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The Sight Unseen Book

The launch of the first-ever Sight Unseen book — debuting in early April with a bash co-hosted by Creatures of Comfort and the Karlsson's Vodka Unfiltered project — is just around the corner. Over the next two weeks, we’re posting sneak peek images and asking our readers to guess who the subject of each photograph might be. Here’s a quote from today’s featured designer: “We both nerd out a lot when it comes to materials. We like finding something new and researching it. For a month we were playing around with shellac. Basically it’s beetle excrement, and when you order it really raw, it comes with beetle parts and bark dust still in it.”
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Peter Shire Studio

The Sight Unseen Book

Here at Sight Unseen, we typically only take a break from our regular programming in order to retreat to someplace warm and sunny, where we can subsist primarily on fish tacos and beer. But for the next two weeks, we'll actually be hunkering down in our New York apartments, spinning out stories for the imminent publication of the first Sight Unseen book, which is set to debut in early April as part of the Unfiltered project by Karlsson's Vodka. We're especially excited to announce that our book launch will coincide with the debut of a Sight Unseen pop-up shop taking place at the New York branch of Creatures of Comfort for the entire month of April. Both the book and the shop will be populated with amazing work both by makers we've already covered for the site, and by those we've always longed to feature. Over the next two weeks, we'll be posting preview images here from some of the book's features, but we're leaving it up to you, our readers, to guess who the subject of each photograph might be.
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DIY Furniture: A Step-By-Step Guide

As lovers of and writers about design, there’s one question we’re constantly asking ourselves: How can we get designers to make us their amazing pieces at cost? But what we nearly always fail to wonder is: Would it actually be possible to make these pieces ourselves?
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In your words, what do you do? [C] "We are trained as architects but have drifted from the profession to become furniture designers with hands deeply in the art world."

Where They Create, by Paul Barbera

Because he’s been doing it since he was 16 — when he used his very first camera to shoot the art studio of a friend’s father — documenting the workspaces of creatives is second nature to Australian photographer Paul Barbera. So much so that he can now identify his own memes: piles of rubbish on a table, trash cans, air conditioners, outdated technology. “How many fax machines have I found that are covered in dust but powered up, just in case I get a fax?” laughs Barbera, whose new book Where They Create and three-year-old website of the same name are full of such telling references.
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Hecht and Colin divide their collected objects into five distinct categories: those that exhibit an unusual degree of Care in their manufacture or materials; existing products that have been Modified slightly in their function; objects that share a down-to-earth, Straightforward simplicity; Situation, for objects that meet the needs of a specific locality; and Duality (shown above) for single objects that share two functions.

Usefulness in Small Things

Yesterday on Sight Unseen, we featured a London design couple whose work seems to flourish under the very weight of their creative differences. Today, we turn our attentions to a London design couple whose outlooks are so similar, and whose work so beautifully streamlined, that it can often be difficult to tell where the mind of one ends and the other begins. We’ve been fans of the work of Industrial Facility’s Kim Colin and Sam Hecht since the very earliest days of our design journalism, but while the book they released earlier this year doesn’t include a single image from that output, it speaks volumes about the way the two begin to design together. Usefulness in Small Things: Items from the Under a Fiver Collection brings together the couple’s collection of mass-produced, locally sourced, everyday objects that Hecht has been amassing for nearly 20 years — cheese knives from Japan, plastering tools from Greece, vomit bags from the UK, wine bottle sponges from France, and the like, all chosen for low cost — under five pounds — and for their ability to tell Hecht when he traveled something about where he was. “Each of the objects I found appealed to me for a specific reason: the ability to address and identify a small and localized need, even when some were hopelessly flawed in their execution,” he writes in the introduction.
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Point Supreme Architects, Athens: "'We generally create collages to illustrate our ideas and physical models to test their application in space,' says partner Konstantinos Pantazis. 'But each project demands work in different techniques and each type of illustration communicates differently. The simultaneous use of collage, model, sketch, painting and render for each of our projects offers the ultimate result.'"

