Harry Allen’s studio encompasses three large rooms in a building in New York’s East Village. He has an apartment upstairs, but spends half of his time living upstate with his partner John, a landscape architect. That house hides most of the antiques and iconic-looking objects that Allen collects as research for the Reality series, whose process he likens more to hunting and gathering than actual design. “When I was making lamps out of paper, I started looking at what makes something lampy,” he says. “It should have an urn base with a fabric shade and a finial on top. If you drew a lamp to go on grandma’s table in the Tweety and Sylvester cartoons, that would be the one. So you’re searching antique stores for the perfect thing, and it’s really time consuming.”

Harry Allen, Product Designer

Harry Allen is a happening guy. From his design studio in New York’s East Village, he makes ironic banana bowls and pig banks for Areaware and is one of only three American designers working with the hip Italian furniture brand Skitsch, along with Jason Miller and Todd Bracher. His new Bang perfume bottle is all over the ad pages of major fashion magazines, strategically positioned atop a nude Marc Jacobs, and the skateboarding store Supreme owes its interiors to him. Allen is so evergreen, in fact, that it’s easy to forget the most basic fact of his biography: He’s been doing this for nearly 20 years. “Everyone treats me like I’m some kid, but I’ve been around for a long time,” he says. “When I started in 1993, there was no Moss, no Wallpaper. Philippe Starck was king, and everything was shaped like a horn. I looked at Europe and thought: That’s what I want to be, I want to be like Starck. I want to be Starck.” But while he did follow that model when he set up his own design studio in 1993 — as opposed to joining a corporation like most of his American peers were doing at the time — part of the reason Allen’s presence in the design world always feels so fresh is that unlike Starck, he's constantly reinvented himself along the way.
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Hundley’s best-known series (pictured) involves photographing subjects jumping high into the air with their bodies tucked behind a piece of fabric or mylar, producing mysterious shots that seem to defy logic. “When I started, I had some fabric in my car I had planned to paint on, and I tried jumping behind it in midair to see what would happen,” he says. “I looked at the images and thought, that’s the funniest fucking thing I’ve ever seen: A piece of pink fabric four feet up in the air, so small there was no way a body could fit behind it, and all you see is my feet poking out and my hair. I latched onto it and would go out shooting with my friends, climbing on roofs and breaking ankles, and come back with hundreds of them.”

William Hundley, Artist

The artist William Hundley — known for photographing plumes of fabric hovering enigmatically in mid-air and strange objects balancing atop cheeseburgers — recently began experimenting with self-portraits. Which wouldn't be out of the ordinary, except that Hundley happens to hate letting people know what he looks like, so he obscures the photos of his face with collages of weird body parts and other incongruous images. He’s also been playing with masks, shooting the results of elaborate tribal-inspired face-painting sessions with his fiancée. “There’s this perception that I’m this badass artist who doesn’t give a fuck, this imagined character,” says Hundley, a boyish Texas native who lives deep in the suburbs of Austin. “But I work at a hospital in IT. So that’s why I don’t like putting images of myself or a biography out there — I mean look at me, I’m all-American white-boy looking. It would ruin the illusion.”
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Journal de Nîmes no 6: The Dutch Issue

Two years ago, in the Nine Streets shopping area of Amsterdam, two lifelong friends, René Strolenberg and Menno van Meurs, opened a store called Tenue de Nîmes. Like a lot of very hip retailers these days, Tenue de Nîmes is devoted in large part to denim — Nîmes, France being the fabric’s birthplace — and also like a lot of very hip retailers these days, it publishes a semi-annual magazine, this one called Journal de Nîmes. The shop has become widely loved for its expansive outlook and inventory (great denim doesn’t have to be Japanese!, it seems to say), and the magazine, while nominally a vehicle to promote brands sold by the shop, has also become, over six issues, something much more. This is due in part to its excellent art direction and photography, which come courtesy of Another Something blogger Joachim Baan, but also because of its simple, very Sight Unseen–like aims: to reveal the personalities and the stories behind how things are made.
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"We've realized that the tiles actually make sense as simple objects on their own — you can buy them mounted on a beech frame or for use in murals or furniture — although we're frequently contacted by people interested in them for unsuitable uses and have to turn their offers down."

