Meijer’s work ourselves ever since we spotted her Gravel Plant project in Milan last year, which channels the geometries of industrial buildings into a system of storage modules whose functions are as myriad as their randomized profiles. Posted here is a selection of the drawings she submitted, plus photos that Krzykowski shot while visiting her studio last month.

  25. 09.16.11
    Up and Coming
    Six Emerging Spanish Designers

    In 2009, while still editors at the ill-fated design bible I.D., Jill and I spearheaded a special issue of the magazine whose cover was cloaked in red and branded — courtesy of graphics legend Javier Mariscal — with a hand-drawn, bull-horned chair. Inside, it proposed that something seemed to be stirring in Spain; that after years of outsiders thinking it was a little too commercial on the one hand, and yet a little too romantic on the other, the country’s design vibe suddenly felt just right. Just two and a half years later, it’s safe to say we were onto something. The Spanish scene has cemented its global status with help from companies like RS Barcelona, Marset, and LZF, plus star designers like Jaime Hayon, Martí Guixé, and Patricia Urquiola, and we’ve kept an eye on them and all of their cohorts ever since they appeared in the pages of our alma mater. It’s with a mixture of nostalgia and vindication that we present you with a slideshow surveying six of the most up-and-coming talents whose work has made its way to our shores on Spain’s new wave, along with some of their personal inspirations.