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Artist Mel Ngyuen in her current studio: an 8x11-foot room at her school, the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, from which she’ll graduate this spring. 
“My first year in school, I realized that I had more fun experimenting between mediums, and trying to subvert each one,” says the 21-year-old. “I already had an interest in graphic design in high school, and then I started making 3-D work with the facilities at MCAD, which combined with photography, has led to my current work.”

Mel Nguyen, Artist

As an artistically inclined teenager feeling bored and marooned in the suburb of Vadnais Heights, Minnesota, Mel Nguyen did what any millenial in her situation would do: She turned to the internet for creative stimulation. “Even as a high schooler I was looking at all these graphic design blogs, seeing how the field was changing, and thinking, wow,” she says. As soon as she enrolled as an art student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, she started her own tumblr, showing off her experiments sliding from 2-D into to 3-D and back again. She managed to build such a following on the site that her work went viral in certain online art and design circles — so much so that it’s hard to believe she’s only 21, and won’t graduate until this spring.

Visibility, Product Designers

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.

What Your Favorite Designers Are Listening To This Winter

When winter gets as unbearable as it has been for the past few weeks here in New York, we find the tiniest ways of coping — allowing ourselves to occasionally venture out of the house in our sweatpants, say, or to eat an inadvisable amount of ramen, or to shirk all our errands in favor of staying in bed just a little while longer. Music can't technically warm us up, of course, but it helps too; it keeps our minds off the cold, keeps us moving. And for those who spend their days in huge, drafty workshops, doubly so. With that in mind — and inspired in part by RoAndCo's annual "Wintry Mix" — we invited 13 designers and studios to share with Sight Unseen the songs they've been listening to this winter, and to tell us what they've been working on while listening to them. Check out their playlists on Spotify after the jump.

Week of November 25, 2013

A weekly Saturday recap to share with you our favorite links, discoveries, and events from the past seven or so days. This week: hot guys in design, a new online furniture shop in Berlin, Artsy's definitive Design Miami preview (including the Jeff Zimmerman ombre vases above), and more.
D’Agostin in his brand new studio in Brooklyn's Bed-Stuy neighborhood, sitting atop his BMW R100. “It’s from 1983 — like me!” he says. Behind him is a photograph of a man riding a bicycle in Shanghai, to which he paid three different 10-day visits last year for a book that's coming out soon. D’Agostin only shoots film and only in black and white, making most of his prints himself in his studio darkroom.

Renato D’Agostin, Photographer

Renato D'Agostin was born and raised in Venice, Italy, "where for most people photography in those days meant weddings and passport pictures," he says. Yet the city did manage to nurture his future career, if only inadvertently so: After falling in love with a photograph of an elephant that his mother won in a town prize drawing, he commandeered his father's Nikon, signed up for a local photography class, and spent his teenage years documenting scenes from everyday Venetian life, a process he's hewed towards ever since. Still, he considers his first foray away from home in 2002, on a road trip through the capitals of Western Europe, to be his most formative experience. "I took that trip to see if interpreting reality was what I really wanted to do," D'Agostin recalls. "From that moment on, I never had any doubt. I felt like traveling was the place where I wanted to live, and the camera was my extension."
David Altmejd's studio, New York

David Altmejd, from Studio Life by Sarah Trigg

Sarah Trigg spent more than two years photographing the ateliers of 100 artists around the country for her new book Studio Life: Rituals, Collections, Tools, and Observations on the Artistic Process — including boldfaced names like Carol Bove, Rob Pruitt, Theaster Gates, Tauba Auerbach, and Nick Cave. And yet you won't see any of their actual artwork in its pages (we've added our own to the David Altmejd excerpt below), nor will you see any overall depictions of their spaces. That's because Trigg, an artist herself, took inspiration from the most important elements of her own Brooklyn studio and decided to exclusively zoom in on any residue, mascots, collected objects, rituals, makeshift tools, and architectural details she found during her visits. "I placed a lens on daily studio life without expecting artists to defend or explain their work," she writes of her process. "It was crucial, therefore, not to overshadow the results with portraits, artwork, or depictions of the overall grandeur of the studios — all of which have established venues for exposure elsewhere."
The table where Norton keeps an evolving collection of materials — a piece of coral, a rock found at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater house, wax hexagons from a previous installation — that serve as “inspiration or visual references” or might get used in future projects.

