The Influences of Mast Brothers Creative Director Nathan Warkentin

Nathan Warkentin has been driving Mast Brothers's creative direction for the past three years, nudging it away from its original Brooklyn aesthetic and towards something more relevant now. “In the beginning everything was a little old-timey, with a lot of classic or nautical patterns,” says Warkentin, whose influences we’re profiling today. “I started looking for inspiration in interesting art and architecture movements, and the work of current textile and pattern designers, to make it feel more contemporary.”

The Spectrum Issue of Gather Journal

Since its launch in 2012, each issue of the biannual food journal Gather has been organized around a theme, but this summer's is by far our favorite. We're excerpting a story from “Spectrum,” an entire issue devoted to color.
CG Opener

Cassie Griffin, Ceramicist

Cassie Griffin is a Brooklyn-based ceramicist who was introduced to us by our friend (and sometime model) Lulu Wolf. However, when we went to search the Internet for more information about Griffin’s dreamy ceramics — and their goofy everyday object–styled photos — we came up empty, save for a post on Design Sponge. So we reached out to Griffin herself, who gave us the scoop: “I’ve been working with clay for about three years,” she writes. “I took a few classes in the city out of a vague interest, and that sparked a love for the process and I guess what you could call a knack for the material. I find endless opportunity to learn from the medium and I’m continuously fascinated by its essential elements: glaze chemistry, clay bodies, sculptural vs. functional, firing options — the list goes on. Some people have labeled my work ‘playful.’ But it’s sincere, that playfulness. I’m not necessarily conscious that I'm being playful. I am just experimenting — not concerned with producing a product but rather making things that I have a desire to see manifest in my home, a friend’s shelf, or a pedestal. It’s also a real projection of my personality, which is never really taking itself too seriously!”

Week of March 10, 2014

A weekly Saturday recap to share with you our favorite links, discoveries, exhibitions, and more from the past seven days. This week was, weirdly, all about fruit (perhaps it's the influence of the unstoppable pineapple?). We also said a (temporary) goodbye to a beloved New York retailer and a hello to the best Ikea collection in years.

Pippa Drummond’s “Above (Series 1)”

The Auckland-born, New York City–based photographer Pippa Drummond is Sight Unseen's newest soon-to-be contributor, but when we were first introduced to her photography, it was the low-key but lovely portraits and coolly moody interiors that caught our eye. We had no idea at the time that she had this hiding in her portfolio. Above (Series 1) is a collaboration with prop stylist Rebecca Bartoshesky, and it reminds us a bit of Carl Kleiner’s Ikea cookbook photographs (which is interesting, considering Drummond’s other passion is food — she's got a cookbook of own in the works, and she assisted on the Amagansett-based shoot for Gwynnie’s latest. Yes, we ARE jealous). But the organized clutter here isn’t pantry staples but rather cheapo salon items that Drummond and Bartoshesky have turned into something almost beautiful.

A 20th Century Palate in The Gourmand Issue 00

In the summer before starting Sight Unseen, one of us had a very brief flirtation with the idea of attending culinary school. Along with design, food is our great love, so we were pleased this week — and maybe even a little bit jealous — to stumble upon a new magazine out of London that unites the two disciplines in the most fantastic of ways. Called The Gourmand, the first issue tackles subjects ranging from David Shrigley's new cookery-themed opera to Jeff Koons's recipe for apple dumplings. But our favorite feature — plucked from the site's website, which has a sprinkling of teasers for the print edition as well as practical food recommendations from artists, contributors and London's culinary cognescenti — has to be this collaboration between art director Jamie Brown and photographer Luke Kirwan, which depicts 20th century art and design movements in foodstuffs like American cheese and pink wafer cookies.

Martino Gamper, Furniture Designer

Martino Gamper and I are neighbors. His studio sits just across the road from my flat in east London, and he and his wife garden in the communal plots out the back of my block. Their autumn planting — beets, kohlrabi, winter salads, and the last of some impressive tomatoes — was turning me green with envy, so when Sight Unseen suggested I ask Martino for a tour of the plot to talk about both his working and gardening methods, I was secretly hoping to gain a little insight myself, so as to turn my dirt patch into an edible wonderland.
Free City is located at 1139 N Highland Ave, Hollywood, California.

Nina Garduno of Free City

To a certain kind of customer, it makes sense to drop half a grand on a Proenza Schouler necklace made from climbing rope or a hundred bucks on a T-shirt by Comme des Garçons: You’re paying for the craftsmanship of a couture brand and you’re buying the cachet of a label that normally retails for several times those amounts. But what of a sweatshirt — created by someone with no design training, no seasonal runway presentation, and no global retail empire — that sells for $198? That’s the conundrum that faced former Ron Herman buyer Nina Garduno when she started Free City more than a decade ago. By this point, of course, the brand has achieved cult status in Los Angeles, fueled by years of tabloid photographs showing celebrities in Free City sweatpants filling up at the pump, but price remains a sticking point even as Garduno has traded her store in a Malibu strip mall for a 3,000-square-foot Hollywood emporium she calls the Supershop Supermät. “A lot of people complain,” she says. “And yeah, it’s expensive. It costs a lot and takes a lot longer to make things the way we do, with 20 artists in our workshop and everything made here. People say they don’t want to buy things in China, and yet they love the China prices. For me, it’s worth going the distance and trying to make things that are more meaningful.”
The minute you enter Voorhes’s Austin, Texas, studio — which he shares with his wife and art director, Robin Finlay, and fellow photographer Matt Rainwaters — you see a conference table with some of his best-known work hanging above it: his exploded objects series, which resembles exploded axonometrics in architecture and engineering. It began as a self-initiated project and has since won him quite a bit of related commercial work, but coming up with the idea was, as he puts it, “just sort of an accident.”

