Sina Sohrab was born in Tehran and raised in Detroit; Joseph Guerra is a native Los Angeleno who grew up outside Atlanta. Yet when the pair met as undergrads at RISD, their backgrounds turned out to be their most influential commonality: "There was this emphasis in both our families on earning your possessions and respecting them — it's something we really connected on," recalls Sohrab. "Joey’s dad, for example, had this idea that he wanted all of his possessions to reference an older possession he'd had at another point in his life. This timeline of objects and the idea of emotional value became really important to us." Upon graduating in 2012, the duo knew they wanted to team up; Sohrab moved to New York and took a job at Bec Brittain studio, while Guerra spent six months in Europe working for Industrial Facility and Big-Game before joining him. They're now hunkered down in Brooklyn preparing to launch their first collaborative collection during ICFF in May, under the name Visibility.
Sevak Zargarian is a London-based graduate of the Central Saint Martins undergrad course in Ceramics, for which his final project was the series of Grogged Vases pictured in the first half of this post. To make them, Zargarian first creates his own "grog" — broken-up scraps of stained and fired clay normally mixed into pottery to invisibly prevent kiln shrinkage — then makes a plaster bowl mold, which he dips into a bucket of grog-filled slip in a reverse-casting process. His Grogged Jars, below, use smaller grog bits and conventional plaster molds. Zargarian focuses on process- and materials-driven experimentation based around the tactile qualities of clay, yet rather than only celebrating the hand-made element of his work, he's more interested in how he might someday apply his studio discoveries to industrial production.
Just a few blocks from the three-story factory where Mykita eyeglasses are designed, prototyped, and assembled by hand by a team of skilled workers, there’s a world-renowned contemporary art museum currently showing works inspired by Joseph Beuys’s vision of the future. There’s a new bar where fancy hipsters go to sip $15 Moscow mules, and more than a few new “luxury” condo buildings, which have begun sprouting like weeds in the area in the past five years. That’s about when Mykita moved its headquarters to their current location in the middle of Berlin’s Mitte neighborhood, which is basically the New York equivalent of setting up shop in Soho. It doesn’t actually manufacture from scratch there the metal and acrylic frames that are its signature — the parts are sent up in flat batches from South Germany — but it does just about everything else that’s required to construct and ship out between 600 and 1,000 pairs of glasses per day to the likes of Colette and Opening Ceremony. “It’s a business philosophy for Mykita that everything is under one roof,” says Lisa Thamm, head of Mykita PR, who gave us a tour of the factory this past June. “It’s actually easier that way, especially when your graphics team, your designers, everybody is really into detail.”
“Being a photographer and being an artist working with materials like resin, plants, and glass — those two worlds should not really mix,” says Heidi Norton. “You have the camera and you have film and you’re trying to keep things clean and archival, and then you have dirt and glass shards everywhere.” Such contradictions are at the core of Norton’s work, from the immaculate glow of her photography to the dirt-under-your-fingernails feel of her sculptural pieces, which typically feature houseplants in some form or another. Norton started incorporating plants into her photographic practice several years ago in a series of still lifes. It was partly a way to bring the natural world she grew up with, in rural West Virginia, into the urban setting of Chicago, where she’s lived since getting her MFA at the School of the Art Institute in 2002. Those photos eventually inspired her to make plant-based sculptures that explore how we create, cultivate, and change ourselves. Therein lies the central paradox: “The idea of preservation, and trying to save the plant while at the same time killing it through that preservation, became really interesting to me,” she says. “All of the mediums I use deal with that idea in different ways.” Even her studio itself, shot by Debbie Carlos for part two of Sight Unseen's series on Chicago artists, is part of the process.
When we interviewed Brooklyn artist and fashion designer Shabd for our Paper View book a year and a half ago, it was all about the fine art practice she sidelined in order to start her tie-dyed clothing and accessories business. But with this post, everything comes full circle — now that Shabd has a book out of her own, filled with tutorials on her dyeing techniques, we're finally taking the chance to hear more about what she actually does on a daily basis, by way of an interview recently posted on the Martha Stewart Living blog. As you may recall from our original story, Shabd learned to tie-dye somewhat by accident, after attending a garden party where it was one of the featured activities, and then, according to the interview, which we've excerpted parts of below, "spent a year playing around and developing new techniques to create dye patterns that were more grown-up and modern, beyond what I had seen before." You can learn to master them as well by buying her book, "Tie-Dye: Dye it, wear it, share it," but meanwhile, check out the Q+A after the jump that delves deeper into Shabd's methods and inspirations.
