Tag Archives: London

  1. 03.25.13
    Tom Dixon’s New Mass Coat and Book Stands

    Tom Dixon has long been considered a master of metal (thanks, famously, to an early motorcycle accident requiring extensive bike repairs for which he learned, then fell in love with, welding). So we weren’t the least bit surprised when we received a press release this morning revealing the London designer’s newest wares — set to be released in two weeks at the Milan Furniture Fair — that contained a veritable smorgasbord of copper, cast-iron, brass, and shiny stainless steel, with a small contingent of nickel-plated aluminum tables that pair the faceting of a cut gem with the roughed-up surface of a silver ingot. There was one thing that really stood out for us, though: two minimalist brass sculptures, each an imposing 6.5 feet tall, one for holding books and the other for hanging coats. They’re so different from anything we’ve seen Dixon show lately that they almost beg the question as to what new wunderkind he’s brought on staff, but either way, they’re a win. Someone with good taste, a huge budget, and high ceilings is about to make us very jealous.

  2. 03.05.13
    Eye Candy
    Daniel Eatock, Artist

    Daniel Eatock is a London based artist formally trained in graphic design who practices “a rational, logical and pragmatic approach when making work.” His 2012 series of complementary objects, One + One, demonstrates this utilitarian method. The series was developed at Stanley Picker Gallery, Kingston University over the course of his fellowship. Gallery Director Stanley Picker writes, “[Eatock]…establishes a range of formal, practical or conceptual conceits connecting two otherwise independently existing objects.” Aka, object mash up.

  3. 02.19.13
    The Faye Toogood Collection at We See Beauty

    When we first heard that Faye Toogood, one of our all-time favorite furniture designers and stylists, had been trysting with the make-up industry, creating a concept collection for the recently launched beauty brand MAKE — well, we weren’t one bit surprised. After all, Toogood has made a career of never quite doing what you’d expect her to do. What’s surprising, actually, is why more designers haven’t tried their hand at beauty. To dabble in a new discipline like fashion or ceramics would involve acquiring a rigorous new skill set. But to devise a collection for an existing makeup brand, as Toogood has, requires only a preternatural sense of materiality and color, both of which the designer has in spades.

  4. 02.08.13
    Up and Coming
    Ya Wen Chou, Textile and Product Designer

    Ahh, design school — where navel-gazing and the pretentions of identity art are not only tolerated, but encouraged (on days when the lesson plan doesn’t focus on sustainability or people with disabilities, of course). It’s easy for lesser talents to get sucked too far into these themes and end up with over-baked work that either borders on kitsch or is completely irrelevant to the wider world, but when done right, the results can be both beautiful and culturally illuminating — as in the case of Ya Wen Chou, who used her time in the RCA’s textile department to dig into the traditions of her grandmother and her home country of Taiwan. “My grandmother’s house was always full of handicrafts made by Taiwanese artisans,” she told the Arts Thread blog last year, explaining a main source of her inspiration. And her Precious Objects project — which first caught our eye on Pinterest — explores her culture’s traditional reverence for nature’s role in everyday life, which does feel rather universal, having a lot in common with everything from Icelandic elf mythology to Native American spirituality. Read more about Chou’s point of view in our interview after the jump.

  5. 02.04.13
    Up and Coming
    Stephanie Hornig, Furniture Designer

    One of our favorite things to do when we discover the work of a new designer is to play the internship guessing game. You can typically spot a former Bouroullec acolyte, for example, just by their use of shape and color. But Stephanie Hornig? With forms this clean and utilitarian, we never would have guessed she once worked for the doyenne of decoration, Patricia Urquiola. Perhaps a more telling clue in Hornig’s case is the fact that the Austrian-born talent went to design school in Berlin before moving on to her current home in London — her geometric tables, accordion shelves, and minimalist chairs lean more towards functionalism and the beauty of classic everyday objects, albeit subtly tweaked with new colors and ideas. We asked the recent graduate to tell us a bit more about her fledgling practice, which we’ll no doubt be keeping an eye on.