Adam Voorhes, Photographer

It all started with the pistol, if only because it was “the simplest to do,” says photographer Adam Voorhes. He first studied the gun, looking for ways to segment it, then he took it apart so that its innards were exposed, right down to the bullet casings. “Some objects can be separated like a technical drawing, while others look more organic, like a football helmet with its straps weaving in and out,” he says. The pistol was squarely in the former camp. He took its disassembled parts and built a kind of 3-D installation, each part hanging from a fishing line in proximity, so that the gun would appear to have exploded in mid-air, a bit like the artist Damián Ortega’s axonometric Beetle or this iconic ad from the ’60s. The wires could be erased in Photoshop once Voorhes got the final shot. After the pistol he’d do an Etch-a-Sketch, and an old-school telephone, turning the studio experiments into his best-known series and then selling commercial clients like ESPN and Spirit magazine on the technique. This is how Voorhes works — he is a commercial photographer. He’s not interested in gallery shows. He tests ideas, and then he sells them.
Gin is made all over the world these days, from New Zealand to France. But Hendrick’s, owned by William Grant & Sons, is the only gin distillery in Scotland. Located an hour’s drive outside of Glasgow, the Hendrick’s headquarters stand on 380 acres overlooking Ailsa Bay, the body of water that’s home to Ailsa Craig — the island where blue hone granite is harvested to make curling stones.

Hendrick’s Gin in Girvan, Scotland

The word most often associated with Hendrick’s gin is “unusual,” and there’s good reason for it. Consider the brand’s peculiar visual identity, created by adman Steven Grasse, which collages together semi-Surrealist, mock-Victorian illustrations of naked women in martini glasses, men in dunce caps, butterflies, knights, monocles, trombones, scales, strange machines, roses, and cucumbers. Or the collaborations, most notably with the London-based gelatin artists Bompas & Parr, who in addition to creating a gin-flavored jelly, recently concocted a chewing gum that tastes just like a G&T. And then there are the events: Hendrick’s doesn’t much do the usual cocktail competitions, choosing instead to host croquet matches in the summer and curling duels in the winter. It would all seem like a gimmick, except that for Hendrick’s, which launched a little more than a decade ago, there’s truth in advertising: The gin really is manufactured differently than any other spirit on the market, as we found out when we were invited to the factory in Girvan, Scotland, earlier this month.
Ceramics: "For centuries, British porcelain makers were fascinated with Asian-style ceramics, so it's interesting to see people applying this old idea in new ways," says O'Neal. The artist Brendan Lee Tang, for example, sculpts playful, Manga– and pop-art-inspired armatures around what appear to be traditional Chinese Ming Dynasty vases.

AvroKo’s Anglo-Asian Influences

For the designers behind AvroKo, the New York firm known for its high-concept restaurant interiors, the most personal projects often start out as group obsessions. Lately, apropos of nothing, they’ve been compiling a collection of silent video clips featuring modern furniture or architecture, snipped from movies or pulled from obscure design archives. So far it’s just a game — “a meme floating around the office,” as partner Kristina O’Neal puts it — but the first time the team was so possessed, they began with a bank of photographs and ended up opening a restaurant. After securing several projects in Asia a few years back, they began carefully documenting the bizarre cultural mash-ups they found while on trips out East, from mangled English translations to neon-lit religious altars; in 2008 they opened Double Crown in New York's East Village as an homage to their Anglo-Asian fascination, with food evoking the 19th-century British occupation of India, China, and Singapore. With a new AvroKo office in Hong Kong fielding projects like the recently opened New York–style eatery Lily in Bloom, their anthropological depository keeps growing.
The prep list, menu, and choreography for the evening's meal.

Apartamento's Tasca Dinner

Most people run around during ICFF frantically gathering design leads. But for Apartamento editor Marco Velardi, it was zucchini — about 6 pounds per night, to be exact. Tasked with organizing three dinners during the furniture fair in New York, "I had to pick them every day, individually, choosing ones that weren't too big or too fucked up as the skin was an important part of the dish," he says. "I got to know all the guys working in the fresh veggie department at Whole Foods, and I imagine they thought I was the crazy zucchini guy when I kept asking for more." The summer squash became a salad doused with lemon and olive oil, the second of four courses at the dinner Sight Unseen attended this past Sunday along with Todd Selby, Rich Brilliant Willing, the editors of Dossier, and half a dozen other New York creatives.