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Category Archives: Up and Coming

  1. 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.

  2. 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)

  3. 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.

  4. 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!’”

  5. 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.

  6. 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?

  7. 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.

  8. 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.”

  9. 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.”

  10. 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.”

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.”

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 09.08.11
    Up and Coming
    Brendan Ravenhill, Furniture and Product Designer

    Believe it or not, Los Angeles–based designer Brendan Ravenhill owes the success of his Cord Lamp, at least in part, to Etsy. It’s not that the designer spends his days hawking the spare, Prouvé-inspired insta-classic on the online crafters’ marketplace. But a few years ago, Ravenhill was coerced by his wife to participate in something she’d created on the site called Mail Order Pals. “It was basically a penpal for purchase,” Ravenhill told me when I visited his Echo Park home and studio earlier this summer. “People could buy you in order to receive a letter or a surprise package in the mail.” After someone “bought” Ravenhill, he went to the hardware store and whipped up an elegantly simple wooden swing-arm lamp in one night. Upon seeing his creation, the designer’s wife convinced him it was just too nice to send. The penpal ended up getting a wire sculpture of a penguin, and the couple began living with the lamp. In the months that followed, Ravenhill became obsessed with the design, refining and tweaking it in his head to the point that by the time he was approached to create a piece to show with the American Design Club at a trade fair in New York, he was able to fashion a prototype in just one week. The final lamp — composed primarily of porcelain, cast aluminum, a cloth cord, and a bare bulb — packs and ships flat and sells for less than $200 at places like The Future Perfect, cementing the young designer’s status as a rising talent to watch.

  20. 07.18.11
    Up and Coming
    The RCA’s Platform 14 Graduate Projects

    There’s a funny ritual that goes on at the start of each year in the Design Products program at London’s Royal College of Art. The masters program is split into five separate units, or “platforms,” and the professors helming each — which at last count included Sebastian Wrong, Doshi Levien, and curator Daniel Charny — are charged with convincing new students to turn away from the others to join their course. Mostly they rely on written manifestos describing the aims and ideals of their particular curriculum, like enacting social change or loosening the boundaries of the discipline, but there are also more nuanced incentives, like we will hire Jasper Morrison’s photographer to take extremely clever shots of your final projects, a move recently employed by Platform 14 leaders André Klauser and Ben Wilson. Granted, when they called in camerasmith Nicola Tree to shoot the images you see here — which are a Sight Unseen exclusive — it was meant more to teach their six graduating students that documenting work is a key part of the design process, especially in a course aimed at fostering entrepreneurship.

  21. 07.01.11
    Up and Coming
    Oeuffice, Furniture Designers

    Had Jakub Zak and Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte met and not formed a partnership, it might have seemed almost sacrilegious, a kind of fuck-you to the gods of fate. After simultaneously studying design in their native Canada, and then again at the very same university in Berlin together, the pair only became aware of one another’s existence once they’d both moved to Milan to start their professional lives — Lecompte as a roving member of the Montreal-based Samare studio and Zak as a designer for Patricia Urquiola. As if the shared condition of being the only two Canadians they knew who were actively working in the Milanese design scene weren’t enough, they happened to meet at the precise moment in each of their careers where they were yearning to try something independent, experimental, and new. Samare was three years old and growing quite successful, but its physical manifestation was way across the Atlantic, and it maintained a relatively narrow focus on Canadian crafts and heritage; Zak was — and still is — working full time for Urquiola, “which is pretty demanding,” he says. “You reach a stage where you want to start doing projects of your own. Oeuffice is a research-minded collaboration where Nicolas and I can play with new techniques and materials in ways we might not have the opportunity to otherwise.”

  22. 06.24.11
    Up and Coming
    Max Lipsey, furniture designer

    Max Lipsey’s father is an architect, and his mother is an artist, but it might be Murray Moss who’s most responsible for turning the Eindhoven-based, Aspen, Colorado native on to design. In the early 2000s, Lipsey was attending NYU, studying design in what he calls an “extremely academic” way. On his commute every day from Chinatown through Soho, he’d pass the windows of Moss’s design emporium, which at the time highlighted the work of Dutch provocateurs like Maarten Baas, Hella Jongerius, and Marcel Wanders. “It sort of made me realize there was a place somewhere I could get my hands dirty and make things rather than writing about them,” he says. Lipsey applied and was accepted to the Design Academy Eindhoven — one of the rare Americans who ever attempt it — and by his first project he was hooked: “I made a belt buckle,” he remembers. “I was playing with sandcasting tin and I made a mistake where the sand broke apart and scattered in the mold, leaving tiny pockmarks where the crumbs had landed. When you polished it, it looked really nice, and it helped me learn to keep an eye open for mistakes. You have to play and experiment and you’ll discover things you wouldn’t have been able to imagine before.”

  23. 06.13.11
    Up and Coming
    ArtEZ’s 2011 Fashion Masters Graduates

    Whether they go on to work at Viktor & Rolf and Louis Vuitton or scrape together the crazy amount of money it takes to launch a solo line, nearly all clothing-design talents make their first identifiable mark of genius on the fashion world during end-of-the-year graduation shows. Sure, after a year of monomaniacal focus — at least double what any designer ever gets in the real world — the concepts are usually completely overthunk and overwrought, as student work in every discipline tends to be. But without the constraints of the market or a demanding boss, in some ways there can be no purer expression of creative perspective than when designers send that first exaggeratedly proportioned dress or gender-bending jacket down the runway. With that in mind, Sight Unseen made it a point to be there when Generation 12 of the ArtEZ Fashion Masters program opened the doors to their final presentation last week, during the Arnhem Mode Biennale.

  24. 05.02.11
    Up and Coming
    Brunno Jahara, Product Designer

    If you think about it in the context of design, Brazil is a lot like America: A vast, relatively young country with a tiny cadre of contemporary designers struggling both to step out of the long shadow of their mid-century forebears, and to create objects in a near-industrial vacuum. But you won’t hear Brazilian designer Brunno Jahara complaining — having lived in dozens of European countries, worked under Jaime Hayon at Fabrica, and run a freelance business from Amsterdam before moving back to São Paulo a few years ago, he credits his native country as being the catalyst for his newfound success. “In Brazil I have all the freedom I didn’t have in Europe, because there’s a whole historical background over there that holds you to making things in a certain way,” says the 32-year-old.

  25. 02.08.11
    Up and Coming
    Lee Broom, Furniture and Interior Designer

    Growing up in Birmingham, England, Lee Broom had dreams of becoming an actor. So it doesn’t come as a shock to learn that his first proper job was in the office of Vivienne Westwood, the dramatic doyenne of women’s fashion. What’s surprising is how he got there — at age 17, no less: “I was in theater school at the time, and I was into design as a hobby,” explains Broom. “Somehow I decided to enter a fashion design competition judged by Vivienne Westwood, and I won. At the event, I asked Vivienne for her autograph; she wrote her phone number instead and asked if I wanted to spend a couple of days at her studio. I hopped on a train to London and literally spent two days, just Vivienne and myself in her office, while she talked me through her work. I showed her a portfolio of around 100 outfits I had designed, and she said I could stay on as an intern. I ended up being there for seven months.” Broom’s career since then — though wildly divergent from both of those original paths — has been full of moments like these, where by some alchemic mixture of doggedness, talent, and sheer pluck, he has managed to end up in the exact right place at the right time, sending his career spinning into another unplanned yet deeply satisfying trajectory.