  6. 01.23.13
    Kelly Rakowski’s “Life With Max Lamb Prism”

    Here at Sight Unseen, we’re a bit like a college application — fixated on versatility, and in awe of anyone who’s proven themselves equally gifted across a spectrum of interests and activities. So it’s no wonder we became fast friends with someone like Kelly Rakowski, who studied graphics, worked as a book designer for Todd Oldham for five years, started a blog revolving around her obsession with archival textiles, and now makes weavings, housewares, and jewelry as one half of the label New Friends. She’s an artist, a designer, and a stylist, and when we asked her to art-direct a special editorial featuring Max Lamb’s Prism Bangle — commissioned by us for the Sight Unseen Shop — it was no surprise that she understood our vision immediately. Max’s bangle, after all, is way more than just a bangle; it began life as a sculptural object and was adapted for us to wearable proportions, but it still feels just as at home on a desk as it does around your wrist or hanging from your neck. For this slideshow, Rakowski imagined several creative uses for the Prism’s four discrete parts, from spaghetti dosing to cookie-cutting, then photographed her ideas in action.

  7. 01.11.13
    Studio Visit
    Silo Studio, Furniture Designers

    Oscar Wanless and Attua Aparicio certainly aren’t the first design students to have clashed with an industrial manufacturer, showing up the so-called experts by proving a seemingly impossible process quite possible after all. But the RCA grads—who now collaborate as Silo Studio—are certainly the first we’ve heard of whose triumph so impressed said manufacturer that they were asked to move into the factory. At an industrial park 45 minutes outside the center of London, Silo operates out of a small warehouse room on the premises of Jablite, the U.K.’s largest maker of styrofoam insulation panels. “They’ve got steam, which is how we produce what we produce,” explains Wanless, that being lumpy polystyrene furnishings once compared to “stage scenery for a production of Hansel and Gretel on acid.”

  8. 01.09.13
    Up and Coming
    Gemma Holt, designer

    Gemma Holt is one of those designers who seems to be both everywhere and nowhere at once. If you’re organizing a group exhibition heavy on young designers or putting together a collection of talents for an expertly curated new shop, chances are she’s on your list: The RCA-trained, London-based designer’s work often has conceptually rigorous thinking behind it, but her forms are usually quite simple and her jewelry pieces are the sort of elegantly crafted bits that tend to fly off the shelves. If you’re the average Pinterest-happy design-lover, however, you might not know a whit about her, considering there’s maddeningly little written about Holt on the web. It’s possible she keeps a purposefully low profile; after all, she’s worked for years for one of the biggest names in furniture design (Martino Gamper). But today the secret’s out: We’re taking it upon ourselves to introduce you both to Holt herself and to three of her incredible pieces, which we’ve recently launched in the shop. (Above: O&D bangles, $380)

  9. 12.20.12
    Up and Coming
    Fabien Cappello, Furniture Designer

    Whatever Fabien Cappello’s studies at ECAL may have taught him about luxury, his subsequent grad degree at the RCA may have un-taught him: The London-based designer has made stools carved from trashed Christmas trees, Venetian glass vessels melted onto lowly bricks, and benches constructed from shipping pallets or punctuated with cheap street-vendors’ umbrellas. That’s not to say, of course, that Cappello’s work isn’t high end — it’s been shown at the likes of Libby Sellers Gallery and has won him an Elle Decoration New Designers Award — just that the materials and ideas he sees value in wouldn’t exactly be considered the norm. If he’s come a long way since setting up his own studio in 2009, it’s because his focus on local and overlooked resources has captured the curiosity of the design world, not just its eyes or its wallets. That said, with the world headed where it’s headed, his style of economical chic may become the new luxury before long, so we figured he was worth checking in with. He gave Sight Unseen a quick glimpse into his practice below.

  10. 11.30.12
    Peer Review
    Milena Silvano on Intelligent Clashing

    Rhiannon Gilmore’s posts on Intelligent Clashing often begin with a tiny nugget of an idea — a pattern, a color, a shape — that after a bit of research flourishes into a loose, visually driven narrative. In her most recent post, though, the nugget wasn’t so much tiny as nearly floor-length: a beautifully draped woven silk poncho trimmed with fringe and edged with reclaimed and antique textiles. The poncho was the creation of Milena Silvano, a UK stylist-turned-slow fashion enthusiast who’s become something of an obsession for Gilmore in recent weeks: “For some time I’d been wondering: Where were the UK designers producing small, slow collections like those coming out of the States? I was thinking along the lines of ERMIE or Wiksten — collections that hold the personalities and the passions of the women who make them and are small enough to feel truly intimate and exclusive, in a warm wholesome way. I’d started to think there just wasn’t anyone working in this way here in the UK, and then I found Milena Silvano.”

