Instead of making things as a way to survive obsolescence, the physical remainders that will outlast us all, Adi Goodrich’s work lives for only a few days before being broken back down into pieces. “I’m not really into all that ego of trying make stuff that stays forever,” the Los Angeles-based designer admits. “I’m much more interested in the cycle of creativity, in making things happen, and surrounding myself with everyone who wants to come with.”
Which means that Goodrich, who was just honored with an Art Directors Club “Young Guns” award, might have willed herself into a perfect job: set design. Not only is impermanence a built-in part of the process, but putting up temporary environments also allows Goodrich to run with a large crew, including her best friend since third grade, Eric Johnson. Where they once built skate ramps and treehouses, they now build photographic backdrops and festival sets for clients such as Sony, Wieden + Kennedy, and Target. “A lot of times when I put together a budget, the materials cost almost nothing,” says Goodrich, who started her own studio last year. “But really it’s the manpower, and then [clients] are, like, ‘Why do you have so much crew?’ And I’m, like, because we make this all by hand, and this is what it takes.”
Making everything by hand tops Goodrich’s short list of job requirements, the standards by which she works. The other rule? She doesn’t stay still, even if clients ask for it: “I don’t repeat. This should be exciting, this should be learning. That’s it. And I just stick to those boundaries, and that’s how I know if the project is right for me,” she says. In a new series, published here for the first time, Goodrich refers to paintings from the modernist canon, seeing what happens when shapes and compositions are reconfigured in another medium, and through the filter of her hand and eye. “I was working full-time and going to school full-time, so I didn’t really have any friends,” Goodrich says of her time at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Instead, she would eat sandwiches at the museum in front of a Matisse or in a room of Joseph Cornell set boxes, “and in a funny way the artworks became my friends. When I go back to Chicago, I visit paintings.” The resulting “These Are My Friends and Their Friends” project isn’t just an opportunity to work with people she likes outside of commercial jobs, but actually brings Goodrich’s old buddies with her to Los Angeles.
After all, maybe another way to think of obsolescence is as some sort of party. The whole thing is over by tomorrow, and in the meantime Goodrich keeps refilling everyone’s glasses. “We throw the object away but the photo lasts,” Goodrich told me from the Centre Pompidou in Paris, on a rare break to recharge and visit a mentor, Ludmilla Barrand. “And also what’s lasting is all of us working together, and all the skills we’ve learned. That’s really the core of it.”
For a designer whose most high-profile interiors client is Christian Dior, David Wiseman has none of the flamboyance you might expect — neither the stylized degeneracy of John Galliano nor the leather chaps–wearing showmanship of Peter Marino, the architect who in the past year-and-a-half has hired Wiseman to create massive, site-specific installations in his newly renovated Dior flagships from Shanghai to New York. Rather, Wiseman is a 29-year-old RISD grad whose studio is located in a former sweatshop in the industrial Glassell Park area of Los Angeles, just behind an unmarked door in the shadow of a taco truck.
Los Angeles designer Tanya Aguiñiga already had two studios when she took up a third this summer: the first in the backyard of the Atwater Village bungalow she shares with her husband and two sisters, and the second six blocks away, in a converted industrial-park-turned-artists’-community near the train tracks. But in early July, Aguiñiga picked up and moved her shop 2,000 miles south to the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, for a five-week residency — the first in a project she calls Artists Helping Artisans. “I had gone to Oaxaca and Chiapas in 2007, and there was so much amazing stuff being produced by the women there,” she says. “People aren’t aware of it because the skills aren’t being passed down anymore and because people are scared to travel within Mexico. There’s isn’t enough tourism or income to sustain these crafts.”
When Jonathan Nesci was 23 — with a one-year-old at home, and working as a forklift operator at FedEx in Chicago while attending night school for 3-D drafting at a community college — one of his coworkers gave him a fateful nudge: “He knew I wanted to design furniture, and he was like, ‘You can do it!!’,” recalls Nesci, now 31. And so he cold-emailed Richard Wright, founder of the eponymous Chicago auction house, and promoted the heck out of himself until he landed a job managing Wright’s restoration department, where he stayed for five years before founding his own studio in early 2012. As he tells it, his cheerleader at FedEx deserves substantial credit for inspiring him to take the leap that changed his life. But to know Nesci is to realize that no matter what happened, the results would have been the same — he was destined to be a designer.