Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien in their studio, a loft-like space in London’s Shoreditch neighborhood. The couple met in the ’90s as students at the RCA, where they remember being outspokenly critical about one another’s work; more than ten years after founding their own studio in 2000, they still approach design in markedly different ways, and yet the dialogue they’ve since developed is now a crucial part of their process. They balance each other out. (Though, as Doshi admits, “in a way you’re more brutal with each other because of the personal relationship. Communication can sometimes be harder because you’re not making allowances for the other person’s feelings.”)

Doshi Levien, Product and Furniture Designers

If you'd expect anyone to spend their days working amidst a snowdrift’s worth of process and ephemera, it’s London designers Doshi Levien. What you see piled atop the shelves and pinned to the walls of the couple’s Shoreditch studio, after all, is the product of two very different yet equally prolific minds working through their own approaches to the same tasks — Nipa Doshi being the Bombay-born lover of handicraft who collages, paints, and draws her way towards ideas from the ground up, and her Scottish husband Jonathan Levien, who spent his childhood in his parents’ toy factory and developed the more exacting methods of an industrial designer, prototyping proclivities and all. While both enjoy surrounding themselves with collected objects like Italian ice cream cups and Chinese pencil boxes, it’s impossible to understate the importance of the couple’s divergent interests to their work’s unique point of view; the designs that made them famous, after all, were daybeds and sofas for Moroso that combined industrially produced furnishings with hand-embroidery and textiles sourced from Indian artisans. It would be a cliché way of characterizing the pair if it weren’t so overwhelmingly true, even by their own admission: “After ten years of working together, I see it as an essential ingredient in what we do, almost a layer in the approach without which it would feel naked,” says Levien.
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The Making of Tom Price’s Meltdown Chairs on Tales of the Hunt

Sighted on the new design-art documentary website Tales of the Hunt, a video chronicling the making of Tom Price's Meltdown Series, for which the London talent employs inventive heating methods to transform commonplace objects like PVC pipes, polypropylene rope, and even polyester clothing into dramatic chairs and tables. The site itself is the creation of the precocious young Belgian design-art dealer Victor Hunt, whose interests lie particularly in objects that are created by hand using highly experimental processes; his collection contains not only finished products but prototypes, failures, and abandoned one-offs that further highlight those processes. It was only natural that Hunt would launch a video series dedicated to showing his clients and the design-art world at large the stories behind the works he supports, and likewise that Sight Unseen would want to become a partner in the endeavor. From time to time we'll share with you new videos posted on the site, starting with Price's. Watch it after the jump, then head to Tales from the Hunt to view the other offerings so far, including a behind-the-scenes look at how Maarten de Ceulaer's Balloon Bowls are created.
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What inspired your Totems? “For our premiere collection we decided to propose ‘totems for living’ — they’re intended as monolithic objects that dominate the habitat, yet remain entirely functional.”

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."
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Antique wallpapers purchased from a flea market in Paris.

Kneeland Co

If you’ve ever spent an afternoon gazing out the window, futilely hoping that design inspiration might strike, you’ve probably wished you knew someone like Joanna Williams. As the proprietor of Kneeland Co., a Los Angeles–based, appointment-only studio that sources vintage prints, textiles, garments, and jewelry for the fashion and interiors industries, it’s Williams’s job to scour the globe, bringing back creative inspiration for sale. In Williams’s world, a book of early 20th-century decorative medallions, snagged from Pasadena’s legendary Rose Bowl Flea Market, might serve as inspiration for a new tile pattern, and the striped detail from a Moroccan wedding blanket might one day mutate into a maxidress for Anthropologie. As glamorous a life as that might sound, Williams concedes that it’s still a lot of hard work: “You’re definitely always searching and looking, trying to meet the right people, and making sure you don’t get ripped off,” she told me when I visited her new Atwater Village studio earlier this month.
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An Interview With Dan Funderburgh from WRAP Issue #2

Though it was never intended that way, Wrap magazine might just be the perfect racket. With each 11.7 x 16.5–inch editorial spread backed by an illustration meant to double as wrapping paper, it's practically compulsory to buy two of every issue — one to keep forever, and one to dissect into packaging for your best friend's birthday present. As far as the London-based magazine's founders, Chris Harrison and Polly Glass, are concerned, either approach is perfectly valid. "As designers, the most satisfying feeling is seeing people using and enjoying what you've made," they say. Both began as jewelry designers for brands like Matthew Williamson and Paul Smith, with Glass venturing into furniture design for Innermost before leaving to devote her time to Wrap, which they hope will eventually blossom into an illustration-driven housewares and stationery brand. The pair's first issue launched last fall with stories about and contributions from up-and-comers including Merijn Hos and Sam Harris, and the second issue came out last week, its size bumped from A4 to A3 and its designer interviews even more in-depth. Sight Unseen secured permission to reprint here an interview with the Brooklyn-based illustrator and William Morris disciple Dan Funderburgh, whose wallpaper design pictured above was adapted especially for Wrap.
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"About a year ago, my mother gave me three rusty boxes for my birthday."

Letter to Jane: Issue 01

And just like that, it’s 1991 all over again: The economy is down, unemployment is up, and 20-somethings in the Pacific Northwest, facing diminished postgraduate prospects, are pouring their energy into small, independent ’zines. We were recently introduced to a new one out of Portland, Oregon, called Letter to Jane. With interviews and features on the likes of Passion Pit, Yoko Ono, and Hedi Slimane, it fits the ‘zine mold to some extent, but it’s elevated by the singular vision of Timothy Paul Moore, the 25-year-old photographer who devised and designed the project and whose ethereal images comprise more than two-thirds of the 180-page book.
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In Lipsey’s Acciaio series of chairs and stools, a seat made from a sandwich of perforated aluminum and saddle leather is stretched between tapered rolls of chromosteel, a special steel alloy that’s only available through bicycle suppliers. The chairs debuted this year in Milan at the annual furniture fair and in New York with Sight Unseen’s Noho Design District. They’re now for sale at Matter in New York.

