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.
Growing up in Vancouver, Sol Hashemi was wedded to his father’s camera, dreaming since age six of someday becoming a nature photographer. Now 27 and living in Seattle, however, he may be the farthest thing from it — while he does wield a camera for a living, and occasionally points it at the odd plant or rock, his sculptures and still-life compositions go to great lengths to make them appear as un-natural as possible, marrying them with things like glitter, candy wrappers, and cans of baked beans. His work is all about weird — or not so weird, if you’re a Tumblr devotee — juxtapositions: “By overlaying, erasing, and manipulating images, Hashemi explores how objects communicate and shift meaning through arrangements,” wrote his gallery in a recent release. For his sculptures, it added, “the artist continues to consider and expand upon product displays, size references, and kludges (a colloquialism used to describe inelegant temporary fixes and awkward improvisations) with three-dimensional pieces that coalesce like layers in an image file.”
Nicholas Nyland studied to be a painter for years, first as an undergrad at the University of Washington and then as a graduate at the University of Pennsylvania. But it only took one night for him to figure out that his heart belonged to ceramics. “I discovered ceramics through a friend who invited people over just to play around and make things,” says the Seattle-based artist. “It was like a light bulb went off over my head. It was the best combination of my interests in painting and color and surface, with the immediacy of sculptural practice and the ability to then glaze.”
Every creative scene has an unseen hand, the type of person who seems to know everyone, touch everything, and generally act as the glue holding it all together, all while falling just below the radar of the average outside observer. In the Seattle design world, Charlie Schuck fits that profile to a tee. A photographer and the proprietor of the former brick and mortar storefront Object — which he filled with commissions by designers from around the Pacific Northwest — he not only produces stunning product shots for locals like Totokaelo, Iacoli & McAllister, Ladies & Gentlemen Studio, and Filson, he also curates exhibitions, like the recent pop-up Future This Now and an upcoming museum survey of regional talents. He’s so committed to his role, in fact, that when we approached him about doing a story on his own work, he came back with the idea to do a photo essay on everyone else’s: “A still life series of personal items that speak to the influences of Seattle creatives,” he says. “Objects from those who produce objects.”
Amanda Ringstad is a Seattle-based still-life and product photographer, and though there’s remarkably little written about her on the internet, the information that’s there makes perfect sense the instant you look at her work. She has a BFA in photography and studied sculpture and art theory in graduate school; in practice, this translates to the most arresting images you’ve ever seen of staples, garlic shoots, and those weird foam thingys you put between your toes during a pedicure. She specializes in transforming banal objects into something resembling art; it’s no wonder her clients include people like Refinery 29, Iacoli & McAllister, Starbucks, and Amazon.