Tag Archives: Books

  1. 02.07.13
    Excerpt: Book
    Irving Harper: Works in Paper

    To say Irving Harper once worked in the office of George Nelson is kind of like saying Hillary Clinton once worked in the office of Barack Obama — Harper’s contributions were almost too many to count. He worked under Nelson for 17 years and was responsible for some of the studio’s — and design history’s — most famous works, including the Marshmallow sofa and Herman Miller’s still-current logo. Rizzoli recently published a book on Harper, but it wasn’t to set the record straight about who did what (there’s long been controversy over Nelson receiving credit for things that were actually authored by Harper.) No, the book, Irving Harper: Works in Paper, reveals Harper’s even more secret life.

  2. 11.09.12
    What We Saw
    At the 2012 Łódź Design Festival

    Over the past two years, there’s been an explosion of design weeks popping up on this side of the pond, in smaller, more far-flung American metropolises like Portland, St. Louis, and Baltimore. But Europe’s had a hold on this whole second-city-hosts-a-worldwide-design-event for years now. Take Lodz, the third-largest city in Poland, whose design festival is already six years strong. The Lodz Design Festival plays host to homegrown talents like Tomek Rygalik, as well as designers from abroad — both of which were a draw to our newest correspondent and dear friend Thorsten Van Elten, the London-based producer and retailer who reported on the event for us last week. But the real attraction, says Van Elten, was the city of Lodz itself. “At the beginning of this year I went to Transylvania, and I decided that I really need to travel to more places I’ve never been to. Poland was high on the list so when I saw a link on Facebook about the Łódź Design Festival, I checked for flights and hotel and managed to find two nights for just over £100. There really was no excuse not to go!”

  3. 10.16.12
    Excerpt: Book
    Cabinets of Wonder

    Back in 2006, when Freeman’s opened in New York and Jason Miller’s Antler chandelier was selling like hotcakes at The Future Perfect in Williamsburg (it probably still is), that whole taxidermy thing hit hard — stuffed deer heads suddenly becoming the de facto symbol for a style movement dedicated to the return to nature, the embracing of all things old-fashioned, and in many cases, the compulsion to dress like a bearded woodsman. Six years later, some of the less meaningful elements of that trend have subsided, while its obsession with authenticity and craftsmanship have, thankfully, hung on strong. We would also argue for the longevity of another development that arose around that time but strikes us as evergreen: the fascination with curiosities, and cabinets of curiosity, that may have hit its modern fever pitch recently but seems somehow endemic to the human psyche. We are by nature collectors, prone to hunting, preserving, and displaying our treasures both for our own amusement and to impress others. And most of us, too, have a dark side — the kind that can’t help but find beauty in bones, bugs, and dead things, provided they’re presented to us in the right context. That’s why we felt so compelled to share with our readers the contents of a new book out on Abrams this month called Cabinets of Wonder, which is a full-color romp through the world of natural oddities, memento mori, and other dark artifacts.

  4. 09.12.12
    Studio Visit
    New Friends, weavers

    Back in 2009, Kelly Rakowski was a graphic designer at Todd Oldham in New York, and Alex Segreti was living in Philadelphia, working in the textiles department at Urban Outfitters. In her free time, Rakowski ran a blog called Nothing is New, for which she scoured image archives on the web, unearthing old exhibition catalogs, classic spreads from magazines like Domus, and vintage ceramics and textiles. Segreti had a blog as well, called Weird Friends, where she documented similar obsessions: craft, pattern, art, ceramics, textiles, and dogs. The two had never met, but when Rakowski emailed Segreti on a whim one day to tell her how much she liked her site, they began to bond; when both expressed a desire to learn how to weave by hand, they decided to embark on an experiment. They shipped each other yarn, so they’d have the same palette to work from, and a few months later Rakowski made the trip to Philly. They had dinner, retired to Segreti’s apartment, and showed each other their weavings. “They kind of looked the same,” Rakowski remembers. “It was crazy. Now we always come up with the idea together but work separately, and when we meet, we forget who did what because everything magically works.” The two eventually made their design partnership official, merging the names of their online identities into a fitting moniker: New Friends.

