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Office by Studio Swine

Things are winding down here at Sight Unseen HQ, where as of tomorrow we'll be on a much-needed summer holiday for two weeks. So today, we bring you an appropriately tiny story about a very tiny project: an office by Studio Swine in London's Soho neighborhood where three people share a 100 square-foot space. We first learned about the duo — RCA product-design grads Azusa Murakami and Alexander Groves — during this year's Noho Design District, where they showed a series of golden geometric button covers in the Once Removed show at our 22 Bond space. We were further intrigued by works like their recycled-plastic Sea Chair. But if you read our story yesterday on Kent Fonn Skåre, you already know why we find this simple office scheme particularly endearing — not only does it take advantage of pegboard to maximize wall space, but it's also inspired by "New York Art Deco meets Memphis," say the designers, and it uses a freewheeling mix of contrasting materials like marble, colored steel, linoleum, and reclaimed wood. After reading a bit more below from Murakami and Groves about how they constructed the various elements of the office, stay tuned for your chance to purchase their geometric marmoleum wall pouches, coming soon to the Sight Unseen shop!
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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.
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Lex Pott’s True Colours Series

In some ways, it seems fate that Dutch designer Lex Pott would end up working in a studio housed in an old shipyard in the northern precincts of Amsterdam. As a child growing up in Hilversum, 30 miles outside the city, Pott was obsessed with boats, constantly crafting miniature ones from the natural debris he’d find in the forest around his house, and using old plastic bags as sails. And in the short time since he set up his studio, after graduating from Design Academy Eindhoven in 2009, he’s built up a small body of work centered around the very phenomenon that’s known to wreak havoc on seafaring vessels: oxidation. Pott has shot to fame in recent months on the basis of Transience, a series of silvered geometric mirrors designed in collaboration with fellow Eindhoven grad David Derksen. But the project that started it all, True Colours, was less a product than an investigation into the nature of color: Pott took standard sheets of industrial metals — copper, brass, steel, and aluminum — and played with oxidizing them by various methods, in the process creating a highly individualized palette he could, in theory, apply to any metal object.
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Antonia Basler, Dollar Store: “Through photographing images and materials acquired from dollar stores, I am looking to explore the ways in which a visual index can be organized.”

The 2012 Parsons Thesis Site

As curatorial hunter-gatherers, we're always on the lookout for new and unseen talents, and there's no better place to spot them than at school thesis shows. But as workaholics who seldom have time to leave our home offices, much less attend these shows, they all too often remain off-limits to us. It's a rare yet celebrated occasion any time we're either sent a clear, comprehensive accounting of projects by graduating students, or become aware of a website that successfully catalogs them. Last week, we received an email from Parsons with just such a treat — the new multi-disciplinary Parsons thesis site, part of the two-year old Parsons Festival which flings open the doors of the school to the public each May for three weeks of exhibitions, workshops, and fashion shows. Grateful to have access to the event's couch-potato version, we sifted through all the projects on the site and found the six we liked best: humorously cloying photographs of weird dollar-store finds by Antonia Basler, a series of poured-concrete side tables made in fabric molds by Isaac Friedman-Heiman, dresses that pay homage to Muybridge and Noguchi by Kaoru Oshima, photos by Charlie Rubin that blur the line between the real and the artificial, and minimalist versus maximalist origami garments by Yingshi June Lin and Si Lu. Have a look at the slideshow here, which is annotated with selections from the students' thesis statements, then clear your calendar for next May so you'll have no excuse not to join us at next year's festival.
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Inspiration behind your Apollo light: “My dad had been given an old Poul Henningsen Artichoke Light by some Danish friends,” says Grasby. “It was in pieces when it arrived, so he gave it to us to fix. It was really complicated to put back together. We are interested in trying to simplify systems for use.”

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.
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From left, on an IKO WAKA big dot paper print: Rattan Takraw ball, nabeshiki trivet, vintage pink streamer, glazed dish from Hagi, IKO IKO hand-cast bronze bangle, nabeshiki trivet. “I had been looking for something everyone in Japan used, the kind of thing you’d see on everyone’s table. All the houses we went to had these woven trivets, which are only made in Okinawa. I saw them at department stores, so I don’t think they’re seen as these highly prized craft objects. It’s more that people use them, and they happen to be a cool design. But everyone does recognize that they always come from Okinawa, which is an idea we’ve lost in America. While our objects may be designed here, we always know they’re from another place, which takes away that regional or local feel.”