In the parallel universe of false starts, where every cabinet is filled with tools you’ll never use again and every heart with ideas that didn’t stick, artist Christy Matson is a welcome presence, a reminder that sometimes lost things have a way of finding you again. Matson bought her first loom before she’d ever woven, certain that she would take immediately to the repetition and logic of it: “I was, like, I’m going to love weaving, I just know it! I had never met a textile-related process I didn't like,” Matson says. “And then I took a weaving class the next semester and hated it. I thought, this is it? This is boring.”
What were you doing at age 24? Muddling through grad school? Working as a CAD monkey? Moving back in with your parents? If so, you might be more than a little jealous of recent RISD grad Katie Stout, who at that tender age already holds the post of gallery director at New York's Johnson Trading Gallery, where Paul Johnson not only represents her work but encourages her to introduce him to that of her peers (like Noho Next alum and future SU subject Misha Kahn, for example). Before she landed the job, Stout's only previous employment was a one-summer college internship for the novelty housewares brand Fred and Friends: "I showed the creative director my portfolio, and when he saw a table I'd made as a sophomore that was an udder with milk squirting out of its teats, he asked me what I was on," she recalls. "Obviously I said nothing."
Creative collaborations can go one of two ways: Either it's obvious where one person's influence begins and the other's ends, or it isn't. You get a minotaur, or you get a liger. When the quirky plastics researchers at Thing Thing teamed up with the graphic designer Michael Savona for a recent joint project, the result was pretty much the former — typography come to life, in the form of recycled-plastic stools handmade with l0-fi fabrication techniques developed by Thing Thing. We first caught sight of the series at the Chicagoland exhibition at Wanted Design this past May, where we chatted with Savona about it; we figured there must be a pretty interesting story behind how the pieces were made, and we were right!
A star power trio of Sight Unseen favorites come together as one: Iko Iko presents the collaboration of handbag designers Building Block and furniture makers Waka Waka, who have united to produce a limited edition of custom-order bags and more. Together they explore "how time and use can bring a new personality to the things we wear."
Is it possible to love something too much? What about when you're an avid collector of something that teeters on the line between fame and obscurity? For Austrian photographer Clemens Kois, a longtime devotion for the century-old Viennese design workshop Carl Auböck carried a particularly trying dilemma: He had the chance to make a book that could finally introduce the long-overlooked brand to the mainstream, vindicating his fervor and helping to build up the very collecting market he was engaged in, but that would in all likelihood make it harder for him to acquire the objects he loved so much. Luckily for the rest of us, he chose to follow his passion, joining forces with Brian Janusiak of Project No. 8 and powerHouse Books to create Carl Auböck: The Workshop, which came out this past fall.
Don't get your hopes up — you won't find Karin Johansson's necklaces in the Sight Unseen shop anytime soon, or at any other shop for that matter. Johansson isn't a fashion designer, after all, but a Sweden-based jewelry artist who's spent nearly two decades learning and refining her metalworking techniques, and her pieces are only available through high-end galleries like Barcelona's Klimt02. That's where we spotted the New Places collection, a colorfully graphic amalgam of handmade elements in enamel, plastic, and precious metals, plus crushed and "reconstructed" stone; Johansson based each necklace on a different photograph she'd taken while traveling inside her own city and beyond. "The inspiration and the starting point for New Places were photos I'd collected for a few years of different views, landscapes, and cities," Johansson explains. "Simply by drawing a line in the picture and connecting the ends, then picking up the colors, I discovered a necklace giving hints of houses, streets, trees, water, sky, lines, and directions."
Caitlin Mociun may have been the author of a cult-hit fashion line for only a few years, but the lessons she learned from that stint — about the way she wants a customer to feel, or about the way a body moves in space — inform nearly everything she does today. That first becomes clear when she talks about her massively successful fine jewelry line, which she launched almost as a palliative to her days as a clothing designer. “I never really liked doing my clothing line, and when I switched to jewelry it was such a different response,” Mociun told me earlier this fall when I visited her year-old Williamsburg boutique. “It seemed to make people feel good about themselves as opposed to clothing, which often makes people feel bad.” But it’s when she talks about her boutique that you realize that nothing in the shop could be the way it is if Mociun weren’t first a designer.