Architects’ Sketchbooks

In the context of the hysteria currently surrounding all things old-fashioned and handmade, it makes a certain sense to mount an examination of architecture's low-tech roots: those hand-rendered sketches and schematics that still tend to quietly precede even the most digitally advanced structures. It's debatable whether the practice as a whole is consciously returning to those roots, as the new book Architects' Sketchbooks argues, but when the architects who find joy in committing their thoughts to paper open their notepads for all to see, the appeal runs deeper than any cultural trend. "For me, the process is often more fascinating than the end result, and at the heart of architecture, which is part of the process of building worlds, lies the language of drawing," writes Narinder Sagoo of Foster + Partners in the book's foreword.
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Your Favorite Mid-Century Furniture Designers, At Home

It’s possible you’ve spent hours foraging flea markets, wondering how a Russel Wright pitcher or an Eames shell chair or a Jens Risom credenza might fit into your home décor. But did you ever stop to wonder how those pieces may have figured into the homes of their own makers? Leslie Williamson, a San Francisco–based photographer, did — and the result is Handcrafted Modern, a new book that offers an intimate glimpse inside the houses of 14 of America’s most beloved mid-century designers.
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Isaac Manevitz of Ben-Amun: Design aficionados should be salivating at this photo. In the relatively unassuming entrance to Manevitz’s New Jersey home sit two very important pieces of furniture — an end table designed by Michele de Lucchi in 1984 and a sofa designed by Peter Shire in 1986, both produced by Memphis, the furniture collective founded in the 1980s by Ettore Sottsass and others. Turns out that Manevitz, the designer of Ben-Amun jewelry, is a collector of Memphis furniture. His other pieces include the totem-like Carlton shelf and the Treetops lamp, both designed by Sottsass, and four chairs by de Lucchi.

American Fashion Designers At Home

There's a certain taboo attached to pop stars who attempt to forge acting careers, and vice versa. Painters aren't normally supposed to take up fashion design, and just because you're a great photographer doesn't mean you'll make a great chef. But here at Sight Unseen, where we attempt to travel to the very heart of creativity, we delight in any and all cross-disciplinary meanderings, which is why our ears perked up when we heard about American Fashion Designers at Home, by Rima Suqi. Even if some of the more than 100 CFDA members featured in the book hired professionals to craft their spaces, the translation of their aesthetics from one genre to the other is an endless source of curiosity.
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Art of McSweeney’s

To an extent, Art of McSweeney’s — an oral history of the San Francisco–based quarterly, from Chronicle Books — is about the quirky illustrations, charts, graphs, and covers that have defined the look of Dave Eggers’s publishing venture for the last twelve years. But even more, it's about the art of book-making, which in this case means reproductions of original sketches; odd detours to visit Arni and Bjössi, the Icelandic printers who produced more than a dozen issues before McSweeney’s moved its printing facilities to Singapore and North America; interviews with authors and artists; charts of printing specs; drawings of pensive clouds; and guides to reviewing unsolicited material.
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Plastic Dreams: Synthetic Visions in Design

There are several somewhat shocking things about Plastic Dreams: Synthetic Visions in Design, the first book out from a new eponymous imprint by ex-Taschen impresarios Charlotte & Peter Fiell. First and most arresting is its bright orange, webbed half-slipcover, designed by the Brazilian shoe company Melissa and infused with that company’s signature scent: It’s somewhere between a piece of tutti-frutti chewing gum and a bottle of Designer Imposters fragrance. Second is the reminder that some plastics aren't wholly synthetic — a fact that’s easily forgotten — but rather the descendants of various amazingly named rubber plants, like Gamboge, Gutta Percha, and Caoutchouc. And third is the realization of just how many products would never have been possible, or would at least have been dramatically altered, without the material’s development: dental plates, curling irons, vinyl LPs, and more.
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Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists’ Enumerations

Lists are one of the strange byproducts of daily life. You hardly ever think about them — until, of course, one of them becomes obsessive enough to turn into a book. But even for the rest of us, a list can reveal much about the habits of its maker — the multitaskers and the romantics, the punctilious and the impulsive among us. In the hands of artists, a list can become a document of the art-making process or even a work of art unto itself. That’s the idea behind this new book by Liza Kirwin, curator of manuscripts at the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art, which counts hundreds of thousands of lists in its collection.
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"At the end of the 1950s, both Marlene Schnelle and Ingeborg Kracht, who later became Dieter Rams wife, worked as photographers at Braun. Photography played a significant part in corporate communications."

Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams

The products featured in Less and More: The Design Ethos of Dieter Rams will be familiar to any Rams disciple, but what struck us most about the book was a section devoted to Braun’s beautifully understated communication design and to that department’s fearless leader, Wolfgang Schmittel. He ran a tight ship — an in-house manual went out to each member of the design team with instructions on how to appropriately and inappropriately market the Braun product line — but as a result, the Braun image “differed greatly from the existing design forms of other manufacturers at the time, due to its clarity."
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