SPECIALSERIES

Carly Mayer: The Roof Tile

From Monday through Thursday of this week, Sight Unseen is featuring a documentary project by British sculptor Carly Mayer, who indulged her personal curiosity about the factories surrounding her home in Brighton, England, by inviting herself over to photograph their inner workings. First up is the Keymer roof-tile factory. "Keymer is set back into the beautiful countryside of Burgess Hill, Sussex," Mayer writes. "Upon approaching the factory, the first thing that strikes you is the massive abundance of crates stacked with perfectly formed and notably familiar roof tiles. The next would be the sheer size of this 50-acre site, one of the oldest surviving brick and tile companies still laboring from a clay pit, which reaches as far as the eye can see. The business itself traces back to 1588 and was moved to its current site in 1860, exactly where I stood with my digital SLR camera. There was an instant sense of being thrown full-pelt back in time, as the whole essence of the operation was so delicately preserved. It gave me a child-like desire to pick up a stick and explore."
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Foraging for Lunch in the Garden With Martino Gamper

Martino Gamper and I are neighbors. His studio sits just across the road from my flat in east London, and he and his wife garden in the communal plots out the back of my block. Their autumn planting — beets, kohlrabi, winter salads, and the last of some impressive tomatoes — was turning me green with envy, so when Sight Unseen suggested I ask Martino for a tour of the plot to talk about both his working and gardening methods, I was secretly hoping to gain a little insight myself, so as to turn my dirt patch into an edible wonderland.
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Miranda July’s Resale Shop at Partners & Spade

For It Chooses You, a resale shop popping up at Partners & Spade in New York, Miranda July scoured the New York classifieds, buying up other people’s discards — like a collection of stolen oil paints or a pair of taxidermied deer hooves — and interviewing the sellers to discern the original meaning of those once-cherished objects.
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In your words, what do you do? [C] "We are trained as architects but have drifted from the profession to become furniture designers with hands deeply in the art world."

Where They Create, by Paul Barbera

Because he’s been doing it since he was 16 — when he used his very first camera to shoot the art studio of a friend’s father — documenting the workspaces of creatives is second nature to Australian photographer Paul Barbera. So much so that he can now identify his own memes: piles of rubbish on a table, trash cans, air conditioners, outdated technology. “How many fax machines have I found that are covered in dust but powered up, just in case I get a fax?” laughs Barbera, whose new book Where They Create and three-year-old website of the same name are full of such telling references.
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Chen's Metamorphic Rock bookends, currently for sale through Phillips de Pury, are made from fine-grain concrete and stone-yard reject scraps. Their complete and utter randomness is part of their appeal — each one is entirely one of a kind, and even Chen himself doesn't really follow a set recipe when he's fabricating them.

Make a Metamorphic Rock Bookend, With Chen Chen

"It's not like it's a science," says Brooklyn designer Chen Chen as he's mixing up a batch of cement in the Brooklyn studio he shares with collaborator Kai Tsien Williams, attempting to explain why he can't offer an exact set of measurements for replicating his concrete bookends. They're fitting words to have chosen, though, coming from him: The Shanghai-born, Wyoming-raised designer had two chemists for parents, and yet it seems like his entire practice has revolved around losing control during the design process rather than maintaining it. Since he joined forces earlier this year with Williams — a fellow Pratt grad who also runs the design fabrication business Three Phase Studio — the pair have spent most of their time together choosing offbeat materials like expanding foam and studio scraps and experimenting for weeks to see what kinds of unexpected effects they can elicit from them.
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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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Andy Beach of Reference Library in 01 Magazine

Sighted in the seventh issue of the online journal 01 Magazine, an interview with Philly-based blogger extraordinaire Andy Beach. Despite having never met the two women behind the Vancouver-based publication, we feel a certain kinship with them: They meander across disciplines, they cover folks who are near and dear to us like ConfettiSystem and ROLU, and they even have a healthy appreciation for the absurd. But when we saw the story about Beach, in particular, we knew we had to repost it, as we've been trying to weasel our way into the man's home ever since we first met him in Milan two years ago, when he did a pop-up shop with Apartamento and sold us this book from his personal collection. For now, we'll settle for excerpting a Q+A that shines a light on the goings-on behind the scenes of his cult blog Reference Library, including the avalanche of inspiration binders that started it all
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His output now looks more like this — the same geometric motifs, but drawn into the computer using a digital pen and then splashed across everything from shirts to umbrellas to beanbags.