  11. 11.23.12
    What We Saw
    At London’s Frieze Art Fair

    Which furniture designs do discerning art dealers truly prefer? Not to sell, but to sit in? That was the age-old question that photographer Sanna Helena Berger set out to answer while traversing the aisles of last month’s Frieze Art Fair. Her utterly unscientific answer? Four out of five discerning art dealers prefer Friso Kramer, or failing that, some variation on mid-century bentwood. Quelle surprise. A Swedish photographer based in London, Berger chose to hone in on the subject after her maiden voyage to Frieze — tagging along with a friend’s art class — proved otherwise underwhelming. “The space itself is divided into cubicles, very much like an overcrowded office, except that everything is crisp, bright, and white and within the cubicles the office wear is of a higher standard,” she explains. “Obviously I don’t claim that there was no worthwhile art there, because there certainly was, but the environment, the space, and the curation were not for me.” Instead of complaining, though, and jeopardizing her friend’s happy experience, Berger pulled out her camera and devoted the rest of the day to documenting art-booth furniture. Then she decided to share the results with usThen she decided to share the results with us, in a behind-the-scenes exposé that will no doubt put a lot of curious minds at ease, once and for all.

  12. 11.16.12
    Peer Review
    Caroline Achaintre on Arcademi

    The biggest reason why we love our new Peer Review column: because it lets us heap mountains of credit onto blogs like Arcademi — the source of more of our “holy shit” moments than almost any other site — while giving us good reason to borrow their content. Namely, the opportunity to hear their subjects wax poetic about things like hairy tufting and multiple personalities, like today’s subject, Caroline Achaintre. We were lucky enough to convince Arcademi editor Moritz Firchow to interview the London-based artist, who trained as a blacksmith before finding her way to a multidisciplinary practice inspired by the way German expressionism, post-war British sculpture, and Primitivism merge influences from both ancient and modern culture.

  13. 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!”

  14. 10.29.12
    Industrial Facility in Herman Miller’s Why Design Series

    For those of you who weren’t aware, your editors — Jill and Monica — are based in New York, where a massive tropical storm is bearing down today with increasing intensity. Jill is safe in the East Village with her family, while Monica fled her Brooklyn apartment for a world of luxurious denial at the Ace Hotel in midtown, where her friend is staying and where the Breslin will be churning out burgers and fries for the duration of the hurricane. Regardless, the serious conditions outside are obviously demanding most of our attention at the moment, so we can only offer a quick dispatch to jump-start the week: a behind-the-scenes video interview with Sam Hecht and Kim Colin of the London design studio Industrial Facility, whose Muji-approved strain of functional minimalism is as beloved as the collection of regional everyday objects featured in their book with Rizzoli last year. While the book served to catalog the couple’s travels around the globe, the video — part of Herman Miller’s ongoing Why Design series — sees them reflecting on the world just outside their front door, and how it influences their work in small but important ways.

  15. 10.18.12
    The View From Here
    Sam Orlando Miller, Le Marche, Italy

    We talk a lot on this site about inspiration, and with most of our subjects that conversation assumes a certain measure of materiality — that we’ll be discussing the things they’ve amassed over the years or the places they return to over and over again on their travels. But for the British artist Sam Orlando Miller, it’s the lack of these things that gives him the energy and space to create. In 2000, after spending more than a decade in London building up his interiors firm, Miller and his wife, Helen, left it all behind for a quiet life in the Le Marche region of Italy, a mile from the nearest village, close to the coastline of the Adriatic Sea. But though they live in an admittedly enviable location, Miller says, “it didn’t need to be Italy. It just needed to be somewhere that was wilder than London, away from the culture I’d been immersed in. I found it difficult to think when surrounded by all that stuff. Here, you have to think about your own creativity and what your voice is. When you’re surrounded by nature, all of a sudden you’re on your own, psychologically.” And so rather than things, Miller collects thoughts and sketches and conversations, running over them again and again in his head until one bumps into the other and becomes a full-fledged idea. That’s what happened with his most recent body of work, The Sky Blue Series — a collection of mirrors and objects commissioned by the San Francisco gallery Hedge for a solo show, on view until this coming Monday, that marks Miller’s American debut.

  16. 09.26.12
    What We Saw
    At the London Design Festival, Part IV

    Less than a week after we left the London Design Festival, it already feels like a distant memory — mostly because as of yesterday, we’ve already shifted our focus to making plans for the next edition of our own design showcase, the 2013 Noho Design District. And yet to some degree, we’re also already drawing on what we saw at the LDF for inspiration: While we may not have access, in the middle of downtown Manhattan, to the kind of stunning 150,000-sqft. former mail-sorting facility that Designjunction had the luxury of spreading out in last week (incorporating multiple cafes and a pop-up version of the new online shop FAO, pictured above), we do have a few new talents on our hit list, a few schemes cooked up over drinks with old friends, and a few programming strategies to mull over. Meanwhile, we’re offering you one last chance to see what we saw at the festival, which though it was by no means everything, will hopefully give you something to mull over, too.

