Spread from Death magazine, Issue #2

Death Magazine, Issue #2

The funny thing about Death magazine — a thrice-yearly publication inviting designers, artists, and writers to use humanity's darkest subject as a creative catalyst — is that it's not really all that morbid. You'd get more depressing stuff asking musicians to write songs about love. While Portland-based graphic designer Forrest Martin was moved to found the magazine last year in part by a deep-seated fear about his eventual demise ("I'm an agnostic worrier raised by a professional hypochondriac," he told a blog at the time), his contributors filter the issue at hand through all kinds of artistic lenses, some of them masterfully subtle. In Death's recently launched second issue, Michael Zavros's lush large-scale charcoal drawings of young male models with their faces scratched out could just as easily be from an artsy spread in a fashion glossy as they could a death threat from a homicidal stalker, while photographer Jason Lazarus's super-saturated color fields, sprinkled with the cremated remains of the late artist Robert Heinecken, on first glance resemble star systems photographed in deep space.
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.”
Once in a while, Uhuru's small custom-designed pieces end up in one of their New York Design Week collection debuts. This ebonized walnut media unit, made from a single slab of wood held together with metal plates, may be a 2011 addition, though the studio is also contemplating a line of outdoor furniture.

Uhuru, Furniture Designers

If you were familiar only with Uhuru’s work, it would be enough to surmise that the Brooklyn-based furniture designers are experts at creating something beautiful from practically nothing. (The formal term for this, we’re told, is up-cycling.) In the half-decade since RISD grads Jason Horvath and Bill Hilgendorf have been designing their own line, they’ve produced chairs from Kentucky bourbon barrels, loungers from the Ipe wood planks of a demolished Coney Island boardwalk, and scrapwood stools so stylish they were recently picked to decorate the café at New York’s SANAA-designed New Museum. But while it's true Uhuru are a resourceful bunch, step into their sprawling Red Hook studio and any assumptions you might have about their bootstraps process all but disappear.
Two-wheelers: “Once I designed the Copenhagen and it turned out to be popular, Puma asked me to design something for them as well, and then suddenly I had a design career. I followed four principles: One is that all of the parts should be integrated so the bike seems like one object. Another is that it looks iconic. It also needs to be easy to maintain, because you don’t expect to go to the car mechanic every other day, but with a bike that’s what you sometimes end up doing. The last is useability — if you transfer the paradigm of bikes to cars, it would be like having two stick shifts, and we would never accept that. Apart from those ideas, Biomega is run like an Italian furniture company: This is what I believe the world needs, and this is how it’s gonna be.”

Jens Martin Skibsted of Biomega

As the founder and creative director of Biomega, Copenhagen's Jens Martin Skibsted is one of the most respected names in bicycle design. But to hear him tell the story of how he got there, you'd think he'd done everything in his power to avoid that fate. After believing for most of his life that he would grow up to be a poet, he decided to study film in Paris — "writing sci-fi movies about giant ants" — then dropped it altogether and took up philosophy for six years. It was during that time that he took a trip to Barcelona with his girlfriend and was struck by the random conviction that he ought to start a company making city bicycles. "I started drawing bikes, but tried to forget about it because I have so many ideas, and I can’t do everything," recalls Skibsted, who as a child filled notepads with inventions like chopsticks connected at one end, many of which he says exist now. "But this was one idea I couldn't really forget."

Established & Sons’s Design Against the Clock

Sighted at Gestalten: The Berlin-based book publisher posts a video documenting Established & Sons's Design Against the Clock event at last week's London Design Festival, which invited five teams of designers to spend a day creating works in front of the public. "There's somewhat of a distance that's been created through technology between the actual material and the hand-eye coordination of making things, and that's what I'm keen to experiment with," says E&S co-founder Sebastian Wrong.
The finished chairs. “In the original project, the chairs were all beaten up, so it was nice to fancy them up. But Richard needs to have something consistent if people want to buy a whole set, so these chairs are brand new. I still have a back stock of vintage ones, though, and if I see a cool folding chair, I’ll buy it.”

Tanya Aguiñiga, Textile and Furniture Designer

Los Angeles designer Tanya Aguiñiga already had two studios when she took up a third this summer: the first in the backyard of the Atwater Village bungalow she shares with her husband and two sisters, and the second six blocks away, in a converted industrial-park-turned-artists’-community near the train tracks. But in early July, Aguiñiga picked up and moved her shop 2,000 miles south to the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, for a five-week residency — the first in a project she calls Artists Helping Artisans. “I had gone to Oaxaca and Chiapas in 2007, and there was so much amazing stuff being produced by the women there,” she says. “People aren’t aware of it because the skills aren’t being passed down anymore and because people are scared to travel within Mexico. There’s isn’t enough tourism or income to sustain these crafts.”

