A weekly Saturday recap to share with you our favorite links, discoveries, exhibitions, and more from the past seven days. This week: vases made from plastic bags, lamps made from plant pots, art made from police tactics, and three new emerging designers we discovered via Instagram.
If the best reason to know the rules is to be smarter about breaking them, then consider the year-old collaboration between designers Albert Chu and Jennifer Myers not so much a violent upheaval but an exercise in playfully tweaking the system. Chu and Myers met while studying at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design — an institution they say reinforced their respect for constraints — and each worked in architecture and launched an accessories line before combining their shared pedagogy into a series of leather and brass pouches. “I think working within, and rebelling against, a set of parameters is actually the ultimate in design fun,” Myers says. Chu agrees: “We love working with fundamentals and trying to introduce a slight deviation,” says the designer of Otaat, which stands for “one thing at a time.” “Harvard was about being restrained in the conceptual and design intervention, that sometimes the most effective and thorough result could arise from a minimal, subtle act.”
When the Pattern Foundry originally launched several years ago, it was essentially an open-source repository for hundreds of licensed archival patterns that could be purchased by users and applied any way they saw fit. But over the years, the UK-based company — run by Richard Rhys, a Central Saint Martins grad and former print designer for Alexander McQueen — has begun to use those patterns to create its own proprietary product line, primarily consisting of rugs and ceramic, silkscreened tiles. The company recently relaunched its website, which makes it even easier to view to dozens of combinations you can make with, say, the wave-like Tide pattern by Wim Crouwel, taken from a 1960s catalogue cover the Dutch designer created for artist Peter Struycken, or the triangular Duo pattern by graphic designer Karel Martens. The overly intellectual kitchen of your dreams awaits...
“It was running joke as a kid, that all I wanted to wear were cut-offs and T-shirts,” says Ilana Kohn. “My mom would buy them by the pack, and I would cut the sleeves and the neck.” Of course, Kohn is now known as the creator of a rabidly collected, Brooklyn-based, cult-favorite clothing line, so was fashion always the master plan? Sure, she was interested in clothes, she says, but her teenage self would be more than a little surprised at this turn. At 18, she says, she did not want to be a “fashion person,” intending rather to study fine art and spend her life of painting. But after high school — in a move that would appease parents who worried about her making a living — Kohn left her native Virginia for New York City to study illustration at Pratt.
If you're a design student, and you're still on the fence about whether to join Instagram (do people like this exist?) here's proof positive that you need an account, stat: Instagram is where we recently stumbled upon Anny Wang, a Swedish-born designer whose BA graduation project (above) blew us away but who cemented her visual artist bona fides with one of the most beautiful feeds we've ever seen. Wang grew up in a small town in Sweden and only this year completed her undergraduate studies, but we're already keeping an eye on her. Her first collection, called Akin, hits on many of the current trends — iridescence, marble, copper, etc. — but seems timeless rather than trendy through her use of form and interesting material treatments. Read on for more about this young talent, and watch out world when she goes for her Master's.
A weekly Saturday recap to share with you our favorite links, discoveries, exhibitions, and more from the past seven days. This week: super-colorful rugs and blankets that are surprisingly affordable, an 80-pound, solid-brass bookcase that's anything but, a peek inside Totokaelo's Seattle offices, and a covetable pair of Bauhausian chairs (above).
With a debut solo show at Matter in April and a major presentation last week at Sight Unseen OFFSITE, up-and-coming furniture designer Ian Stell has had the opportunity to introduce his kinetic, transformable furniture to quite a few people this spring. Yet most of them, apparently, have read it completely wrong. "I've gotten comments recently from people who ... assumed I have an engineering background or was trained as an architect, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth," he recently told photographer Rob Howard, on whose portfolio site we recently discovered dozens of shots of Stell at home in Red Hook, Brooklyn, and at his nearby studio. Howard recorded a short audio file of Stell very eloquently describing his background — he studied sculpture and painting, not engineering — and his approach to furniture design: "All of my designs sit somewhere in between poetry about functional objects and ones that are actually functional," Stell tells Howard. "I don’t hesitate to pursue something even if it’s incredibly complex ... As far as I'm concerned the world is about complexity, and nature is about complexity, and although I’m very happy that there are many people that take a reductive approach to design and to art ... it’s not the way that I think."
When Monique Meloche took a chance on opening a Chicago gallery back in 2000, she launched with a show called Homewrecker, for which she invited 30 artists to exhibit over all three floors of her Ukrainian Village townhouse. The huge turnout prompted her to find a more permanent spot, as did gentle prodding from her husband. “He was like, ‘Sorry, I don’t want people sitting on my bed watching videos on Saturday when I come home from the gym.’” But while her home is no longer on public view, it remains a kind of lived-in display of contemporary paintings, photography, and sculptural works by artists she represents along with those she simply loves. We were lucky enough to visit recently and get to know Meloche a bit better.
Now that Seattle Week on Sight Unseen is over, we're turning our attention to another northwestern capital — Milan, Italy, home of the Salone del Mobile, where Jill and I are on serious scouting duty this week. Before we begin posting our annual eyewitness dispatches from the fair, though, we wanted to start our coverage with a small paean to our temporary digs: an article I contributed to the forthcoming Milan-themed spring/summer issue of PIN–UP magazine, which features the work of one of our favorite local design firms (Oeuffice) photographed inside the foundation of one of our favorite local architects (Piero Portoluppi). Click through to learn more about Oeuffice's Milanes collection of tabletop items and the impetus behind these gorgeous images, plus how you can snag the PIN–UP No. 16 when it goes on sale next month.
These days, plenty of companies in the United States are touting their status as heritage brands, as is the current fashion, but markedly few who can claim the kind of pride of place that Filson can: Since the outdoor apparel label was founded in Seattle back in 1897, it’s never moved more than two miles away from where it began, in what’s now known as the city’s SoDo neighborhood — nor has it stopped manufacturing most of its wares there, either. Having long occupied a complex in the up-and-coming industrial area that included its factory, headquarters, and flagship store, last year the expansion of its business led it to annex a nearly 60,000 square-foot building just two blocks away from the original. “We’ve been in SoDo for 117 years, so it feels like home,” says Filson CEO Alan Kirk, a Scotland native who moved to the city in 2009. “It’s one of the few areas left in the city that still has manufacturing — in a way it’s the garment district of old Seattle.”
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.”