  5. 06.05.12
    Q+A
    With Martin Lorenz, Co-Editor of Pretty Ugly

    There are moments, when leafing through the pages of Gestalten’s latest opus Pretty Ugly, that you’ll feel a little perplexed. Not by the stretched and layered type that practitioners of the New Ugly graphics movement use to obscure the messages contained in their work, nor by the fact that brands and organizations are trying to sell themselves with these deliberately obtuse images. What you’ll find so confusing, rather, is just how beautiful most of the projects appear, despite their creators’ best attempts at visual rebellion — a fact acknowledged by the book’s editors, Lupi Asensio and Martin Lorenz of the Barcelona-based firm twopoints.net, in its oxymoronic title. There are two reasons for this, Lorenz revealed when Sight Unseen sat down to interview him about the project. The first and most obvious is that we’re closer to the end of the New Ugly movement than the beginning, which is precisely what made the couple feel the time was ripe for a retrospective; Steven Heller has written about it, Urban Outfitters has embraced it, and we’ve gotten increasingly used to it — and desensitized to its shock value — ever since Mike Meiré used it to redesign 032c magazine in 2007. The second reason, and the one your editors found particularly compelling, is that somewhere along the line the New Ugly actually became less about rule-breaking and more about documenting process, with designers creating works that aim to expose the mechanics behind their boundary-pushing techniques. Read more of Lorenz’s thoughts about Pretty Ugly in our interview, after the jump.

  6. 04.10.12
    Excerpt: Book
    Max Lamb Outtakes from Paper View, Launching Today

    It’s official: Sight Unseen’s first printed edition, Paper View, is finally out, and we’ve held it in our very own hands. Tonight, we’ll celebrate with Karlsson’s Vodka, whose Unfiltered initiative also officially launches with the debut of our project. But today, we’ve prepared something special for you in honor of the occasion, a series of outtakes from one of the articles published in Paper View: A catalog of Max Lamb’s personal collections, which first ran on Sight Unseen early last year. While the vast majority of the 24 stories in the printed edition are brand new, and won’t be found anywhere else but in its pages, we couldn’t resist including Lamb’s Inventory, which seemed to perfectly encapsulate what we’re all about at Sight Unseen — personal photos of things normally off limits to the general public, depicting not just a series of hoarded objects but a veritable roadmap to Lamb’s design practice. “It’s often the physicality or materiality of these objects that inspires me to try my hand at working with a particular material, or to develop a version of the process used to shape it,” he said in the original interview. For this web excerpt, Lamb dug out five additional images for us and offered quick insights into their contents. Check out his explanations below, then follow the link at the bottom to purchase a copy of Paper View.

  7. 03.02.12
    Excerpt: Book
    The Sight Unseen Book, Part VI

    The launch of the first-ever Sight Unseen printed edition — debuting in April as part of the Karlsson’s Vodka Unfiltered project — is just around the corner. As of today, we’re putting the first 100 copies up for pre-sale in the Sight Unseen Shop, which will ship to buyers on approximately April 13. We’re only printing 400 for now, so click here to grab one while you can! An 88-page softcover designed by Studio Lin, it’s packed with 21 brand new, up-close-and-personal stories on Peter Shire, Anntian, Keegan McHargue, Shabd, Shin Okuda, Wary Meyers, Andy Rementer, Raven & Boar, Cmmnwlth, Sanntu Mustonen, Leutton Postle, Chen Chen and Kai Williams, New Friends, Jade Lai, Nacho Alegre, Patrick Parrish, Brian Janusiak and Elizabeth Beer, Felix Burrichter, Roanne Adams, Roman and Williams, and Sebastian Wrong. Meanwhile, today is your last chance to guess the subject of our sneak peek photograph for a chance to win a free copy.

