If the weirdness of Ellen Degeneres starting her own Project Runway–style furniture-design reality show didn't fully strike me when I first heard about it, a couple of months back, it definitely hit home shortly after the show first aired on HGTV last Monday night, when I got the following text from my mom: Do you know any of the designers on Ellen's Design Challenge? The weirdest part of all, of course, was that I did: Katie Stout, one of Sight Unseen's inaugural American Design Hot List picks and the winner of our own erstwhile design competition (our 2013 pumpkin-carving contest), is one of the show's six contestants. After watching the first episode myself, in which Stout introduces mainstream America to the squiggly cabinet above, we knew we had to get the full story from the designer. “It was really surreal,” she says of the experience.
There's a kind of genius in the way that Josephine Heilpern runs her ceramics studio, Recreation Center. Maybe not in the fact that she does everything — from designing to fabricating to filling orders — 100% on her own, with no help, running herself perpetually (yet gleefully) ragged, but more in how she knows exactly when to keep things simple versus when to let her imagination run wild. In the three years since she's been making the mugs, lamps, and mobiles we've been fortunate enough to stock in our online shop, she's barely changed her design formula, hewing to basic shapes and consistent patterns that resist becoming tiresome with daily use, yet on her site and her popular Instagram feed, she markets those objects with all the visual pizzazz of a 28-year-old raised on internet culture. When we invited her to shoot some of her creations exclusively for Sight Unseen, she turned up the styling charm, busting out the dollar-store props and studio scraps to bring her aesthetic vision to life.
There are few people who get the opportunity to uproot, relocate, and be instantaneously welcomed by a community of powerful and creative women. But Maryanne Moodie — the Melbourne, Australia native who settled in Brooklyn last year after her husband got a job a Etsy — did just that. Since arriving, she says, “I’ve been able to meet and forge fast friendships with so many amazing textile ladies — inspirational women who are creative as well as business focused. I’ve had the chance to collaborate professionally with them — as well as down a few glasses of wine over plans for world domination.”
Two weeks ago, Sight Unseen celebrated our 5th anniversary with a post full of birthday cards made for us by our favorite designers and readers. But we couldn't possibly mark such a momentous occasion with a web post alone — we had to throw a party, of course! Last Thursday night, we gathered 200 of our closest friends and clients together at the stunning roof bar of the McCarren Hotel & Pool in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where we sipped Bombay Sapphire cocktails, danced to music spun by DJs Kyle Garner and Jon Santos under a piñata by Confettisystem, tossed around pool-toy dance props crafted by Misha Kahn, and ate adorable hand-shaped cookies and a golden birthday cake baked by Fredericks & Mae. There were even custom zig-zaggy funhouse mirrors by Chiaozza on hand to freak us out once we got tipsy. It was a memorable night for all involved, and we're grateful to our partners at Bombay Sapphire and Chelsea Hotels for helping to make it happen. It's definitely going to be hard to top come 2019!
When Egg Collective launched their debut furniture collection at ICFF in 2012 — snagging a Best New Designer award in the process — they seemed to the design world to have come out of nowhere. And in fact, though the three — Stephanie Beamer, Crystal Ellis, and Hillary Petrie — met and began collaborating as 18-year-old freshmen at Washington University's architecture school more than a decade ago, the truth is they had formally joined forces and had begun crafting an ICFF plan only six months earlier. "I remember the three of us sitting outside the Javits Center in our Budget truck, about to move in furniture that we’d been working on with no one having seen for six months," says Beamer. "I was like, you guys, this is it. People could just walk by us the entire fair. But thankfully we seem to have struck a chord and the work resonated."
A weekly Saturday recap to share with you our favorite links, discoveries, exhibitions, and more from the past seven days. This week, old meets new with the resurgence of Op-Art and a 1950s desk lamp, a(nother) Franz West show, and of course, the usual smattering of new work by young talents, including the latest collection from Brooklyn weaving duo New Friends (above).
