Study O Portable, Product and Jewelry Designers

You can learn a lot about Dutch designer Bernadette Deddens by just looking at her. First there are the shoes, which — depending on the day and the whims of London’s weather — she very well may have made herself. One pair of sandals constructed from $25 worth of pale leather and black cording could be mistaken for Margielas, yet are no less awe-inspiring for the fact that Deddens actually nicked the look from Tommy Hilfiger. After all, who makes their own shoes, anyway? Then there’s her jewelry, which is almost always her design, unless it’s a collaboration with her husband Tetsuo Mukai, with whom she formed Study O Portable two years ago. The jewelry is their way of giving people a form of creative expression that can be carried outside the house and into the wider world, as Deddens so poignantly demonstrates — hence their otherwise peculiar studio name.

That philosophy is one of many the pair agrees on, even though Deddens trained as a product designer at the RCA while Mukai studied fashion. “We share an interest in objects which require very simple properties to function well, such as paperweights, containers, and wearables,” they say. “Simple things also allow us to combine a concept with a function in a coherent way.” There’s another benefit to keeping things simple: They produce almost everything they make by themselves, in their Stoke Newington studio, in a building shared with dozens of other young design and art talents. Their workspace consists of one small room with one long desk and one high table where they keep a tiny drill press, plus various other tools. When Mukai is gone for the day working as a freelance pattern-cutter for one fashion house or another, as he was the day Sight Unseen visited, things feel a bit more spacious. But the couple must regularly take walks or meet friends for coffee in the neighborhood to keep from going stir-crazy, mostly because their tiny studio is also their home. (Don’t tell the fire marshall.)

This is also perhaps another subconscious reason they began designing objects that could be carried to and fro: There’s no room to leave them behind. Though now that they’ve begun selling some of their wares at the new Phillips de Pury shop in New York (along with, if all goes well, a future Sight Unseen online shop), they have a reliable outlet for the fruits of their ongoing creative pursuits. Here’s a behind-the-scenes glimpse at what those currently entail.