  8. 02.29.12
    Excerpt: Book
    The Sight Unseen Book

    The launch of the first-ever Sight Unseen book — debuting in April as part of the Karlsson’s Vodka Unfiltered project — is just around the corner. This week, we’re posting sneak peek images and asking our readers to guess who the subject of each photograph might be. Here’s a quote from today’s featured designer, an illustrator and University of the Arts grad who spent some formative years at Fabrica, where he became inspired by these vintage Italian comics: “There is a fun, visually approachable quality to my work but ultimately I try to convey some darkness or satirical angle. If it’s too nice, then it’s boring for me.”

  9. 02.27.12
    Excerpt: Book
    The Sight Unseen Book

    The launch of the first-ever Sight Unseen book — debuting in April as part of the Karlsson’s Vodka Unfiltered project — is just around the corner. Now through Friday, when we’ll go back to business as usual with a story by a brand new Sight Unseen guest contributor, we’re posting sneak peek images and asking our readers to guess who the subject of each photograph might be. Here’s a quote from today’s featured designers, a duo whose colorful Berlin-based fashion line seamlessly incorporates objects like teacups, pillows, and rugs: “I almost always start our prints from photos. I collect structures — for example for the last winter season, we were walking down the street photographing different surfaces from the ground, which gave us ideas for the graphics. Those images were taken out and put together again to create a digital print.”

  10. 02.24.12
    Excerpt: Book
    The Sight Unseen Book

    The launch of the first-ever Sight Unseen book — debuting in April as part of the Karlsson’s Vodka Unfiltered project — is just around the corner. Over the next two weeks, we’re posting sneak peek images and asking our readers to guess who the subject of each photograph might be. Here’s a quote from today’s featured designers, who manufacture their latest product line at the upstate New York woodworking shop shown here: “We have a facility with complex forms, but that’s not appreciated sometimes. For this project, it was almost like let’s work with the dumbest inspiration possible.”

  11. 02.22.12
    Excerpt: Book
    The Sight Unseen Book

    The launch of the first-ever Sight Unseen book — debuting in early April with a bash co-hosted by Creatures of Comfort and the Karlsson’s Vodka Unfiltered project — is just around the corner. Over the next two weeks, we’re posting sneak peek images and asking our readers to guess who the subject of each photograph might be. Here’s a quote from today’s featured designer: “We both nerd out a lot when it comes to materials. We like finding something new and researching it. For a month we were playing around with shellac. Basically it’s beetle excrement, and when you order it really raw, it comes with beetle parts and bark dust still in it.”

  12. 02.20.12
    Excerpt: Book
    The Sight Unseen Book

    Here at Sight Unseen, we typically only take a break from our regular programming in order to retreat to someplace warm and sunny, where we can subsist primarily on fish tacos and beer. But for the next two weeks, we’ll actually be hunkering down in our New York apartments, spinning out stories for the imminent publication of the first Sight Unseen book, which is set to debut in early April as part of the Unfiltered project by Karlsson’s Vodka. We’re especially excited to announce that our book launch will coincide with the debut of a Sight Unseen pop-up shop taking place at the New York branch of Creatures of Comfort for the entire month of April. Both the book and the shop will be populated with amazing work both by makers we’ve already covered for the site, and by those we’ve always longed to feature. Over the next two weeks, we’ll be posting preview images here from some of the book’s features, but we’re leaving it up to you, our readers, to guess who the subject of each photograph might be.

  13. 12.15.11
    Excerpt: Book
    DIY Furniture: A Step-By-Step Guide

    As lovers of and writers about design, there’s one question we’re constantly asking ourselves: How can we get designers to make us their amazing pieces at cost? But what we nearly always fail to wonder is: Would it actually be possible to make these pieces ourselves? DIY Furniture changes all that, presenting 30 projects from the likes of Peter Marigold, Uhuru, Lindsey Adelman, and Paul Loebach, along with blueprints on how to make each one with off-the-shelf parts ranging from plastic water pipes to zip ties (a Sight Unseen obsession, they pop up in at least four projects). The entries range from the ultra-practical (a woven rug made from cargo rope knotted with twine) to the semi-ridiculous (kudos to anyone who attempts Julia Lohmann’s cast-concrete and wool Resilience Table, which the designer created for her solo exhibition at 2008’s Design Miami/Basel and which now sells for an undisclosed sum at Moss).

