It’s been a big year for Sight Unseen, from the launch of our OFFSITE show to the expansion of our staff to celebrating our 5th anniversary, not to mention having recently started the process of redesigning our website for the very first time. But the more exciting and action-packed things get, the faster time seems to speed by — it’s nice to take a moment to pause and reflect. With the holidays upon us, we decided to put together a simple best-of list that highlights some of our most popular content from 2014, including the five stories that got the most traffic on Sight Unseen, the five (er six, counting the one above) images that got the most likes on Instagram, and our five most-repinned photos on Pinterest.
For all its perks — freedom, travel, never having to take off your pajamas — the freelance life has one perpetual drawback: the panic that starts to creep in whenever you’re between jobs. Add that to the sense of creative fulfillment that every designer and artist craves, and it’s no wonder so many of them start their own projects on the side. For the Paris-based couple Mathieu Julien and Jin Angdoo, whenever they don’t have work as a freelance illustrator (Julien) and a film and animation director (Angdoo), they dream up new projects to release under the extra-wide umbrella of their shared endeavor, Amateurs; launched in June, the website comprises projects that are experimental, hand-crafted, and fall somewhere between art and design, like painted tea towels and flags, embroidered sweaters and blankets, plus actual paintings as well. We checked in with the duo to find out more about the collaboration.
A weekly Saturday recap to share with you our favorite links, discoveries, exhibitions, and more from the past seven days. This week: new jewelry based on Superstudio sketches from the ’70s, a new BDDW housewares line based in the middle of nowhere, and a tropical photoshoot by Studiopepe that basically makes us want to jump on a plane immediately and fly south.
Nearly a year ago, when we first conceived the notion of arranging interviews between two creatives working with the same material, the idea was to make things interesting by choosing people with very different practices — a designer using resin to make furniture, for example, conversing with an artist using it to make paintings. That’s exactly what we thought we’d done when we invited Meg Callahan, an Oklahoman quilt-maker living in Rhode Island, to talk cotton with Tanya Aguiñiga, a furniture and accessories designer raised in Mexico and based in Los Angeles, and yet it turned out the pair had much more in common than we’d realized: both studied furniture at RISD, both create contemporary work with traditional influences, and — with Callahan about to, it turns out, launch a furniture collection — both have an interest in blurring the boundaries between hard and soft. Which was fitting, in a way, since this story was inspired by a new series of films produced by Cotton that explore the common threads in the daily lives of two seemingly disparate people.
Sibling camaraderie is nothing new in the design world. We’ve been familiar with brother teams like the Campanas, the Bouroullecs, and the Peets for years, as well as sister power duos like the women behind Building Block, Block Shop Textiles, and Twin Within. Now you can add to that list Bonnie and Bliss Adams, the Melbourne, Australia–based sisters behind the new label Marble Basics. The sisters have created a new collection of tabletop accessories, rendering all of your most essential housewares in that eternally chic material (and some not-so-essentials as well, though who doesn’t love a decorative obelisk?). Each object somehow conveys the luxuriousness and durability that stone entails while maintaining an approachable price point. The products are so simple in form and function, it’s hard to imagine a better name for the company—Marble Basics.
It can be easy to become immune to the Postmodern references and patterns currently littering the digital ether, but there’s something different about Sarah Kissell, the Los Angeles–based designer behind the graphically-fitting guise Pure Magenta. As she describes it, it’s the simultaneous practice of excess and restraint — especially while exploring questionable taste — that Kissell values the most. “Riding the line between the two is when things become interesting to me,” she says. “It also widens the opportunity to succeed or fail, which is a healthy place to be a young designer.” And healthy is exactly where the designer is right now, dividing her time as senior art director for the terminally trendy fashion retailer Nasty Gal, as well as developing Pure Magenta’s graphic identity and soon-to-launch jewelry line.
The first work we ever knew from Portland, Oregon–based furniture designer Matthew Philip Williams was a collection he calls The Step-Family. The pieces, which were designed individually but at the same time, include a pinchpot mug in Yves Klein blue, a laminate and maple bench, and a steel and Douglas fir coat rack. The items are so aggressively functional — and make use of such logical and simple material choices — that you would never guess that Williams’s first inclination was to be a fine artist. After graduating from a material studies program in Richmond, Virginia, Williams headed to Portland to get an MFA in applied craft and design. “I had this vision of being in galleries, but I soon realized I was more mentally suited for functional stuff,” he says. “At the same time, I try to keep my hands and my head in both worlds, thinking about art and furniture and doing what seems right for each project.”
There’s nothing we love better than when our very talented, creative friends introduce us to their very talented, creative friends, and this week didn’t disappoint: In our inboxes arrived the most beautiful submission from Mary Gaudin, a New Zealand photographer living in Montpellier, France, who was introduced to us through Brian Ferry, one of Sight Unseen’s contributors and a wonderful photographer in his own right. Gaudin recently published a book on modernist New Zealand homes in collaboration Matthew Arnold of Sons & Co called Down the Long Driveway, You’ll See It; the title is a quote from one of the book’s subjects, upon giving directions to his home. The book documents 14 homes built between 1950 and 1974, and it’s a revelation not only for the beautiful way in which it’s photographed but for the peek it gives into New Zealand’s architectural history.