Kristin Dickson of L.A.’s Iko Iko

Inside Kristin Dickson’s store Iko Iko in L.A.’s Echo Park neighborhood, there are polka dot shirts and wooden knitting needles, zig-zag coathooks and Mexican moccasins, ceramic urns and jars of jam. There are selections from Dickson’s crystal and vintage-book collections — the latter with titles like “On Weaving” or “On Fiberworks” — plus pieces from her boyfriend Shin Okuda’s furniture line Waka Waka. And as of this month, these items were joined by a haul of objects from a three-week trip the couple took to Okuda’s native Japan, where the fare spanned vintage textiles to traditional trivets to novelties like toothpaste and black Q-tips. It’s a credit to the pair’s curating talents that the shop nevertheless feels like the product of a coherent vision. “I focus on work that balances high design with craft and traditional processes,” says Dickson. “I want it to be a fun exploration of textures, cultural artifacts, utilitarian objects, and beautiful curiosities.”
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A Guy Bourdin-esque image from the fall/winter '09 campaign for Lorick, art directed by RoAndCo

Roanne Adams, Founder and Creative Director at RoAndCo

If you've been to one of her fashion presentations or received one of her elaborate invitations in the mail, you might be surprised to hear graphic designer and art director Roanne Adams describe her business as "not the edgiest design firm." This, after all, is a woman who's so well known for her career-launching work for emerging fashion stars like Abigail Lorick and Timo Weiland that brands often come crawling to her for infusions of downtown cool. Yet if she's managed to turn RoAndCo into one of the most up-and-coming boutique firms in New York at the moment, it's because her little-known clients like Rachael Ray and Zappos have just as much respect for her work as folks like TenOverSix do, which has a lot to do with Adams's instinctive approach to design: Rather than competing to be the most avant-garde kid on the block, she prefers putting new twists on familiar ideas from the past, researching a brand's history or creating narratives around those who don't have one. Her inspirations, as enumerated in the pages of our book Paper View and elaborated on here, run to the likes of Guy Bourdin and '70s advertising icons. "I''ve always been more into Paul Rand and Herb Lubalin than contemporary designers," Adams says.
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Clemence Seilles in PIN-UP #12

Berlin's many charms are hardly lost on your editors. After a sunny, weeklong trip five summers ago, we both fell in love with the German capital — the wide open spaces, the well-situated swimming pools, the way clubbing unfolds as an actually enjoyable activity. But while my partner in crime has returned to the German capital each consecutive summer, I've never been able to find the time to go back. This summer, then, I was lucky enough to visit by proxy through the eyes of Felix Burrichter and his staff of Berlinophiles over at PIN-UP Magazine, which devoted its entire Spring/Summer issue to the changing metropolis. "For very long, Berlin was this one thing: You went when you had no money," says Burrichter, who serves as both editor and creative director of the architecture biannual. "But there’s a cultural elite — a moneyed elite — that has developed there over the past 10 years. Mostly people from out of town or in the art world. So there's an interesting friction right now. When that moneyed elite takes over, the city will lose a lot of its charm. But right now it still feels very raw and budding." The issue was in some ways a homecoming — Burrichter grew up in Düsseldorf — but in the end, the Berlin depicted in the magazine's pages bears more of a resemblance to Burrichter's adopted home in New York. "What fascinates me about Berlin right now is that it's very international," he says; hence the features run to a British architect who recently remade the city's Neues Museum (David Chipperfield), a West African transplant (Francis Kéré), and Clémence Seilles, a Frenchwoman who arrived in Berlin with a singular goal — to assist in the studio of designer Jerszy Seymour — and who never left. We've been fans of Seilles' work for some time now, and her conversation in the magazine with fellow Sight Unseen friend Matylda Krzykowski was too good to confine to print. Burrichter has graciously allowed us to excerpt it today on Sight Unseen.
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Bec Brittain’s Lattice Candelabra

When we last did a studio visit with Bec Brittain, we made a brief mention of her new candelabra design, which — as depicted in that slideshow — was just a formless pile of metal tube segments at the time. While it's still something of a work in progress, Brittain decided to share it with Sight Unseen readers today anyway, originally planning to photograph it on the High Line and then ultimately finding inspiration a bit closer to home. And when we say home, we mean the building that houses her Red Hook studio, also referenced briefly in our March story: the E.R. Butler headquarters and production facility, which we only got a quick glimpse of that day, but whose awesomeness we may have failed to properly convey. It's a 10,000 square foot renovated warehouse with a hauntingly beautiful courtyard and the kind of gritty factory floor most makers go nuts for, and in the photos she shot for us, Brittain borrowed that industrial scenery to use as a metaphor for her own working process.
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The back office’s showpiece is the large plywood-covered wall pictured here, which Grajales put up a decade ago when she first moved in, and which forms the backdrop for the bulk of her art collection — from the Nan Golden photo in the center to works by Ross Bleckner, Pierre Molinier, and Tom Sachs. “It’s a funny story,” she says. “I wanted to use the cheapest wood I could find, but the lumber guy sent me beautiful plywood sheets, to do something nice for me. I returned them and said I don’t want your perfect plywood! I wanted the ones with character. I wanted to see the knots, and the grain of the wood.”