Before she got hooked on weaving, Rachel Gottesman was both a painter and a jewelry-maker, and the influence of those preoccupations is wonderfully obvious in her small-scale textiles, which she creates under the name Heddle & Needle. Gottesman treats each small weaving as a tiny canvas on which to work out ideas about things like color, composition, linearity, topography, and adornment. Formerly a director of artist relations at Threadless in Chicago, Gottesman moved back to New York about a year ago, and in the short time since she discovered her affinity for the medium, she's made weavings that incorporate grids, geometrics, hieroglyphs, brass charms — even tiny squares made to look like Boucherouite rugs. The weavings are small – usually no more than a foot wide and two feet long, though she has plans to go big — and accessibly priced, which is why we immediately looked her up when we needed someone to create a textile series for our recent pop-up at Space Ninety 8. At the same time, we thought it was the perfect time to get to know her a little bit better on the site.
The team behind Fort Makers don’t refer to themselves as a design studio but rather an “artist collective,” and there’s a marked difference: They make functional objects, but instead of producing a stream of products with a unified aesthetic, they each work individually under the studio umbrella, experimenting with whatever interests them at any given time. In a way, it’s that same sense of structureless structure that first attracted Noah Spencer to the idea of making mobiles: You can hang pretty much anything from them, as long as you get the balance right. “Any kind of visual language can be carried into the mobile world,” says Spencer, a Paul Loebach and Uhuru Design alum who co-founded Fort Makers in 2008. While he primarily makes models hung with simple wooden shapes, he’s also been toying around lately with more expressive elements made from polymer clay (aka Sculpey), a method he graciously offered to teach Sight Unseen readers in this tutorial.
Ten years ago, Romy Northover was a student at Goldsmith College, an incredibly conceptual art school in London that she found to be grueling. “I’m a kinesthetic learner,” says the now Brooklyn-based ceramicist. “I figure things out by doing them, not just by thinking about them. I’m not an intellectual; it’s more experiential for me. But those were important years because they got me to where I am now.”
Brooklyn-based artist Amy Brener is all about excavating the technological artifact in her large, translucent, crystal-like sculptures. Each standing the height of an average-sized human, the totems are like some colossal peer of Thaddeus Wolfe’s ongoing Assemblage Series. Into these cast resin and concrete monoliths, Brener fossilizes decade-old Nokia phones, Fresnel lenses, and gypsum; once the cast dries, she chisels away, cracking sheets of plastic and remnants of our recent technological past, revealing sculptures that resemble the natural and the geological. The structures stand bright and vertical, weighted in a mix of familiar earthy rock formations and distant ideas of the supernatural. As Brener notes, “My pieces are artifacts from an imagined future.” Enjoy a small selection of our favorites after the jump.
Having branched into retail three years ago with the Sight Unseen Shop — plus a few pop-ups along the way — we can definitively say that the only thing better than buying beautiful objects for ourselves is putting them out into the world for the enjoyment of others. When Marissa Maximo, curator of Space Ninety 8 in Williamsburg, offered us 500 square feet in which to host an event for the month of September, we figured it was the perfect opportunity to bring the work of some of our favorite makers — most of it destined for our fall shop collection — to a much wider audience. Designed by Syrette Lew of Moving Mountains and on view now through October 5, the pop-up consists both of items we admire (Pat Kim's Soap on a Rope, Heddle & Needle's wall weavings) and items we've commissioned exclusively for the Sight Unseen Shop (Ian Anderson's Oden pitchers, Sandwich Shop's Shapes Vase and Two-Tone Artifact Mug). See photos of the space — and our packed opening-night party — after the jump.
A weekly Saturday recap to share with you our favorite links, discoveries, exhibitions, and more from the past seven days. This week had a very geometric vibe, from our favorite picks from the NYNOW gift fair, to a lamp inspired by '80s virtual reality, to a photography series showcasing the nature of shadows.