The team behind Fort Makers don’t refer to themselves as a design studio but rather an “artist collective,” and there’s a marked difference: They make functional objects, but instead of producing a stream of products with a unified aesthetic, they each work individually under the studio umbrella, experimenting with whatever interests them at any given time. In a way, it’s that same sense of structureless structure that first attracted Noah Spencer to the idea of making mobiles: You can hang pretty much anything from them, as long as you get the balance right. “Any kind of visual language can be carried into the mobile world,” says Spencer, a Paul Loebach and Uhuru Design alum who co-founded Fort Makers in 2008. While he primarily makes models hung with simple wooden shapes, he’s also been toying around lately with more expressive elements made from polymer clay (aka Sculpey), a method he graciously offered to teach Sight Unseen readers in this tutorial.
When he first began designing mobiles three years ago, Spencer had to teach himself. Born and raised in a small neighborhood outside Boulder, Colorado, called Sunshine, he grew up visiting the home and workshop of local artist and antique dealer Chris Voorhees, where a few years back he discovered a wooden fish mobile that Voorhees’s father had made in the ’70s. “That was the initial exploration point for me,” Spencer says. “I basically just copied that one and made it out of applewood.” His first few attempts “collapsed onto the floor,” and a Calder how-to book he purchased turned out to offer little help. But he kept on practicing and improvising until eventually his mobiles — sans fish at that point — were solid enough to become an official staple of the Fort Makers lineup.
The idea to bring Sculpey into the series arose from some of the studio’s collaborative art-making sessions, where they’d been using the colorful clay for jewelry experiments. Spencer would occasionally borrow pieces created during those workshops and turn them into mobiles, though Fort Makers hasn’t made any of those available for sale as of yet. When we asked the group to adapt one of their projects into a how-to story for us — others in their current repertoire including block-printed tea towels for West Elm and products for Martha Stewart and eBay’s forthcoming online shop American Made — Sculpey mobiles seemed like the perfect choice. They’re inexpensive to make, require zero design experience, and (surprisingly) don’t involve any math whatsoever. And since you can hang pretty much anything from them, there’s a wide margin of error. Check out the step-by-step directions in the slideshow at right, and if you do attempt to make your own, be sure to post the results on Instagram and tag us!
At the London Design Festival in 2009, Apartamento magazine collaborated with local furniture wunderkind Max Lamb on a show called “The Everyday Life Collector.” The title referred to Lamb’s father, Richard, who had spent more than 15 years surrounding himself with British studio pottery, of which 400 examples were on view. But while age might have given him a leg up in the volume department, it turned out that the elder Lamb wasn’t the only one with the collecting bug: Max, too, admitted to joining his dad at flea markets from time to time and almost never coming home empty-handed. So when we had the idea to start a new column called Inventory — for which we’d ask subjects to photograph a group of objects they found meaningful — we turned to Max first, and he didn’t disappoint. He sent us 10 images of the collections on display in his live-work studio in London, then gave us a personal tour.
Designers around the world owe Johanna Agerman Ross a drink, or perhaps even a hug: Her new project, the biannual magazine Disegno, is devoted to letting their work breathe. “I always found it frustrating working for a monthly, because I couldn’t give a subject enough time or space to make it worthwhile,” says the former Icon editor. “For a project that took 10 or 15 years to make, it felt bizarre to represent it in one image, or four pages.” Founded by her and produced with the help of creative director Daren Ellis, Disegno takes some of the visual tropes of fashion magazines — long pictorial features, single-photo spreads, conceptual photography — and marries them with the format of a textbook* and the investigative-reporting ambitions of The New Yorker. The story about Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec which we’ve excerpted here, for example, fills 22 pages of the new issue and runs to nearly 3,000 words; it’s accompanied by images captured over two full days the photographer spent with the brothers, one in their studio and one at the Centre Pompidou-Metz, where they were installing their latest retrospective, “Bivouac.” And articles on Martin Szekely, Azzedine Alaïa, and Issey Miyake’s Yoshiyuki Miyamae are set either over lunch, or in the subject’s living room. The focus, says Agerman Ross, is on proper storytelling. “The people behind the project, the process of making something, even the process of the writer finding out about the story — that’s all part of it,” she says. “It’s the new journalism.” Obviously, we couldn’t agree more.
“Another Cats Show” may have started as a one-liner, but that doesn’t mean it fails to land the joke. The exhibition, which closed this week at the Los Angeles gallery 356 Mission, included feline-themed pieces from 301 artists and proved that what they say about die-hard cat lovers is pretty much true: They may be crazy, but they also totally mean it. “People assume cats will be funny,” says Ooga Booga founder Wendy Yao, a partner in the space. “It is casual and inclusive, and gives artists a chance to do something not quite as monumental.”