David Saunders of David David, Fashion Designer and Artist

If you were somehow unfamiliar enough with the London fashion scene that you’d never encountered the work of David David, née David Saunders, a primer in his background certainly wouldn’t help much. Saunders is best known for a whirlwind rise to prominence that began with a job as head sculptor in YBA Tracey Emin’s studio, stumbled into a fashion line that won him a coveted spot in London’s Fashion East runway show, and now entails an obligatory mention of fans like Kanye West, Agyness Deyn, and M.I.A. each time it comes up in conversation. It’s not that it’s much ado about nothing — we were huge admirers of Saunders’s line by the time we ended up in his flat last February, a block away from our favorite London boutique Darkroom — but all that star power conveys very little about a charmingly blithe collection consisting of a handful of wearable silhouettes festooned with hand-drawn kaleidoscopic graphics, except maybe how he ended up with it in the first place.
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Favorite material to work with: In the beginning of her career as designer, Meijer worked mainly with ceramics. “It’s incredible that by mixing clay and water you can make amazing shapes. It’s like making something out of nothing. But you need precision and patience for it.”

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.
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Jo Meesters, Designer

Old or discarded objects may leave their mark on many a designer’s practice these days, but few so literally as Jo Meesters’s: Peer inside any one of the Pulp vessels or lamps he sculpts from a self-engineered slurry of newspaper and glue, and odds are you’ll see the imprint of whatever busted-up thrift store find he used as its mold. In fact, whatever time Meesters doesn’t spend designing, he tends to spend combing through second-hand shops, searching for abandoned items with intriguing materialities or archetypal forms. “When I’m developing new products, they’re always the forms I come back to, because they’re recognizable for most people,” says the Philippines-born, Eindhoven-based talent. Once he co-opts those historical influences into one of his own objects, “it becomes this weird sensation; you’ve never seen it before, and yet you can also relate it.”
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Digital Artist and Scientist Krist Wood on Rhizome.org

Any first-time visitor to the internet-art blog Computers Club could be forgiven for getting lost in the meandering stream of digital illustrations, photo manipulations, and animated gifs created by its close-knit group of international contributors. With no real nav bar or About Us page to use as a guide, either, they would even be justified in wondering what, exactly, it all means. And if, like I did back in 2009, this visitor decided to trace the site all the way to its founder, they would discover an even bigger enigma: Krist Wood, a doctor in Yale University's Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology who spends his days studying the protein nanomotors responsible for cell motion, and who calls his scientific work "part of my art practice." Indeed, I found Wood so intriguing — and Computers Club so freakishly addictive — that I contacted him two years ago, when Sight Unseen was just about to launch, in the hopes that I could feature both him and his cohorts on the site somehow. And yet without a clear understanding of how to capture such a disparate and mysterious group, I let the ball drop, which is why I was so pleased to see an interview with Wood published at the always-thought-provoking Rhizome blog earlier this week, one that actually sheds light on Wood's oeuvre. It's partially excerpted here.
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The biggest part of the fair took place at the former gas power plant recently re-christened as 751 D-Park. Next to the city's once-hip 798 arts district, it's dedicated to fostering Beijing's design industry. The wood was part of a larger installation by students from Tsinghua University and the Swiss school EPFL, who went through 600 pallets and 11,500 feet of rope.

At Beijing Design Week

When you live all the way around the globe, visiting China for the first time for any reason — even for work, even for an international design fair, even to a sprawling modern metropolis like Beijing — is going to be mostly about visiting China for the first time. The way the pollution shocks your system, the deliciousness of the food: These are the kinds of experiences you begin eagerly tracking the moment you leave the airport. It's no wonder, then, that I enjoyed Beijing Design Week so much — almost all of the work, whether international or Chinese in origin, was presented in ways that made you feel like you couldn't have been anywhere else.
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Misaki Kawai, Artist

Misaki Kawai's work is insane. In a good way. When Sweden's LOYAL gallery sent us these images from her new solo show, "Wet Shiny Surprise," we were taken with their use of geometry and pattern — not to mention their resemblance to Memphis design — but we had no idea the Japanese-born, New York–based artist also made paintings of weightlifting robots, surfing octopuses, and people pooping in the woods. What unites all of Kawai's art, from the beautiful to the bizarre, is her talent for blending childlike imagery with absurdist humor, a quality she suspects might have something to do with spending her childhood in Osaka, the center of Japan's comedy scene. But to the extent that her pieces seem like windows onto a strange and addictive parallel world, she gets most of her inspiration from navigating this one: After a post-graduate trip to Turkey, Nepal, and Thailand left her "greatly influenced by handmade dolls, textiles, and low-quality manufactured objects," Kawai began traveling regularly, collecting both physical and experiential scraps and incorporating them into her paintings and sculptures. When we interviewed her for this story, she had just finished opening the show at LOYAL and had moved on to Beijing and Mongolia, where she was riding camels and investigating the local dress. What she'll do with that fodder, we can only imagine.
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