  17. 09.21.12
    What We Saw
    At The London Design Festival, Part III

    When you visit the show Image for a Title, curated by Study O Portable as part of the Brompton Design District, you can just about conjure the illusion that you’re in a world-class design-art gallery in some chic back alley of Paris, rather than a sunlight-starved basement at a hard-to-find address that happened to be printed incorrectly in this year’s Icon Design Trail guide. The show looks — and reads — so impressively that you start to believe what you want to believe rather than the reality, which is that many of the LDF’s visitors are likely to inadvertently miss out on seeing it, and that when it’s over many of the pieces will, shrugs co-curator Bernadette Deddens, probably just wind up in storage. Welcome to the placebo effect, or at least our crude metaphorical approximation of it: the ability of humans to bestow a pill, an object, or in this case an exhibition with the qualities they expect or desire it to have. Deddens and her partner in crime, Tetsuo Mukai, invited a handful of designers to join them in exploring the possibilities of placebo thinking, producing an installation so well resolved that we’re going to go right on insisting it’s one of the top gallery shows on offer this week. Although, being more realists than dreamers, we’ve decided to help actualize our version of events by publicizing the show here on Sight Unseen. Check out each of its five projects below, and if you still have time to go see them before it closes at the end of the weekend, make sure to map your way to 8 Edgerton Gardens Mews.

  18. 09.19.12
    What We Saw
    At the London Design Festival, Part II

    Just as everyone else is arriving in London, our time here is winding down — we have one last day today to take in the sights and sounds before flying home tomorrow, and we’ll be spending most of it at one of the more newsworthy events of the week, Designjunction. There’s going to be quite a few new releases happening at the Central London hub, but if you want to know the truth, we’re most excited about seeing the building, a 250,000-sqft. industrial complex that should make a sublime backdrop for our humble photography efforts. Meanwhile, we’ve documented the last two days’ worth of events and shows here, from a trip to the Mint gallery where we spied the marbled stools above to a plop onto the motley mix of benches arrayed around the V&A courtyard, all made by various design superstars. There’s no way we’ll make it to everything by tomorrow, but we’ve got a lot more to share, so keep coming back to visit us please!

  19. 09.17.12
    What We Saw
    At the London Design Festival, Part I

    The first time we attended the London Design Festival, five years ago now, it became something of a benchmark for us — the design event against which we not only measured other design events, but would come to measure our own, the Noho Design District. That’s because when you attend the LDF, you feel like you couldn’t be anywhere else but in London; the spotlight is resolutely on emerging homegrown talents (thanks in part to the RCA) and there are always brand new projects and product launches to see (thanks in part to the fact that, unlike ICFF, the festival takes place halfway between Milan fairs). LDF has such a good reputation, in fact, that even the coalition behind New York City’s official efforts to organize an as-yet-unnamed New York design week are looking to it for inspiration — can you imagine Tom Dixon giving away 500 free lamps in the middle of Times Square? It may happen sooner than you think. In the meantime, three years after our last trip to our favorite fair, we’ve returned, and we’ll be making the rounds all week reporting on who and what we see here. After arriving on Friday morning, we had a bit of a slow start, poking around Shoreditch and hanging out with the incredibly gifted duo behind Silo Studio, whom we’ll introduce in depth in the coming weeks. Check out the images here, and stay tuned for many more.

  20. 08.23.12
    Excerpt: Magazine
    mono.kultur #32: Martino Gamper, All Channels Personal

    It took me 16 issues (Miranda July) to discover the Berlin-based magazine mono.kultur, after seeing its pull-out poster on my friend’s wall a few years back. “Dear life,” it read, “do you want to hang out tonight? I should warn you that I will not be wearing any make-up and my hair is dirty. If you can handle that, call me. Yours, Miranda July.” Five issues later (Tilda Swinton), I was obsessed: Here was a publication that, with each issue dedicated to a single long-form interview, was less about collecting personalities for front-cover bragging rights and more about truly, painstakingly, and intimately getting to know them. Which is all any of us dream about when it comes to our cultural idols, even those of us who, from time to time, have the honor of crossing their paths ourselves. So even though we’ve profiled Martino Gamper on Sight Unseen before — our lovely London contributor Claire Walsh having toured his home garden and secured us his favorite pasta recipe — we still jumped at the chance to excerpt mono.kultur’s new sit-down with the Italian RCA grad, who talked to its editors about his latest public design projects, his feelings about Ikea, and the use of humor in his work. The interview runs to 10,000 words and — in print — comprises three booklets hand-assembled into one exhaustive artifact that stretches far beyond the small sample presented here. After reading it, scroll down to learn how to get your own copy before it — like most of the issues this cult favorite has produced — sells out forever.

