Attend an event like the Stockholm Furniture Fair, which is packed with designs by fresh-faced students and recent graduates, and you’re bound to see furniture so conceptual it borders on fine art (if not naiveté or cliché). That’s because students at some of the best design schools around the world are taught not just how to make things, but also how to think creatively and develop narratives — Stockholm’s Beckmans College of Design among them. Thirteen members of its current graduating class exhibited together at the city’s furniture fair this week, and rather than developing a suite of beautifully variegated chairs like a neighboring booth from the Lund Institute of Technology, they did some serious and deliberate navel-gazing in an attempt to develop furniture capable of manipulating its own emotional connection with users. Called “The Matter of Things,” the project asked each of its participants to choose an abstract problem to solve — like bonding, treasuring memories, or making physical contact — and embody it in a not-quite-as-abstract form. Not all of the results are particularly life-changing, but they do demonstrate the kind of thought processes that eventually lead to greatness. We snagged photographs of the pieces taken prior to the show, and annotated them with excerpts from its catalog that describe those processes in more detail. Stay tuned for more coverage of the talents we uncovered in Stockholm.
Had you peeked into London gallerist Libby Sellers's diary for the week of the Milan Furniture Fair earlier this month, you would have seen all the requisite stops on the circuit: Rossana Orlandi one afternoon, Lambrate and Tortona the next, plus a stop at Satellite and a time out for breakfast at the Four Seasons with Alice Rawsthorn, her former boss. There was time made for shopping — Sellers is a self-admitted clothes horse, having transformed most of her London apartment into a walk-in closet — and for a visit to the 10 Corso Como gallery and bookstore. But despite what you'd expect from one of the world's most respected supporters of emerging design, who for the past two years has commissioned work from and produced pop-up exhibitions with talents like Max Lamb and Julia Lohmann, Sellers did not walk away from the fair with an arsenal of new relationships to pursue. Her scouting is done before she even gets there, in graduate degree shows and over the internet, so that in Milan — unlike the rest of us — she gets to relax and enjoy the show.
Even non-New Yorkers know Soho, the swath of land below Houston Street in Manhattan, colonized by artists in the '60s and now the domain of the rich and the retail-obsessed. Noho, on the other hand, still flirts with obscurity, despite having been home to some of the city's most legendary artists — Robert Mapplethorpe, Frank Stella, and Chuck Close, to name a few — as well as its first Herzog and de Meuron building. Sure, as an emerging neighborhood with several hotels on the rise, its streets are often crisscrossed with ungainly spiderwebs of scaffolding, but beneath that lies a creative energy so strong we at Sight Unseen figured it would be the perfect place to create a new satellite destination during New York design week: the Noho Design District. All of the elements were already there.
Does the world really need another beanbag chair? That was the question that presented itself to the Stockholm-based trio Form Us With Love when they visited the factory of Swedish furniture manufacturer Voice in the summer of 2009. “We were led on a tour of the facilities by the managing director,” they say. “Upon arrival at a production line of beanbags, the director stopped. The facility, once churning out bags by the minute, now stood motionless. Trend and low-quality copies had severely stunted production. The brief was concise — design a piece of furniture that would make the machines run again.” The group — made up of Jonas Pettersson, John Löfgren, and Petrus Palmer, who met as students in the first-year design program at Kalmer University — responded the only way they know how: By stripping the beanbag of its passé, dorm-room connotations, and using a powder-coated wire frame and a sophisticated color palette to recast it not as a piece of childhood ephemera but as a contemporary take on the easy chair, fit for any modern-day living room.