Monika Wyndham’s Funny Cool File

Many artists claim to need restriction in order to thrive — Matthew Barney famously made a series around the subject — and find the idea of freedom paralyzing, like standing at the edge of a vast creative abyss. Vancouver native Monika Wyndham, on the other hand, seems to be energized by endless possibility. In February, she left a full-time position art-directing interiors for the Canadian clothing chain Aritzia to move to Brooklyn and freelance, and she's taken to the professional vacuum with a kind of giddy abandon, flitting among dozens of ideas she finally has time to follow through on — even if she's unsure as to what end. And then there's the high she gets from losing herself in one of her biggest sources of artistic fodder: Google Images. "It’s just baffling to me how much information exists on the internet, and the fact that you can enter funny combinations of words and yield the most insane multitude of search results," she muses.

Lost & Found Films’s This Must Be the Place

The first film in a new series exploring the idea of home, by New York–based documentary duo Lost & Found Films, takes us inside the Boerum Hill apartment of Korean assemblage artist Chong Gon Byun. Like many object artists, Byun decorates through a process of accumulation, and he seems to regard his home as an extended art piece, fretting over the positioning and juxtaposition of each thing. The series, called This Must Be The Place, is the first self-initiated project by filmmakers Ben Wu and David Usui, who since forming Lost & Found a year ago have produced short docs mostly on commission for the likes of Wallpaper, Good, Wired, and The New York Times. We recently caught up with them to chat about the new project.
Isaac Manevitz of Ben-Amun: Design aficionados should be salivating at this photo. In the relatively unassuming entrance to Manevitz’s New Jersey home sit two very important pieces of furniture — an end table designed by Michele de Lucchi in 1984 and a sofa designed by Peter Shire in 1986, both produced by Memphis, the furniture collective founded in the 1980s by Ettore Sottsass and others. Turns out that Manevitz, the designer of Ben-Amun jewelry, is a collector of Memphis furniture. His other pieces include the totem-like Carlton shelf and the Treetops lamp, both designed by Sottsass, and four chairs by de Lucchi.

American Fashion Designers At Home

There's a certain taboo attached to pop stars who attempt to forge acting careers, and vice versa. Painters aren't normally supposed to take up fashion design, and just because you're a great photographer doesn't mean you'll make a great chef. But here at Sight Unseen, where we attempt to travel to the very heart of creativity, we delight in any and all cross-disciplinary meanderings, which is why our ears perked up when we heard about American Fashion Designers at Home, by Rima Suqi. Even if some of the more than 100 CFDA members featured in the book hired professionals to craft their spaces, the translation of their aesthetics from one genre to the other is an endless source of curiosity.

Andrea Maack’s Fragrance Line

How do you turn a drawing into a fragrance? That’s the question Icelandic artist Andrea Maack began asking herself months ago when she first began to contemplate entering the world of scent design. The answer has never quite presented itself — Maack has yet to meet the small-scale French perfumer who turns her pencil strokes into notes of orange blossom, sandalwood, and violet leaf — but for her, the link between the two mediums is relatively obvious.

To Make 30 Objects in 30 Days, by Dominic Wilcox

If London designer Dominic Wilcox's illustrated blog Variations on Normal is like a comic diary of conceptual one-liners, it's also filled with ideas that often seem too good to be true — what if we really could buy a device to remind us of people's names in awkward social situations? And who doesn't need a little "hill-walking easyfication" sometimes, even if wedge-shaped strap-on shoe platforms aren't exactly a commercially viable product? So when Wilcox was invited to participate in this year's Anti-Design Festival at London Design Week, as part of an exhibition called "Mistakes and Manifestos," he set himself a challenge: to execute one creative project per day for 30 days, with a budget of 10 pounds per day, in effect testing his ability to bring his idea-generation skills off of a sketchpad and into real life. "Speed Creating," as the project is called, documents his attempts to fabricate his cleverest, most fleeting whims — for better or for worse.
Vintage and hand-crafted jewelry: When I arrived, Lee was wearing an amazing, architectural, mixed-metal cuff, which turned out to be the work of Anndra Neen, the Mexico City–born, New York–based jewelry-making sisters who made their TenOverSix debut last month. (That’s their necklace above as well.) The sisters hand-craft pieces made from copper, brass, and nickel silver at their workshop in Mexico City. “We actually just did shoe collaboration with them, with all of these little metal pieces on the front of the shoe,” Lee says.

Fashion Designer Kristen Lee of TenOverSix

Most people, if given the luxury of a third bedroom in a house they share only with a spouse, might choose to turn it into a guestroom, or a studio, or maybe a study. Kristen Lee, a stylist and co-owner of L.A.’s fashion and design emporium TenOverSix, turned hers into a walk-in closet. Step inside and you’ll discover rolling racks of designer and vintage, scarves tossed carelessly around a dress form, shoes lined up in neat little rows, a steamer in the corner, and accessories spilling out over the dresser. And yet for someone so clearly attuned to and obsessed with fashion, it’s not the clothes you first sense when you enter the Ed Fickett–designed, mid-century, Nichols Canyon home she bought last year with her husband and then “renovated the shit out of,” as she says. It’s the incredible proliferation of art. Stephen Shore, Banksy, Leopold Seyffert, Nan Goldin — and that’s just in the living room.