When we first interviewed Jean Lee and Dylan Davis of Seattle’s Ladies & Gentlemen Studio back in 2012, they revealed that a sizable chunk of their design process happens on and around the shelves that line every room in their home studio and serve as a kind of 3-D inspiration board. The pair pick up any number of objects and offcuts that reside on them, then collaboratively ponder a simple question: “What we can do with this block of wood to make it an object?” Their work may have evolved considerably since that interview, but their methods have stayed pretty much the same — they still experiment in real-time using scraps and basic shapes, a practice they attempted to capture in these exclusive photos that mark the finale of Seattle Week on Sight Unseen. “It’s our standard approach when we’re working with new materials,” says Davis.
It goes without saying that not every artist who grows up in Toledo, Ohio, famed birthplace of the American studio glass movement, ends up dedicating their life’s work to that medium. But for John Hogan, that’s exactly what happened — he started experimenting with glass at a young age and, even after relocating to Seattle a few years back, hasn’t stopped since. His personal work, which spans functional objects and sculpture, focuses on the optical qualities of glass; its simple beauty has endeared him to local collaborators like designers Erich Ginder and Ladies & Gentlemen Studio, the latter of whom he’ll be exhibiting with at Sight Unseen OFFSITE this May.
These days, plenty of companies in the United States are touting their status as heritage brands, as is the current fashion, but markedly few who can claim the kind of pride of place that Filson can: Since the outdoor apparel label was founded in Seattle back in 1897, it’s never moved more than two miles away from where it began, in what’s now known as the city’s SoDo neighborhood — nor has it stopped manufacturing most of its wares there, either. Having long occupied a complex in the up-and-coming industrial area that included its factory, headquarters, and flagship store, last year the expansion of its business led it to annex a nearly 60,000 square-foot building just two blocks away from the original. “We’ve been in SoDo for 117 years, so it feels like home,” says Filson CEO Alan Kirk, a Scotland native who moved to the city in 2009. “It’s one of the few areas left in the city that still has manufacturing — in a way it’s the garment district of old Seattle.”
Katy Krantz likes to leave things to chance, at least when it comes to making ceramics. She has a method, but it involves working with a “wild and crazy collaborator” — a giant gas kiln that can fire clay at extremely high temperatures. “When you fire that high, the clay and glaze react in ways that are unpredictable. You get a lot of weird, random spotting, things that I would never be able to paint on.” That element of surprise and transformation runs through her colorful, abstract sculptural objects and jewelry, as well as her block prints and recent forays into fabric. Though she’ll establish “loose parameters” at the outset of a project, she says she’s “never been able to work with a real detailed plan in mind. I can work like that, but I tend to make really boring work that way. When I have too much control, it’s less interesting.”
A weekly Saturday recap to share with you our favorite links, discoveries, exhibitions, and more from the past seven days. Today, we temporarily interrupt Seattle Week to bring yo far-reaching news from places like Sweden (clocks and tables made from rejected furniture), Milan (a preview of novelties launching at the upcoming Salone del Mobile, where we’ll be reporting from next week), and the Internets (a rash of color-field abstraction on Instagram).
At this point, simplicity can seem like a tired mantra or an admonishment, an extra layer of guilt heaped over our misdirections. Isn’t it enough that our cluttered thoughts keep us up at night? Do we have to feel bad about it, too? So it’s especially heartening that for Seattle-based stylist Ashley Helvey, simplicity is something else entirely: a look so easy that it serves as encouragement. “A lot of the imagery I’m inspired by online is just a piece of fabric or a cinderblock,” says Helvey, who is editorial creative director for Totokaelo, overseeing everything from photo shoots to social media. “They are really simple things that you could actually execute. Having a simple aesthetic is actually pretty tangible.”
Today on the site, we’re giving you a peek inside Seattle creative Ashley Helvey’s home and studio, but we also wanted to show you the results of the work that was being created there during our visit. Last week, at Seattle’s Love City Love art space, Helvey debuted an exhibition with possibly the best name — and best concept — we’ve heard to date: “#IRL (internet shorthand for ‘In Real Life ‘) is Helvey’s exploration and reflection on being an artist in the age of Tumblr, Instagram and the reblog,” the show text reads. “With the vast array of technological opportunities we have to broadcast our identity and redistribute images of art and design, at what point do we create our own content? #IRL presents work created by Helvey, that references images and works from the internet, many of which have been re-posted on her blog, HunterGathererer. These works, brought together under Helvey’s distinct aesthetic and material sensibility, reject the lament that there is really nothing new. Instead, this exhibition celebrates the impact of technology and social media and its wealth of imagery as direct inspiration for creating real and tangible art objects.’”
To hear the story of James and Chelsea Minola — the married couple behind Seattle’s Grain design studio — you begin to wonder how it’s possible their paths didn’t cross even earlier in life. Both grew up in Southern California — James in San Diego, and Chelsea in Los Angeles, where her parents were the owners of a punk rock store at the Sherman Oaks Galleria. In the early ’90s, both families relocated to the Pacific Northwest, and James and Chelsea moved east to Providence, Rhode Island, around the same time to attend RISD — James as an undergrad in engineering and Chelsea as a graduate in industrial design. But the two didn’t meet until they both enrolled in a short course called “Bridging Cultures Through Design,” where they worked first in Providence, tinkering with ideas about weaving, and then for a few weeks in Guatemala, where they learned how to work with talented local artisans. The trip would eventually lead the two friends down the path to marriage but it also introduced them to the way in which their future studio would run.