“I sometimes think I wear too many hats,” says Julia Leonard, the Los Angeles–based artist, interior designer, curator, gallery owner, and shopkeeper, whose backyard retail venture Either Way LA — an every Sunday sale of thrifted or commissioned pieces — has recently become a hit via Instagram and word of mouth. Since moving from San Francisco a little more than four years ago, LA has offered her the chance, as it does to so many, to start over. In San Francisco, where she had studied, worked, and lived for over a decade, she had been teaching alongside her art practice. However Los Angles marked the opportunity to focus on her art, giving her a fresh perspective: “I even dress differently,” she admits wryly.
Founded last year by longtime friends Scott Barry, a Cal Arts–educated graphic designer, and Brooke Intrachat, a CCA grad who was disillusioned with textile work, Ouli originally existed as a showroom, gallery, and pop-up retail space in Echo Park, in a tiny sun-filled storefront studio that was inherited from a mutual friend. There, the two exhibited their own burgeoning furniture and accessories line alongside the little-known work of friends and like-minded artists, and in the beginning, the space existed as some sort of halfway house for brilliant pieces without a home. "I knew a bunch of artists making work that didn’t fit into a gallery setting; it was more about the home," says Barry. "And we also ended up showing contemporary sculptors in LA who were working under pseudonyms; typically they were people who had signed with a gallery but who weren’t making a ton of money. It was weird black-market stuff like that. An artist would drive up in his van and say, 'Hey I just made 5 of these. Do you want them?'" Ouli quickly gained a cultlike following among Angelenos looking for something a bit off the beaten path, but just as quickly as it began, the retail enterprise was over; the two lost their space in August.
Ceramicists know how to deal with heartbreak — these are artists, after all, who make something they love and then willingly throw it into a fire. So while the I’m Revolting Ceramics Shop that I've curated for Sight Unseen OFFSITE — opening at noon this Friday at 200 Lafayette in Soho — is in many ways a survey of talented young people working today in clay, it’s also a small tribute to the beauty in unpredictability and letting go. Unlike painting or weaving or most other mediums, potters don’t get to see the thing complete in front of them as they work. They shape a piece of clay with their hands and then give it over to the heat of the universe. And though this sounds totally cheeseball, that might be why I love it so much — that every piece carries in it some accident. The range of work in the I’m Revolting Ceramics Shop is a reminder of this possibility in imperfection: our perpetual struggle to take the same stuff there has ever been – mud and fire, failure and ambition – and create of it something distinctly personal.
When The Future Perfect abandoned its original Brooklyn location last summer, we thought we might never feel the need to shop on that particular block of Williamsburg again. The Future Perfect's gorgeous digs got turned into a Gant, and for years we've felt we were a little too old for American Apparel. But come next Thursday, we'll be making that trek on the L train again: Urban Outfitters is opening a concept shop on North Sixth Street called Space Ninety 8, complete with rotating gallery spaces, a restaurant, a rooftop bar, and, of course, clothing. But the draw for us will be located smack in the front window. That's where a showcase called Local Made will take place, curated by Urban's director of brand relations and special projects Marissa Maximo, who scoured the borough, commissioning exclusives from some of our favorite designers.
When we found out that Fabrica, the Italian design studio and research center, had just launched its striking new Extra-Ordinary Gallery collection in its online shop earlier this month, the pieces were so intriguing and beautiful that we thought we'd struck editorial gold — turns out we weren't the only ones! The collection has been all over the design blogs in the past two weeks, and deservedly so. Yet we couldn't pass up the chance to share it with our readers anyway, so we got in touch with our old friend Sam Baron, creative director of Fabrica's design department, and asked him for some special insight into the collection, which he curated. The result is a fun little personal diary, featuring five of the line's standouts as they relate to Baron's daily routine.
In 2007, San Francisco native Zoe Alexander Fisher was 16 and designing an eponymous line of girly cocktail dresses that sold in local boutiques and landed her in the pages of Nylon and Teen Vogue. A mere six years later, the entrepreneurial 22-year-old has today unveiled her latest project, the so-called Handjob Gallery//Store, and it couldn't possibly be more disparate: It's an online shop stocked with the kinds of weird and wacky handmade curios infinitely more likely to baffle the general public than to send it stampeding towards Saks. What happened in between? A coming of age, of sorts. After realizing she loved making clothes but hated everything else involved in the fashion business, Fisher went to school to study sculpture and art history, where she found a calling examining the complicated relationship between fine art and function. "There were all these debates in my art classes saying that if you could use it, it’s not art, and I felt such a strong divide was unnecessary," she says. One 60-page research paper later, she had the idea for Handjob Gallery//Store — officially launching this evening at Sight Unseen's Back2Cool pop-up shop — which invites practicing artists who don't normally work in design to create limited-edition objects that do more than just sit there and look pretty.