SuTurno, Graphic and Textile Designers

In some ways, Marc Jacobs is a bit like Oprah. With a flick of his influential magic wand, Posh Spice can suddenly be considered cool, Bleecker Street can become the place you simply must open your New York shop, and a Madrid-based, husband-and-wife graphic-design duo can go from virtual unknowns to the toast of magazines and blogs around the world. That’s what happened two years ago to Julia Vergara and Javier G. Bayo, co-principals of the print and pattern design shop SuTurno, whose Bolsaco tote — a simple canvas bag made from vintage stock found in an old warehouse in Spain — was spied by two of Jacobs’ buyers at the Madrid shop Peseta. “It was the first product we ever made with the SuTurno label on it, and it actually became our most hyped design to date,” says Bayo. The two were asked to produce a limited edition of bags for the Marc by Marc Jacobs stores in the States, and they promptly sold out within a few days.
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Things Organized Neatly: It’s also likely why I love flea markets, where you can often find random spots of order among the chaos, like these colorful yarn spindles I photographed last year at Brimfield.

Jill Singer, Co-Editor

In honor of Sight Unseen's first anniversary, we, the editors, decided to turn the lens on ourselves, revealing what inspires us as writers about and champions of design and art. If you're an especially devoted reader of Sight Unseen, you might have noticed that Monica — who spent her childhood putting bugs under a kiddie microscope and was at the head of her high-school calculus class — often tends towards subjects inspired by geometry and science, while Jill — whose love for color and pattern likely began with an uncommonly large novelty earring collection — favors maximalist, throw-every-color-at-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks types. We were interested to see how those formative experiences would play out in a documention of our own reference points. Here's a closer look at eight of Jill's editor's picks.
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Fictional character who would own your work: The Beast from Jean Cocteau’s 1946 movie La Belle et la Bête would probably be drawn to my wallpaper Lun Shade, which would fit perfectly in the gothic corridors of his castle.

Iris Maschek, Textile Designer

As I walked the Tendence gift fair in Frankfurt this summer, Iris Maschek appeared to me like an oasis of glam in a desert of practicality. There she was, surrounded by clocks and soaps and clever ceramic jugs with customizable chalkboard labels, dressed all in black and perched in a cool mid-century rattan chair against this gorgeously baroque Rorschach-like backdrop: A specimen from her very first wallpaper collection.
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Geodes: Yes, geodes are trendy right now, but this is one instance where I’ve liked them since I was a child more because I was a nerd than a trendsetter. When I was young I collected rocks, and I had a purple geode I loved to just pick up and stare at. (I also had a rock tumbler, and I tried to grow crystals from a box a few times, too.) Now I have new geodes, and one set into a pendant that I found in a crappy rock shop in Barcelona for 3 Euros. I highly endorse decorating with them — plants are not the only things that can bring a natural element indoors.

Monica Khemsurov, Co-Editor

In honor of Sight Unseen's first anniversary, we, the editors, decided to turn the lens on ourselves, revealing what inspires us as writers about and champions of design and art. If you're an especially devoted reader of Sight Unseen, you might have noticed that Monica — who spent her childhood putting bugs under a kiddie microscope and was at the head of her high-school calculus class — often tends towards subjects inspired by geometry and science, while Jill — whose love for color and pattern likely began with an uncommonly large novelty earring collection — favors maximalist, throw-every-color-at-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks types. We were interested to see how those formative experiences would play out in a documention of our own reference points. Here's a closer look at eight of Monica's editor's picks.
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Happy Birthday, Sight Unseen

On November 10, 2009, Sight Unseen launched with just twelve stories and two readers (thanks, moms). A year later, we've posted nearly 200 stories, visited studios in more than a dozen cities around the world, and found readers from Argentina to Australia. In our ongoing quest to offer an intimate look at process and the obsessions of creative people, we've come across artists who collect Finnish trolls, designers who mime their objects before making them, and stylists who sculpt realistic-looking hamburgers from slabs of German wood and tree bark. To celebrate Sight Unseen's one-year anniversary, we reached out to some of those inspiringly creative folks — like Mary & Matt, whose animated chocolate-bar gif is above and whose home studio we visited last spring — as well as to readers we've yet to meet, asking them to create a birthday card just for the occasion. We hope that you enjoy the results, and that you continue to make Sight Unseen a destination in the next year and beyond.
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David Huycke’s Granulation Series

The history of the metalworking technique known as granulation stretches back some 5,000 years, to when ancient goldsmiths in Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean began fusing tiny ornamental gold balls onto jewelry surfaces using a painstaking invisible soldering process. It was used to decorate the rings of the queen of Ur in the Bronze Age, perfected by the Etruscans in the 7th century BC, and resurrected in 1933 by a jewelry maker looking to copy pieces from the British Museum's collection. Yet only when the contemporary Belgian silversmith David Huycke began experimenting with the obscure technique in 1996 did it feel like granulation had finally evolved — beyond the realm of fussy antique jewelry and into the world of modern design. For Re-Thinking Granulation, Huycke's show of granulated vessels and atomic sculptures on view now at the design museum Z33 in Hasselt, Belgium, he's worked on a blown-up scale and forsaken the idea of ornamentation in favor of letting each object's form grow organically from the process used to make it.
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Katy Horan, Artist