  14. 11.17.11
    What They Bought
    Miranda July’s Resale Shop at Partners & Spade

    Miranda July’s art has always been almost obsessively participatory. In one of her most famous works, “Learning to Love You More,” July dispatched open calls from a website of the same name — exceptionally prosaic assignments like “Record the sound that is keeping you awake” or “Document your bald spot” — and watched as the drawings, videos, photos, and lists poured in from fans around the world, creating an addictive online archive of the mundane. In another, installed at the Venice Biennale in 2009, July created 11 outdoor sculptures on which visitors were meant to pose for pictures they could send to their loved ones. So it makes a certain kind of sense that July would eventually end up in the most transactional business of all — retail — recasting capitalism as a newfangled way in which to engage her audience. For It Chooses You, a resale shop popping up tonight through December 11 at Partners & Spade in New York, 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.

  15. 11.15.11
    Excerpt: Book
    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. Then there are the potted plants, which are perhaps his greatest weakness: “Whether they’re dead, alive, half-alive, someone’s put ashes into them, or the pot’s cracked, I love it — there’s such variation in that stupid little element.” It’s an inexplicable yet undeniable urge that we’re quite familiar with around here, searching for flashes of personality in unexpected details, which is why we felt drawn to Barbera’s work in the first place (he’s a Sight Unseen contributor). It’s also why we decided to excerpt a chapter of his book, the one devoted to the New York–based designers Cmmnwlth, in this post.

  16. 11.02.11
    Sighted
    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

  17. 10.31.11
    Excerpt: Book
    The Dezeen Book of Ideas

    It’s highly probable that the genius of Dezeen lies in its simplicity — an inspiring jumble of random people, products, and buildings fly by in a constant, daily stream, uncluttered with concept or commentary. For most of us in the design industry, it’s like an IV drip of news and information, easy to process and vital for understanding what’s going on in the world outside our studios. On first glance, Dezeen’s new Book of Ideas, edited by founder Marcus Fairs, could be mistaken for a direct translation of that ethos; a kind of excerpt of the site’s greatest hits, repackaged at print resolution. But while its 116 entries do represent many of the most popular posts since Dezeen launched in 2006, this — as its title makes plain — is a book about ideas, not simply news, which gives it a specific point of view that the site has never really purported to have. Inside, Fairs personally guides readers through the wonders of innovations like a balancing barn, a textile-skinned car, and the first aesthetically pleasing CFL — all of which share an “I wish I’d thought of that” awe factor — meditating on how they’ve impacted design and how websites like his have empowered them do so. We asked Fairs to go one step further for us and identify five of the book’s projects that have made an especially big impression on him.

  18. 06.15.11
    Excerpt: Book
    Cutting Edges

    Who knows why an artist is compelled to collage? The reasons can be as highbrow as an homage to the Dadaists, as basic as a way to test the possibilities of Photoshop, or as ordinary as a destination for the found materials that tend to accumulate in the corners of creative studios. For Brooklyn-based artist James Gallagher, the discovery of the medium two decades ago happened entirely by chance. As an art-school grad and a new dad, Gallagher writes in the preface to Cutting Edges — the book he curated earlier this year for Gestalten — “I had little time to get to the print shop (let alone anywhere else) so for one particular project, I began cutting apart old prints and piecing them together to form a new composition. The results completely reinvigorated my creativity… there was something truly cathartic about stripping images down to their simplest form and then building them back up again.”