Had we thought of it ourselves, "That's so Sottsass" is a phrase we might have used hundreds of times over the past five years to describe all the designs spawned by the recent mega-Memphis revival. Crazy colors, clashing patterns, geometric shapes on shapes — it all came rushing back in homage to Ettore and his crew, a fact which the intrepid duo behind our fave London store Darkroom chose to acknowledge this week with the debut of their So Sottsass collection. Launching last night — day one of this year's London Design Festival — the installation includes both Memphis-like objects by outside designers and new pillows and wrapping papers conceived by Darkroom owners Rhonda Drakeford and Lulu Roper-Caldbeck as part of their ongoing in-house collection. There's also an amazing window display by up-and-coming Italian stylists StudioPepe. Drakeford took time out of her crazy LDF schedule to not only share photos of So Sottsass with us, but to tell us the inspiration behind the collection: "At Darkroom, we've always had a penchant for maximalist modernism — bold colour palettes, big patterns, and brave combinations," she says. "In a decade of 'greige,' we love exploring how being bold and playful with design can fit into modern life."
Talk about the right place at the wrong time: I left Berlin to come back to New York two weeks ago, and thus managed to miss what may end up being the coolest event of the summer, tonight's opening of Keren Richter and Gabriel Kuo's RATS pop-up shop in Mitte. Kuo, who's an art director and graphic designer, and Richter, an illustrator and artist, are both longtime New Yorkers who (like me) consider Berlin as something of a second home; for RATS, they joined forces to bring the German capital a strange sampling of some of their favorite objects and oddities from New York and beyond, everything from Fort Standard bottle openers to Knicks hats to strange souvenirs they've acquired on their travels. If you're in Berlin or headed there, don't miss the chance to visit the shop at Torstrasse 68 before it closes at the end of August. Otherwise, get a virtual sneak peek at it here, alongside an interview with Richter and Kuo about how and why they put the RATS project together.
Caitlin Mociun may have been the author of a cult-hit fashion line for only a few years, but the lessons she learned from that stint — about the way she wants a customer to feel, or about the way a body moves in space — inform nearly everything she does today. That first becomes clear when she talks about her massively successful fine jewelry line, which she launched almost as a palliative to her days as a clothing designer. “I never really liked doing my clothing line, and when I switched to jewelry it was such a different response,” Mociun told me earlier this fall when I visited her year-old Williamsburg boutique. “It seemed to make people feel good about themselves as opposed to clothing, which often makes people feel bad.” But it’s when she talks about her boutique that you realize that nothing in the shop could be the way it is if Mociun weren’t first a designer.
Table of Contents is a concept shop that sells clothing and objects from a storefront just inside the gates of Portland’s Chinatown, opened in September by two local designers. So when one of them, Joseph Magliaro, told us that “the goal of TOC is to produce an expanded notion of what a publication can be,” well, you can’t blame us if we were a smidge confused. But it turns out that Magliaro and his other half, Shu Hung, prefer to look at their store as a kind of magazine come to life — a place where the things we’re all reading about now, or should be, are actually there to have and to hold, and where every fashion season brings a new “editorial” theme.
Is it every blogger's secret wish to go into retail? This year alone, we’ve seen Sight Unseen’s own Shape Shop, Rhiannon Gilmore's Dream Shop at the Walker, and as of this Saturday, Su Wu of I'm Revolting's pop-up at Creatures of Comfort LA, entitled We're Revolting. Perhaps it's inevitable that we would all want to touch and feel and hold the objects we covet from afar, and to make tangible the narrative we create every day. But maybe it’s just as simple as this: “It’s kind of lonely being a blogger,” Wu says. “And this was a reason to get to know people. It’s kind of a scary thing: You think, ok, I admire their work, but will I actually get along with them? But in fact, I’m still kind of basking in it.”
It would be easy to assume a lot about The Tent Shop, a new online store run by the Vancouver-based artist Jacob Gleeson — namely, that it might be in the business of selling tents. Or, with its deadpan write-ups and roster of vintage ephemera, amateur art, and back-catalog pieces by artist friends, that the shop might be some Canadian version of Partners & Spade, and Gleeson a hyper-aware collector engaging in an art-world prank, à la Claes Oldenburg’s The Store (1961). In fact, neither is quite true. The shop’s name stems from its planned incarnation in the physical world: Gleeson intends to purchase a heavy-duty canvas tent in which he can randomly host events around Vancouver. And as for Gleeson, though he did a stint at Vancouver’s Emily Carr University of Art + Design, he tends to view his new venture through the lens of an anthropologist more so than an artist or even a shopkeeper. “I started with the intention of showing these things together as much as wanting to sell them,” he says. “I’m drawn to the individual objects but something about putting them next to each other makes them even more interesting to me, which is why I leave things up on the site even after they’ve sold. The record of an object’s existence has as much value to me as the object itself.”