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.
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Irene Alvarez, Artist

Antwerp’s Irene Alvarez was a sculptor and recent Royal Academy art grad when she got the call from the cult concept shop Ra — the city’s version of Opening Ceremony — asking her to design a custom installation. But it was the far less glamorous moment that came next that has since marked a pivotal moment in her nascent career: She discovered the Netherlands' Textile Museum Tilburg, which is not only a museum but also an experimental production lab where creatives can apply for technical assistance on machines capable of knitting, embroidering, lasering, printing, tufting, dyeing, and weaving almost anything the mind can conceive. Despite having no previous experience with textiles, she collaborated with the museum on the half-woven Inti Altar sculpture that’s held court on Ra’s second floor for the last two years, and she’s been addicted to the furry medium ever since. Today marks the opening of her first solo show, at Belgium’s other hallowed retail emporium, Hunting and Collecting, and it demonstrates just how far Alvarez has come in her obsession with knits — it contains no traditional sculpture at all, only a textile teepee (above), a line of t-shirts, and a series of three tapestries woven with a psychedelic clash of pop-culture icons and op-art patterning. Sight Unseen recently spoke with the artist about her work with the museum and the ethnic influences behind her imagery.
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Boym Partners, Doha, Qatar

To move the studio of Boym Partners from New York City to Doha, Qatar, would seem an act of sacrilege, like relocating Ai Weiwei from China to Portland, Oregon, or Ed Ruscha from Los Angeles to Munich. After all, as co-principals of the New York–based firm since 1995, Constantin and Laurene Leon Boym have made their mark in part by commenting on the cultural iconography of American life. And yet a year ago, the couple quit their DUMBO studio, picked up their 14-year-old son Bobby and their cat Ozzy, and moved everything into a high-rise apartment that sits 17 floors above the Doha Bay. The occasion was Constantin being named director of graduate design studies at the Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, but in the year since their arrival, it’s become clear that their work there is not just about getting a fledgling design program off the ground but rather about helping create a whole design culture from scratch. “Design here is still largely considered to be a more decorative, applied discipline,” Constantin told me via Skype from the new studio last week. “You decorate a hotel, a restaurant, or a villa. Design as a critical tool for exploration doesn’t really exist.” Adds Laurene: “You have to remember that people lived in tents in this very spot 20 years ago, and now we have a W Hotel across the street.”
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With Matylda Krzykowski, Designer and Curator of The Clash Project

By now we're used to furniture designers making art, artists making furniture, and every possible variation along that spectrum. But in 2009, when three of her friends started the Fashion Clash festival in her hometown of Maastricht, the Netherlands, designer and blogger Matylda Krzykowski was convinced her colleagues outside the fashion industry might have something to contribute. She rounded up 10 furniture, textile, and graphic designers and asked them to modify their work for the catwalk — in most cases having no idea what they would come up with until the final "outfit" was delivered to her door. The first year, artist Tanja Ritterbex donned a glittery pink Barbie dress and asked to be rolled down the catwalk while she waved at the audience like Queen Elizabeth. The second year, a designer-artist couple from London created a massive, wearable Tyvek tote bag and requested it be modeled by an old man. And for the 2011 show, presented last weekend, one of the designers encased her model in a mountainous wooden cake, with only her head poking out at the summit — in other words, nothing you wouldn't expect to see at an actual fashion show. We asked Krzykowski to tell us a little bit more about the project and about five selections from this year's collection which are shown here, alongside the participant's usual work.
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A promotional image for the video lookbook Amsterdam duo Freudenthal/Verhagen created around the five ArtEZ Fashion Masters students' collections, each of which is represented within one or another of its triangles.

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.
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The third outfit from the left in this piece, Patrick Ervell’s, features a jacket punched through with thousands of rusty staples, then paired with pants made from a trompe l’oeil photographic print of the stapled fabric.

At the 2011 Arnhem Mode Biennale

If you travel all the way from New York to Arnhem just to attend the fashion biennial in this relatively obscure Dutch city, half the size of Pittsburgh, you can expect people to notice. Your waiter will witness your accent — and the fact that you’re not drinking a huge glass of milk with lunch like everyone else — and ask if you came just for the show, and well, did you like it? Your jolly white-haired cab driver will crack a few embarrassing jokes about the Big Apple before waxing poetic about how lovely it is when the festival’s on. And despite Vogue calling the $2.5-million production the “Greatest Fashion Event You’ve Never Heard Of,” it will seem, when you’re there, like Arnhem's gravitational pull has shifted in some small but significant way.
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Work.Place, by Carlie Armstrong

On occasion, the editors of Sight Unseen spot a story about creativity told from a viewpoint that’s not unlike our own. In this case, it wasn’t a single story but rather a whole new blog: Work.Place, a sort of hyperlocal version of Sight Unseen that peeks inside the studios of Portland, Oregon’s best and brightest creative talents. The site is the solo effort of talented local photographer Carlie Armstrong, who documents a community of potters, patternmakers, illustrators, print shops, woodworkers, painters, comics, bicycle-builders — and even a floating workshop and gallery built inside a restored naval vessel parked near the city’s Sauvies Island — from behind the viewfinder of her Twin Lens Reflex camera. We recently spoke to Armstrong, who explained the reasoning behind her labor of love: “I wanted to give voice to some of the artists here in Portland who aren't necessarily promoting their own work, and also to illuminate the personalities behind such great projects. I think there is a more complete connection to craft or art when you see the genuine nature of the creator or creative space behind it.”
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