  19. 03.21.11
    Excerpt: Book
    Architects’ Sketchbooks

    In the context of the hysteria currently surrounding all things old-fashioned and handmade, it makes a certain sense to mount an examination of architecture’s low-tech roots: those hand-rendered sketches and schematics that still tend to quietly precede even the most digitally advanced structures. It’s debatable whether the practice as a whole is consciously returning to those roots, as the new book Architects’ Sketchbooks argues, but when the architects who find joy in committing their thoughts to paper open their notepads for all to see, the appeal runs deeper than any cultural trend. “For me, the process is often more fascinating than the end result, and at the heart of architecture, which is part of the process of building worlds, lies the language of drawing,” writes Narinder Sagoo of Foster + Partners in the book’s foreword.

  20. 12.03.10
    Excerpt: Magazine
    Spaces, By Frankie Magazine

    When it comes to its namesake subject matter, Spaces magazine doesn’t discriminate: There are live-work lofts in the wilds of Brooklyn, warehouses in Australia turned into artist communes, cafes in Hamburg lined with vintage shoe lasts and gumball machines, and even a section of so-called wall spaces, where entire spreads are devoted to close-ups of textile, teacup, or taxidermy collections. “We wanted an eclectic mix, somewhere between vintage, designy, and handmade,” says Louise Bannister, managing editor of the cult indie lifestyle magazine Frankie, who co-produced Spaces as one of the magazine’s twice-annual special projects. While past editions have included a recipe book or a small photo album filled with 110 snapshots culled from contributors around the world, the editors chose to focus on interiors after the success of Frankie’s only section devoted to them: Homebodies, where they feature casual portraits of the homes of musicians. For Spaces, the team scoured the internet from their homebase in Melbourne looking for creatives of all stripes, pairing large-format images with personal interviews about how they found their space and what they keep in it.

  21. 10.11.10
    Excerpt: Book
    Handcrafted Modern

    It’s possible you’ve spent hours foraging flea markets, wondering how a Russel Wright pitcher or an Eames shell chair or a Jens Risom credenza might fit into your home décor. But did you ever stop to wonder how those pieces may have figured into the homes of their own makers? Leslie Williamson, a San Francisco–based photographer, did — and the result is Handcrafted Modern, a new book that offers an intimate glimpse inside the houses of 14 of America’s most beloved mid-century designers.

  22. 09.30.10
    Sighted
    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.

  23. 09.22.10
    Excerpt: Book
    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.

  24. 09.08.10
    Excerpt: Book
    Art of McSweeney’s

    To an extent, Art of McSweeney’s — an oral history of the San Francisco–based quarterly, from Chronicle Books — is about the quirky illustrations, charts, graphs, and covers that have defined the look of Dave Eggers’s publishing venture for the last twelve years. But even more, it’s about the art of book-making, which in this case means reproductions of original sketches; odd detours to visit Arni and Bjössi, the Icelandic printers who produced more than a dozen issues before McSweeney’s moved its printing facilities to Singapore and North America; interviews with authors and artists; charts of printing specs; drawings of pensive clouds; and guides to reviewing unsolicited material.

  25. 09.03.10
    Excerpt: Book
    The Projectionist

    Gordon Brinckle, the late, eccentric subject of a new photography book called The Projectionist, was an outsider artist to be sure: A small-town projectionist at the local movie theater, Brinckle spent his free time sketching and constructing a small-scale movie palace called the Shalimar in the basement of his Middletown, Delaware, home. (Which we suppose makes him more like an outsider artist, designer, architect, and engineer all rolled into one.) Photographed and written by Kendall Messick, a filmmaker who grew up across the street from the Brinckle family, the book documents the artist and his process, mixing photographs of Brinckle’s fully realized creation with original artwork, architectural plans, sketches, and linoleum prints of ticket stubs and uniform designs. Brinckle had some vocational training but was otherwise self-taught, and the book is a fascinating glimpse at how an artist can work in a vacuum and yet still mimic the methods used by designers far and wide.

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