Junpei Inoue

Junpei Inoue’s Technicolor Wall Hangings

Being multi-taskers ourselves, we have nothing but admiration for people like Junpei Inoue — not only does he split his time between Brooklyn and Tokyo, he spends his days toggling between running and designing an art magazine, designing websites and logos for other people, and creating illustrations for textiles and fashion. Not such a stretch —until you consider his art practice as well, in which he creates intricate yarn-based wall hangings that are dyed using careful applications of acrylic paint.
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Trek Matthews, Painter

Growing up in Wisconsin, artist Trek Matthews was initially inspired by his natural surroundings, incorporating wildlife scenes and Native American mythologies into his illustrations. But following a move to Atlanta and a short stint in Japan in 2014, his artistic style began maturing into what we see today.
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Andy Rementer & Margherita Urbani in Tokyo

We here at Sight Unseen consider ourselves to be relatively worldly — I say this literally as Monica touches down in Norway — but if there's one place that's proved a holy grail for the both of us, it's Japan. We've never had the opportunity nor the funds to go, despite being relatively obsessed with the idea of both shopping and scouting there. So when two of our most visually attuned friends offered to provide us with a diary of sorts during their recent trip there, we jumped at the chance: Philadelphia-based partners-in-crime Andy Rementer and Margherita Urbani (whom many of you likely know from their collaborations in Apartamento magazine) were recently in Tokyo for two weeks.
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Nancy: “As kids, we used to sit and draw for hours next to each other, not talking to one another. I was obsessed with drawing factories. I’m obsessed with production. That sort of stuff will still make me stop in my tracks and my jaw drop.”

Kimberly: “She drew conveyer belts.”

Building Block, Accessory Designers

This time last year, Kimberly Wu was designing cars in Tokyo for Honda’s Advanced Studio and her sister, Nancy, was in Portland, designing shoes for Nike. In spare moments, Kimberly would visit hardware stores and collect the sort of everyday objects that seem to come into focus in other countries, and that somehow encapsulate the dilemma of being a transplant: how a change of scenery can sharpen your appreciation for the small details around you, and yet also remind you in their strangeness that it’s not quite like home. “The world can be as big or small as you want it to be,” Kimberly says, “And Tokyo is this place where you feel like the world is gigantic, but you also feel tiny in it. There are so many people around you always, but it’s so alone and solitary.” Meanwhile, across the choppy Pacific, Nancy was coming to a similar emotional conclusion, but drawn from a different set of observations. “Portland is like the opposite of Tokyo,” Nancy says. “It’s so small and quiet, and that can also be really lonely. I think we were both lonely.” So when Kimberly’s experiments combining those hardware-store finds with simple, pared-down bag shapes began to gain deserved notice, the sisters decided to leave their corporate lives and start Building Block together, trading too-infrequent visits for a joint move back to Southern California, where they grew up. “We’ve never worked together before, but in our heads we’ve always been working together,” Kimberly says.
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From left, on an IKO WAKA big dot paper print: Rattan Takraw ball, nabeshiki trivet, vintage pink streamer, glazed dish from Hagi, IKO IKO hand-cast bronze bangle, nabeshiki trivet. “I had been looking for something everyone in Japan used, the kind of thing you’d see on everyone’s table. All the houses we went to had these woven trivets, which are only made in Okinawa. I saw them at department stores, so I don’t think they’re seen as these highly prized craft objects. It’s more that people use them, and they happen to be a cool design. But everyone does recognize that they always come from Okinawa, which is an idea we’ve lost in America. While our objects may be designed here, we always know they’re from another place, which takes away that regional or local feel.”

Kristin Dickson of L.A.’s Iko Iko

Inside Kristin Dickson’s store Iko Iko in L.A.’s Echo Park neighborhood, there are polka dot shirts and wooden knitting needles, zig-zag coathooks and Mexican moccasins, ceramic urns and jars of jam. There are selections from Dickson’s crystal and vintage-book collections — the latter with titles like “On Weaving” or “On Fiberworks” — plus pieces from her boyfriend Shin Okuda’s furniture line Waka Waka. And as of this month, these items were joined by a haul of objects from a three-week trip the couple took to Okuda’s native Japan, where the fare spanned vintage textiles to traditional trivets to novelties like toothpaste and black Q-tips. It’s a credit to the pair’s curating talents that the shop nevertheless feels like the product of a coherent vision. “I focus on work that balances high design with craft and traditional processes,” says Dickson. “I want it to be a fun exploration of textures, cultural artifacts, utilitarian objects, and beautiful curiosities.”
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