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Designer, Artist, and Animator Todd St. John

Todd St. John launched a stand-out furniture line this spring, but “I do a lot of animation, illustration, and narrative work,” says the designer, whose background is in graphic design, and whose clients have included The New York Times, Prius, Nickelodeon, Pilgrim Surf Supply, and MTV. “So I’m often experimenting with and developing new characters. There are tests around here everywhere.”

Sight Unseen, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Last month, when the watch brand Mondaine asked for a peek into a day in the life of a Sight Unseen editor, I dragged our trusty photographer Paul Barbera all around the Brooklyn enclave popping in on our friends and shooting future studio visits for the site, from Workaday Handmade to Confettisystem.

Week of August 3, 2015

A weekly Saturday recap to share with you our favorite links, discoveries, exhibitions, and more from the past seven days. This week: an IRL pop-up shop from our favorite auction house, a design legend lost too soon, and sneak previews from fall collections including Areaware and Hawkins New York, the design duo responsible for that shaggy pillow goodness up top.

Italian Product Designer Giorgia Zanellato

About six or seven years ago, when Jill and I were still editors at the late, great I.D. magazine, we had a gut feeling that something was happening in Italian design. For years its reputation had been seemingly stuck in the '80s — no one ever, ever talked about its contemporary scene — and yet suddenly we were seeing a few young talents pop up here and there. We commissioned a story on the subject, but despite our prescience (as evidenced in part by the subsequent head-spinning rise of Luca Nichetto), we missed something seriously major: Fabrica. Neither of us realized the impact its residency program and Sam Baron–led design studio would have in nurturing Italy's brightest new voices, from Matteo Cibic to Matteo Zorzenoni to today's subject, Giorgia Zanellato.

Wintercheck Factory’s Collection No. 300

When we asked Brooklyn's Wintercheck Factory — who debuted their latest collection with us at Sight Unseen OFFSITE last month — to shoot those new pieces in the most appropriate scenario they could imagine for our Self Portrait column, their choice of venues ended up being even more fitting than they themselves realized. A 1910 bank building in Bed-Stuy is about to become the duo's new studio, and clearly it makes for a stunning backdrop, but having been ripped up, painted, retiled, left to rot, bricked up, and, now, appropriated as a creative space, it can also be read as a symbol of Wintercheck Factory's own gradual reinvention.
Costumes have also been a big part of Cave Collective’s performances — this is an example of many ideas for those costumes layered on top of each other, including a thick shawl made from strips of dyed cotton and Icelandic wool that Lauigan plans to explore further during the hiatus. “I’d like to do collections of one-of-a-kind shawls and install them as art pieces on a wall,” she says.

Cave Collective, Artists

We discovered Cave Collective by way of their jewelry, which we spotted at the boutique No. 6 in New York, this past October. In late November, we shot founders Cat Lauigan and Alex Wolkowicz in their Greenpoint workspace. Then, by the end of January, we found out that they'd dismantled most of the studio and jewelry line, that Lauigan had relocated to California, and that both artists were focusing on their individual practices until they figured out what to do next. And yet by that point, we knew enough about Cave Collective to take the news in stride — ever since Lauigan and Wolkowicz began their collaboration in 2010, it's been an endlessly shape-shifting and exploratory project, one that's seen them living thousands of miles apart for nearly as long as they've lived in the same city.
We also noticed this amazing steel sculpture in the yard of one of the artisans on the main street; we later learned it was the work of Howard Smith, an American-born artist who moved to Fiskars in 1998 with his wife, the ceramicist Erna Altonen (more on this sweet couple later!)

In Finland

If you’re a longtime reader of this site, you know that we are, above all, sunshine-seeking people who happen to be inextricably linked to New York and its fickle seasons. Normally we leap at the chance to hightail it off the East Coast anytime between November and April, in search of beaches, pools, palm trees, and vitamin D. But somehow, while Monica and the rest of the design world headed to Miami at the beginning of December, I found myself saying yes to a week in Finland, home of 30-degree temperatures and 3PM sunsets. When I arrived, no fewer than three people delighted in telling me that the previous month in Finland had seen only 15 hours of sunshine.

Father Magnus Wenninger, Mathematician

The folks who rank as internet celebrities in Sight Unseen’s world — usually those with a killer eye and a massive following on Tumblr or Instagram — would no doubt seem obscure to most. But even our regular readers might be surprised by today's unconventional yet equally influential story subject. A few years ago, after stumbling across some articles about mathematician Father Magnus Wenninger on the web, we added him to our “Minnesota” file, whose sole other occupant at the time was RO/LU; earlier this summer, we finally had an occasion to open said file when SU contributor Debbie Carlos asked if she could shoot anything for us there. Carlos was game enough to track down the nonagenarian priest — who became a cult figure in the mathematics world (and later in the online world) for his elaborate paper-polyhedron models — in his home at St. John’s Abbey outside Minneapolis. Not only did she photograph Wenninger and his works, she got him to open up about his history and his methodology as well.
Miss in her former studio, which was located in Koreatown. "Before we moved to Koreatown, everyone warned us not to. But we had lived in New York; we knew about grimy areas. But we didn’t have a parking spot and it became a nightmare. We’d circle for hours. The studio was so cheap and gigantic, but then we moved to a place with another bedroom and My husband Will has a degree in sculpture, but now he works for an art-handling company and he didn’t want to be making large-scale sculpture anymore so we didn’t need all that space."

Kate Miss

The fact that Los Angeles designer Kate Miss has, since we shot her Koreatown workspace last fall, chopped off her hair, adopted a dog, and moved studios not once but twice — the second time abandoning her freelance graphic design life altogether for a full-time position at Karen Kimmel — may tell you just how busy we’ve been around these parts. But it could just as easily be a reflection of how much Miss craves change. She’s the only person we’ve ever heard utter the words: “I love moving.” And yet that peculiarly peripatetic quality is what defines Miss — it’s what brought her from Seattle to New York and finally to LA, and why she’s equal parts known as a blogger, a photographer, a jewelry maker, and a graphic designer.

Ian Stell Shot By Rob Howard

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."
Chiao and Frezza — both longtime houseplant junkies — especially love how the act of making the faux plants is a kind of metaphor for growing real ones. “You start with the base, a root system for it to stand,” says Chiao. “Then you have to build a skeleton or armature for things to go on. You have meat that fills it in. You have a surface coat.” Adds Frezza: “You start to feel like a gardener. So sculpture as gardener I guess is one of the big attractions to continuing that process.”

Terri Chiao and Adam Frezza, Art and Design Duo

Partners in both life and work, Terri Chiao and Adam Frezza share a studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where they run an art practice together as well as a design company called Chiaozza. Yet the first two things they ever collaborated on belonged to neither of those disciplines: One was a stew they made for dinner soon after they began dating — which took so long to cook that joking about it inspired their eventual website name, — and the other was the pancakes they made the next morning. “We were fascinated by their topography, so we took some printmaking ink, inked up a pancake, and started making monoprints with them,” Frezza recalls. “That was when it began, this idea of turning our everyday life and domestic play into some kind of product or work.” Two and a half years later, it’s still the motivation underlying many of their colorful projects, which they characterize as existing at the "intersection of imagination and the natural world."