  21. 08.21.12
    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.

  22. 08.20.12
    Study O Portable’s Neon Alphabet

    Whereas most of us may never fully grasp the meaning behind the testicular descension metaphors and self-referential glyphs woven throughout Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle, the message behind his Drawing Restraint series — which has seen the artist challenge his creation process with obstacle courses and 270-pound dumbbells — couldn’t be more relatable: creativity flourishes in any struggle with limitations. Many designers, for example, profess to do their best work under the pressure of client briefs; then there are those, like the London duo Bernadette Deddens and Tetsuo Mukai of Study O Portable, who in the absence of such briefs will invent their own rules to work around. Since they started their studio in 2009, the couple have been using the alphabet as a testing ground for aesthetic and material experiments, producing letter sets in various combinations of wood, leather, and plastic that must conform to strict, self-imposed standards of size and legibility. “It’s really satisfying to work on the puzzle an ABC poses depending on one’s materials and techniques,” says Deddens. Their most recent is the Neon Alphabet, “a cross between signage, jewelry, and a font” that debuted at Design Miami/Basel this June with Belgian gallerist Caroline van Hoek.

  23. 08.17.12
    Up and Coming
    Hilda Hellström, designer

    In any designer’s career, there are hundreds of split-second decisions that conspire to create the precise conditions under which good work can emerge. For the Swedish-born, London-based designer Hilda Hellström, it came down to this one: When she was asked to create a project for this year’s Royal College of Art exhibition at the Milan Furniture Fair, she says with a laugh, “the wood workshop was quite busy, but the resin workshop was nice and quiet.” Of course, there’s more to the recent grad’s breakout Sedimentation vases than that; Hellström is obsessed with the idea of imbuing her objects with a myth and narrative of their own. But in many ways the vessels — which are made from layers of pigmented Jesmonite, a non-toxic acrylic-based plaster often used in ceilings and restoration work — are a reaction against something else. “My father was a carpenter, so I was used to working with wood, and I was bored of how you have to consider that it’s a living material,” she says. “Wood tells you what to make, but working with a moldable material like Jesmonite is almost like playing God.”

  24. 07.23.12
    Up and Coming
    International, furniture designers

    Brian Eno is playing, green tea is brewing, and there are half-finished projects and prototypes stacked up ’round the place. I could be in any East London live-work space. But as I talk more to my hosts — Marc Bell and Robin Grasby of the emerging London design firm International — I realize there’s something simple that sets these two Northumbria grads apart from the thousands of hip creatives populating this corner of the city. They started the studio a year or so back, with the intention of doing something a little out of fashion in the design world: “Our approach is quite commercial,” admits Grasby. “We are looking to create a mass-produced product.” Yes, he’s used the c-word — and it wasn’t crafted. By opting for production, rather than taking advantage of London’s buoyant collectors’ market, the two are aware they’re taking a tougher route. Bell puts it plainly: “Rather than shapes we enjoy making or colors we like, our designs really are function-led.” Their work always seems to boil down to intended use, and at this stage they aren’t interested in seeing their pieces in galleries. But while there have only been a handful of designs released to date, International have been getting the right kind of attention.

  25. 06.28.12
    The Making Of
    Josh Bitelli’s Forfars Bakery and Roadworkers Projects

    If you’re lucky enough to be visiting next week’s New Designers show in London, which functions like a giant coming-out party for each year’s batch of graduating UK design students, you’re apt to see plenty of examples of projects meant to highlight how things are made. But only for one of them, presumably, will those things be mass-produced bread and highways. For his thesis at Brighton University of Architecture & Design, erstwhile Max Lamb intern Josh Bitelli got to know his local bakers and roadworkers, collaborating with each of them to produce a series of trophies, vases, and furnishings made from the raw materials used by two overlooked, workaday industries. Much like Carly Mayer’s documentation of roof-tile and fireworks factories previously published on Sight Unseen, Bitelli’s investigation into these “integral yet inaccessible” domains, as he puts it, explores the idea that “we have little idea of the inner workings of industrial production, and little or no relation to the people behind the scenes.” Check out the two resulting series in more depth after the jump, including making-of videos and photographs shot by the designer.


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