The fact that Los Angeles designer Kate Miss has, since we shot her Koreatown workspace last fall, chopped off her hair, adopted a dog, and moved studios not once but twice — the second time abandoning her freelance graphic design life altogether for a full-time position at Karen Kimmel — may tell you just how busy we’ve been around these parts. But it could just as easily be a reflection of how much Miss craves change. She’s the only person we’ve ever heard utter the words: “I love moving.” And yet that peculiarly peripatetic quality is what defines Miss — it’s what brought her from Seattle to New York and finally to LA, and why she’s equal parts known as a blogger, a photographer, a jewelry maker, and a graphic designer.
That Miss would follow a creative path was always something of a given; her father was an artist and owned an upholstery business while her mother and brother are both musicians. But the fact that’s she’s found her way to four different creative avenues has something to do with her desire for financial stability against a backdrop of constant change. “I do a lot of different things, which can be obnoxious to explain to some people,” Miss laughs. “But I’m mainly a graphic designer; that’s what I went to school for. As a teenager, I was very wild but I’ve always been practically minded. I was like how can I turn my creative energy into something that will actually be a job. I decided on graphic design because I wanted a job that was creative and fun, I needed something that seemed more stable for how I am.”
“I was always interested in photography but I didn’t think I was enough of a go-getter to make a career of it. And in New York, I had an office job that wasn’t creatively fulfilling, and my husband would get annoyed with how restless I was all the time. He was like, ‘you need to find a hobby.’ That’s where the jewelry making came in.”
It’s only since moving to Los Angeles, however, that her disparate interests seem to have coalesced into one. Miss makes her jewelry, photographs her own designs using her girl tribe of creative friends as models, and designs the lookbooks; she’s offered similar services for creatives like Jennifer Parry Dodge of Ermie. “LA has been amazing for both my husband and I, creatively and personally,” Miss says. “For my photography, it’s definitely influenced what I’m taking pictures of; pretty much every print I sell in my shop was taken in or around LA. And for my jewelry, there’s such an interesting vibe here. My husband calls it a ‘desert witch girl vibe,’ which is hilarious but I love it. Ever since we moved to the East Side, I’ve really fallen in love with LA, just all the plant life and the sunshine. I don’t even think I realized how much I needed that. The sunshine is just so amazing. It definitely has its downsides; the traffic is no joke. But for the most part, where I am right now is exactly where I need to be.”
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.
In some ways, Marc Jacobs is a bit like Oprah. With a flick of his influential magic wand, Posh Spice can suddenly be considered cool, Bleecker Street can become the place you simply must open your New York shop, and a Madrid-based, husband-and-wife graphic-design duo can go from virtual unknowns to the toast of magazines and blogs around the world. That’s what happened two years ago to Julia Vergara and Javier G. Bayo, co-principals of the print and pattern design shop SuTurno, whose Bolsaco tote — a simple canvas bag made from vintage stock found in an old warehouse in Spain — was spied by two of Jacobs’ buyers at the Madrid shop Peseta. “It was the first product we ever made with the SuTurno label on it, and it actually became our most hyped design to date,” says Bayo. The two were asked to produce a limited edition of bags for the Marc by Marc Jacobs stores in the States, and they promptly sold out within a few days.
Here at Sight Unseen, we're a bit like a college application — fixated on versatility, and in awe of anyone who's proven themselves equally gifted across a spectrum of interests and activities. So it's no wonder we became fast friends with someone like Kelly Rakowski, who studied graphics, worked as a book designer for Todd Oldham for five years, started a blog revolving around her obsession with archival textiles, and now makes weavings, housewares, and jewelry as one half of the label New Friends. She's an artist, a designer, and a stylist, and when we asked her to art-direct a special editorial featuring Max Lamb's Prism Bangle — commissioned by us for the Sight Unseen Shop — it was no surprise that she understood our vision immediately. Max's bangle, after all, is way more than just a bangle; it began life as a sculptural object and was adapted for us to wearable proportions, but it still feels just as at home on a desk as it does around your wrist or hanging from your neck. For this slideshow, Rakowski imagined several creative uses for the Prism's four discrete parts, from spaghetti dosing to cookie-cutting, then photographed her ideas in action.