Sighted on the illustration blog Pikaland, an interview with artist Katy Horan, whose intricate paintings channel Victorian mourning rituals, ghost stories, children's books, and traditional feminine crafts. Of her folk-art influences, she says: "All these art forms that at one point may have been considered outside or less-than by the contemporary art world can make our work so much more interesting and dynamic. There has been a noticeable acceptance of (for lack of a better term) 'low brow' art forms such as illustration and folk art lately, and I think it’s a very exciting development for the art world."
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Book Case by Raw-Edges

It’s not very often that a designer’s work is accepted into the permanent collection at MoMA when he's just a year out of design school. But that’s what happened to the Israeli-born, London-based Royal College of Art grad Shay Alkalay, who debuted his Stack chest of drawers with Established & Sons at the Milan Furniture Fair in 2008 and saw it honored by the museum that same year. And no wonder: With Stack, Alkalay — who with his longtime partner Yael Mer forms the London studio Raw-Edges — stumbled upon a brilliant bit of reduction. The unit is made from a series of colored drawers, stacked atop one another, that can be opened from either side. There’s no frame and no back panel; in other words, it completely re-contextualizes what a storage unit can be. That same thinking went into the Book Case the pair constructed for their London flat, which is a bookshelf in the loosest sense of the word, seeing as there aren’t actually any shelves.
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As a promotional image for McFee and Clark’s nascent Crummy House initiative, this image depicts what Clark calls “our combined ephemerata” — weird objects they’ve made, found items, and other trinkets. Crummy House, after all, is the couple’s first creative collaboration, an umbrella under which they both hope to work in the future. They’ll start by making black and white promotional zines featuring friends in the art and illustration worlds, which they’ll send out to industry contacts. They’ll also host shows by those artists and, if all goes well, turn the company into an agency. Once things progress, they’ll work with the artists they represent on Crummy House t-shirts and other merchandise.

Mason McFee, Artist, and Jess Clark, Graphic Designer

When Mason McFee and Jessica Clark decided to name their new company Crummy House, referring to their own charmingly ancient one-bedroom rental in Austin, Texas, it was mostly out of admiration rather than denigration. Sure, the paint is cracked in places, the garage has an uneven dirt floor, and in the winter, the cold night air blows through with no regard for shuttered windows. And it was a bit of an inconvenience when, two months after they moved in, an old tree fell directly onto McFee’s car. But with two desks in the living room, a workshop in the garage, and the kitchen basically converted into a studio, the house has become a kind of creative haven for the couple — a getaway from McFee’s responsibilities as an art director at the ad agency Screamer, and Clark’s as a graphic design student at Austin’s Art Institute. They spend weekends making art there, side by side, and with Crummy House they’ll start their first true collaboration.
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Gin is made all over the world these days, from New Zealand to France. But Hendrick’s, owned by William Grant & Sons, is the only gin distillery in Scotland. Located an hour’s drive outside of Glasgow, the Hendrick’s headquarters stand on 380 acres overlooking Ailsa Bay, the body of water that’s home to Ailsa Craig — the island where blue hone granite is harvested to make curling stones.

Hendrick’s Gin Distillery in Girvan, Scotland

The word most often associated with Hendrick’s gin is “unusual,” and there’s good reason for it. Consider the brand’s peculiar visual identity, created by adman Steven Grasse, which collages together semi-Surrealist, mock-Victorian illustrations of naked women in martini glasses, men in dunce caps, butterflies, knights, monocles, trombones, scales, strange machines, roses, and cucumbers. Or the collaborations, most notably with the London-based gelatin artists Bompas & Parr, who in addition to creating a gin-flavored jelly, recently concocted a chewing gum that tastes just like a G&T. And then there are the events: Hendrick’s doesn’t much do the usual cocktail competitions, choosing instead to host croquet matches in the summer and curling duels in the winter. It would all seem like a gimmick, except that for Hendrick’s, which launched a little more than a decade ago, there’s truth in advertising: The gin really is manufactured differently than any other spirit on the market, as we found out when we were invited to the factory in Girvan, Scotland, earlier this month.
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