Heidi Norton, Artist

“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.
Another quilt in the series, with Eichhorn’s then-in-progress 4x6 orchid panel visible in the foreground. He was also, at the time, preparing to start a piece for the Chicago Transit Authority which finally launched last week, part of a series of artist commissions to be hung at the Damen L-train station.

Stephen Eichhorn, Artist

As a four-year-old living in Lenoir, South Carolina, Stephen Eichhorn refused to learn how to read. While everyone else in his class was singing their ABCs, he’d stubbornly deemed it unnecessary — he already knew he was destined to be an artist, communicating through images rather than words. “People asked me, how are you going to read your show cards or write press releases?” Eichhorn recalls. “My answer was, I’m going to marry someone who knows how to read! The resistance was so heavy they put me in a special ed class.” His protest didn’t last more than a few months, luckily, but his uncanny commitment to his future career did: At 14, for example, he interned for a group of Star Wars toymakers who taught him freehand drafting and craft techniques, and at 17 he attended a summer art program at SAIC before enrolling there a year later. Since graduating in 2006 he’s been living the dream instead of planning for it, working independently from a studio he shares with his wife in Chicago, which is where SU’s newest contributor Debbie Carlos visited him this past spring for our two-part series on Windy City artists.

James Shaw, Furniture Designer

I recently wrote an article for a forthcoming issue of Architectural Digest on the London talent Anton Alvarez, whose Thread-Wrapping Machine has captivated the design world as of late, and in it, his gallerist Libby Sellers makes the point that what's so of the moment about his work is that he isn't just making objects, he's making the object that makes the objects. And it's so true: Many of the more interesting young designers we've come across in the past few years have been the ones shifting their focus towards developing their own weird and wonderful production processes, like Silo Studio for instance. There's just something about this unexpected inventiveness that captures people's curiosity, which explains why the latest project by newcomer James Shaw — a series of homemade "guns" that spray or extrude materials into or onto furnishings — went viral on the design blogs shortly after he presented it at his RCA graduation show. In work like his, it's about the journey, not just the destination. So Sight Unseen, right?

Ben Medansky Studio Visit on Los Angeles, I’m Yours

It's a quiet summer week here at Sight Unseen HQ. August is approaching, we're spending more and more weekends out of the city, and the time in between them is becoming increasingly shorter and less productive. But that doesn't mean we don't know from hard work — we've spent the last four years pouring inordinate amounts of time and effort into the stories on this site, and so we're all the more sympathetic when we see other blogs doing the same. Case in point: the ridiculously extensive, print mag–worthy interview with ceramicist Ben Medansky we spotted recently on the blog Los Angeles, I'm Yours, a city-centric cultural resource founded in 2011 by The Fox Is Black's Bobby Solomon with editor Kyle Fitzpatrick. We've excerpted part of it here, along with a selection of the accompanying studio photos.

Katie Stout, Furniture Designer

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."

Pauline Deltour, Product and Furniture Designer

Okay, let's get this out of the way as quickly as possible: Yes, Pauline Deltour spent a few years as a designer in Konstantin Grcic's studio. And yes, Grcic may have made a few strategic phone calls on her behalf, jumpstarting her career once she struck out on her own in 2009. But considering that was four years ago, and the 30-year-old Paris-based talent has since turned out more than a few painfully elegant designs for the likes of Discipline and Kvadrat, we thought it was worth stating for the record that she's become quite the rising star in her own right — not to mention one of design's most promising new female voices. We checked in with Deltour, who describes her practice as aspiring to create "self-evident" objects, to find out what she's been up to lately.