Cristina Grajales Gallery

At the Armory Show this past November, Cristina Grajales had an original Jean Royère Polar Bear sofa in her booth, which sold for “half a million in minutes,” she recalls. Grajales has had plenty of experience dealing in 20th-century masterpieces like these — both in her decade-long stint directing 1950 for Delorenzo and at the helm of her 12-year-old eponymous gallery in Soho — and yet her own most cherished piece isn’t some icon of modernism at all. It’s not even a design object, but a 19th-century Naga warrior costume she bought at the Tribal Art Fair, and as a mainstay of the large office and presentation room she keeps behind her gallery, only her clients and artists ever get to see it. Of course it’s they, if any, who understand Grajales’s working methods best; they come to her precisely because she looks at objects “as sculptures, for what they are,” and says she’s “not afraid to put together, say, an 18th-century Portuguese table with a contemporary silver tray.” Which is why we figured a privileged peek inside her back room, captured earlier this year by our trusty photographer Mike Vorrasi, might be the ideal way for our readers to get to know her, too.
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Jerpoint Irish Glass for Makers & Brothers

Anyone who was in New York for our annual Noho Design District event this spring should be familiar with the Irish online homegoods brand Makers & Brothers; they would have been the ones making a beautiful mess on the floor of the Standard East Village hotel, as their woodworker James Wicklow carved stools made from Catskills-grade green ash by hand over the course of four days. But most of what namesake brothers Jonathan and Mark Legge do to showcase their particular brand of native handcrafted goods takes place a bit closer to home — which in their case is a shed located on the same property as their parents' home and architectural practice in Dublin. Since founding their online retail venture less than a year ago, the two have made a point of visiting and documenting the workspaces of the people who create products for them — the basketweaver who grows her own willow on the banks of the River Boyne, the Irish RCA grad who knits stool covers from a warehouse in East London, and, most recently, a family of glassblowers in Kilkenny whose Jerpoint brand drinking vessels the brothers grew up with. When we wrote Jonathan to ask if we could reprint some of their text and photos on Sight Unseen, he confessed he hopes to collaborate soon with Jerpoint — so perhaps a follow-up story will be in the offing for fall. Until then, if you're in Dublin, you can pop by the brothers' shed this weekend for a summer opening. If not, live the Makers & Brothers life vicariously through our excerpt after the jump.
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Prince Ruth for Urban Outfitters

When we first got wind of the new Scandances by Prince Ruth textile collection for Urban Outfitters, we had two questions: Who is Prince Ruth? And what the heck is a scandance? The latter question, we found, was easy to answer: It’s that jittery, seismograph-through-the-lens-of-an-acid-trip effect you get when you manipulate an image while it’s in the process of being scanned. As for the former, we assumed that Prince Ruth was some under-the-radar designer we somehow weren’t cool enough to have noticed. And in a way, that’s exactly what it is: Prince Ruth is the name of a Brooklyn-based surface design studio run by Zoe Latta, a 24-year-old textile artist and RISD grad whose work is more famous than her pseudonym would suggest.
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Jennifer Parry Dodge of Ermie

Jennifer Parry Dodge is a Los Angeles–based designer, whose beautifully printed textiles are often the result of photographs or scans of vintage textiles that have been manipulated in Photoshop. Her online store Ermie, named after a great-aunt Ermengarde who encouraged her creativity, encompasses a collection of works ranging from braided embroidered belts to watery cool crepe de chine garments made from her own textile creations. In addition to creating textiles, she maintains a blog that documents her transforming fascinations with color, textures, food, the desert, and her trips abroad. The first time I met Jennifer over coffee in downtown Los Angeles, I was immediately struck by the intensity of the colors in her work — colors that vibrated in the California sun, and intensified as the sun grew stronger. "Each pattern or print that I design has a history, however brief, of how it came to be. I’m sure the meaning for me differs from that of the viewer/ wearer/ user, but I hope some of the story comes through," she says.
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