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When Is a Hairy Mirror Not Just a Hairy Mirror? Talking Materiality and Minimalism with Ben & Aja Blanc

Wood, bronze, marble, and minerals are some of the raw, elemental materials Providence-based design duo Ben and Aja Blanc use to craft their minimal objects for the home. The couple, who graduated from RISD and were the unexpected darlings of last year's Sight Unseen OFFSITE, have only been collaborating for a little more than a year and a half. But their fledgling partnership has already yielded more than a few instant classics.
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Cuff Studio’s New Collection Explores the Idea of Common Ground

So much of design can be about standing apart from the crowd. But for Cuff Studio, it was commonality that inspired their Offsite collection. For their Common Ground collection Kristi Bender and Wendy Schwartz of the Los Angeles–based studio looked to shared design elements that form not only a foundation within their practice, but in art and design as a whole. What they found was nature, form, shape, negative space, even community.
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From Lava Stone to Hempcrete: The First of Our Offsite Selects Round-Ups

Ever since we began hosting our Sight Unseen Offsite fair, it has always featured both full collection launches as well as a more gallery-like section called Selects, the latter meant to highlight only a piece or two each by a large, diverse group of designers. Now that our physical show has become Offsite Online, we’ve kept the Selects concept in tact, and we’re presenting those individual works in roundups on our main feed over the next three Saturdays. View the first one here.
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The 2019 American Design Hot List, Part III

This week we announced our seventh annual American Design Hot List, Sight Unseen’s annual editorial award for the 20 names to know now in American design. We’re devoting an entire week to interviews with this year’s honorees — get to know the next four Hot List designers here.
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American Design Hot List 2019 Ben Tetro

The 2019 American Design Hot List, Part I

Today we announced our seventh annual American Design Hot List, Sight Unseen’s annual editorial award for the 20 names to know now in American design. We’re devoting an entire week to interviews with the honorees — get to know the first four Hot List designers after the jump.
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American Design Hot List Kelly Wearstler

Kelly Wearstler

Los Angeles, kellywearstler.com Wearstler is known in some circles as the doyenne of American interior design, and truth be told, she could have been named to this list a hundred times over. But a brand new book, a wildly fun new furniture collection, and a series of splashy vintage-meets-modern interiors for the Proper Hotels brand — complete with commissions from young designers like Chris Wolston and Morgan Peck — made this her best year yet.  What is American design to you, and what excites you about it? For me, American design is about having a free spirit and open mind. Curiosity is boundless and with it comes an inspiring sense of anything goes. Trailblazing art exhibits populate our cities, pushing the boundaries of materiality in design and architecture. Technology’s position at the forefront with the continual collaboration in design is also super exciting. I am so keen on the exploration of how we can continually make our lives easier and more efficient. What are your plans and highlights for the upcoming year? I have two new hotel projects — Austin Proper just launched and DTLA Proper will debut in the spring — in addition to many new residential projects, upcoming furniture and lighting collections, and an extensive new fabric and wallcovering collection launching in February. The limited edition of my book Evocative Style will also be debuting in February and I’m working on a few collaborative projects currently under wraps that I am super excited about. What inspires or informs your work in general? Being fearless, taking risks, and following my continual curiosity drives the evolution and refinement of my design aesthetic, philosophy and development. I am inspired by so many incredible artists, art forms, eras in history, textures, patterns, materials… it is truly endless. Working with artists and artisans from all over the world is really inspiring. I learn so much from them, it broadens my horizons and ultimately makes me a better designer. I’m so grateful that I get to spend every single day doing something I absolutely love. Design is the meeting place of all of my passions.
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Ian Felton

New York, ianfeltonstudio.com Ian Felton is one of that rare breed who seem to emerge from design school fully formed and ready to take on the world, so assured and sophisticated was his debut, which launched at Michael Bargo’s gallery this fall (an imprimatur of cool if we’ve ever seen one). In reality, Felton spent more than a year just thinking about and researching his Kosa collection before starting work on it, imbuing each beautiful piece with a clear sense of narrative and history.  What is American design to you, and what excites you about it? I think what’s so exciting about American design is that we’re still such a young/diverse culture comparatively speaking. I hate to be cliché, but there’s such a melting pot of cultures and backgrounds, in New York especially. Albeit, we’re a capitalist economy so creation is driven by need, trend, and demand, but there’s such a vast and supportive market for artists and creatives so the burdens for abiding by the rules or cultural/historic normalcies sort of fall away — and people see the truth behind that. What are your plans and highlights for the upcoming year? I’ll be presenting all new works at an offsite show during Milan Design week with a small new gallery. Hopefully, I’ll be debuting these works with a new materiality I’ve been developing for the past year or so. Other than that, I have a few small interior design projects actually — one residential apartment in Madrid with my partner in crime Valerie Name (an interior designer) and maybe a few other interiors, and obviously developing more new work! What inspires or informs your work in general? This first collection took a lot of reference from Pre-Columbian artifacts, but I think more broadly I’m fascinated with anthropology. I’m quite new ‘to the scene’ I guess you could say but I think I’ll continue to find inspiration in antiquity. As a species, we’ve been so fixated on mass consumption and rapid progression beyond consequence, I think there’s definitely something to be said about looking into the annals of human creation back when we were more connected to environment and storytelling.
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Ben Tetro

Los Angeles, bentetro.com L.A. newcomer Ben Tetro says that his biggest inspiration is making objects by hand out of traditional natural materials, much like the boat builders of his native Maine. But there’s nothing traditional about his inventive organic forms, which appear throughout his kinetic mirrors, wall sculptures, and room dividers — plus a sine-wave table in aluminum and cement. What is American design to you, and what excites you about it? Design is an openness to diversity of all forms — from the materials we source and the design process to the people we connect with along the way. I see a movement, particularly in California, of self-representation and a shift to direct-to-client relationships, and that offers a lot of potential for individual growth. I see this in the prevalence of design galleries and in the push for designers to be truly invested in their craft and to possess the broad knowledge that good design requires. We now have the ability to tap into a community that shares and supports individuality, and this inevitably allows artists and designers to design with purpose. For me, American design is about creating sustainability by way of permanence; I see a rebirth in the passion for materiality and a distancing from the disposable. What are your plans and highlights for the upcoming year? I’m working on a new series in tandem with existing works that combine contrasting materials, allowing for a bit of playful interaction. I’m also collaborating with my partner, the artist Kenesha Sneed, on a limited-edition collection for a New York–based company set to be released this spring. What inspires or informs your work in general? As a problem solver at heart, I’m inspired by research. Learning about materials and how they interact, and finding unique solutions, is part of my process. I grew up in southern Maine and was inspired by being in close proximity to traditional craftspeople. My family included boat builders, fishermen, and a great uncle who spent much of his life hand-carving duck decoys, and this informed my views of what a solid work ethic looked like — and inevitably translates through much of my work today. I’m always interested in the balance between permanence and fragility, connection systems, and how dissimilar materials can live together, balancing one another. Ultimately, I’m inspired by the ideation process, which I find just as transformative as the final form.  
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