What are your three favorite pieces of his, and why? "He has several sculptures called Diamond Columns from the 1970s that are all amazing and are my biggest inspirations. I think they're the most inspiring in how they emphasize form devolving into color and our perception of it. When you see a photo of them you don't see a shape, you see color, light — the ephemera. The shape is unimportant, to me; it's all about the color and how it disappears."

Andrew O. Hughes on DeWain Valentine

Our first-ever From the Archives post, which looked back at William Sklaroff's mid-century desk accessory set Radius One, dates back to November 10, 2009 — the very first day of Sight Unseen's existence. But after that, the column pretty much petered out, partly because we didn't have the time to research it properly and partly because, with millions upon millions of wonderful old things to potentially highlight, how could we ever choose just one? We've officially solved that problem today with the launch of our new and improved From the Archives series, in which designers and artists will do all the work for us: Each edition will invite a talent we admire to give a little history lesson on someone from the past who's had a strong impact on their work. Our first subject is Brooklyn glassmaker Andrew O. Hughes, speaking about the California Light and Space sculptor DeWain Valentine (no holiday-themed pun intended).
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Vitsoe’s Tumblr

If you have a particularly sprawling design-book library, or if you religiously follow things like Mondo Blogo or Herman Miller editorial director Sam Grawe's Instagram feed, you may be relatively familiar with the heaps of amazingly designed archival ephemera that original modern furniture brands tend to generate over the decades. But the rest of us still get giddy when we come upon a gem like Vitsoe's brand-new Tumblr, which the 53-year-old German stalwart launched last month to show off rarely seen bits and bobs pulled from its company files. Every couple of days, staffers dig up old invitations, promo items, photographs, and catalogs and post them alongside a snippet of information about their origins; with Dieter Rams as Vitsoe's lead designer and Wolfgang Schmidt behind its graphic identity, there's been no shortage of eye candy on the site so far. A few of our favorite examples are shown here, but we advise you to bookmark the site and visit it often — we have a feeling the Vitsoe folks are just getting started, and there's no telling what they might turn up once they really dig in.
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A rack full of Dries van Noten clothing waiting to be registered into MoMu’s digital cataloging system, which keeps track of the nearly 5,000 contemporary and 20,000 historical pieces in the museum’s collection. MoMu was originally based on the contents of a former textile museum in Vrieselhof, Belgium; when Antwerp inherited those items, it decided to parlay them into a fashion museum in 2001. “We retained everything from the old textile museum,” says Wim Mertens, a curator at the museum who specializes in historical dress. “We have floral tapestries which have nothing to do with a fashion museum, but it's an inheritance, and also napkins, tablecloths, bedspreads — you name it in textiles, and we have it.”

Antwerp’s Mode Museum

If Antwerp’s Mode Museum (MoMu) is desperately seeking a second storage space for its growing permanent collection, at least part of the blame falls on Bernard Willhelm. He may donate his designs each season alongside the likes of Dries van Noten, Martin Margiela, and his onetime mentor Walter van Beirendonck, but inside the museum’s existing archive rooms — which Sight Unseen had the exclusive privilege of touring earlier this year — it’s Willhelm who clearly holds the record for overflowing racks. In fact, MoMu’s curation team rarely turns down a donation from a legitimate source, whether for the historical collection it originally inherited from an old provincial textile museum or for its cache of contemporary fashions by talents born or educated in Antwerp, but Willhelm’s contributions are so generous that the day we visited, there were clothes waiting to be graciously returned to his showroom. It’s not difficult to understand the designer’s enthusiasm, though, or that of his peers: The MoMu’s prestige in Europe far exceeds its diminutive size, and since it opened a decade ago, it’s become the largest repository in the world for contemporary Belgian fashion.
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On top of the dryer is the head from the Susquehanna Bank mascot, Buck, back for repairs.

Pierre’s Costumes

So you’ve decided to dress up as a pirate for Halloween. But have you given any thought as to whether you’d like to be a bloody pirate, a pirate captain, a captain’s mate, a cutthroat pirate, a Caribbean pirate maid, a pirate man, a pirate mistress, a pirate maiden, Lady Hook the Pirate Wench, a sea dog, a sea scoundrel, or Will Blackthorn? If you live in Philadelphia, and you’re plagued by these sorts of questions, you're probably already a customer of Pierre’s Costumes in Old City, which has been in its current location near the Wexler Gallery for more than a decade and in the costuming business since 1943, when the Philadelphia Mummers came ringing at this former medical and restaurant uniform-supply shop. But for the uninitiated — like Sight Unseen's editors were when we stumbled into the store quite by accident midway between Halloween and Christmas last year — Pierre’s is something of a revelation: a labyrinthine, two-floor facility housing thousands of rentals, professional mascot costumes, Santa suits, make-up kits, wigs, and accessories, with a workshop in back where seamstresses and tailors work furiously on repairs and custom designs for everyone from Fruit of the Loom to Bam Margera to Toys ‘R’ Us.
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Paul Loebach on American Primitives

Two hundred years ago, when American pioneers were streaming across the country making homes for themselves in the uncharted wilderness, anyone who needed a corn grater or a mouse trap had to knuckle down and make one. “Everyone was a designer,” says Paul Loebach, who’s long been fascinated by such primitive, purpose-built objects, typically hand-carved in wood or crudely forged in metal. “Whereas Europe had a network of goods trading, for the settlers it was like, we’re limited to these five square acres. They had to be really clever to make the most out of what they had, and that kind of ingenuity is inspiring to me.” Already knowing this about the Brooklyn designer after interviewing him last November, Sight Unseen invited him to choose his favorite objects from the 1972 book American Primitives, which we found at an Ohio flea market for $2 and which contains several dozen annotated selections from Norris, Tennessee’s Museum of Appalachia.
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Each typology in the collection — in this case watering cans — is often represented by dozens of examples, some anonymous, some designer: The cans with the longest spouts are by Swiss designer Wilhelm Kienzle.

Inside the Zurich Design Museum Collection

For centuries, Swiss design was synonymous with watches, army knives, sewing machines, and other precision utilitarian objects. Then came the rise of Swiss graphics and typography in the 20th century, when the grids and sans serifs of talents like Josef Müller-Brockmann and Jan Tschichold created a legacy that dominates the tiny country's design reputation even today. But inside the 10,000-square-foot universe of the Museum Für Gestaltung Zurich’s collection archives — behind whose doors normally only curators and students are allowed — every chair, teapot, and cigarette lighter is either a product of or an influence on Switzerland’s industrial design history, which the museum strives to promote through the five to seven temporary exhibitions it produces each year.
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Originator: D&C Flour Co. Date of origin: Regular, 1918; instant, 1945. Notes: Early cookery grouped dumplings and puddings together, probably because both were cooked by steaming. Very early use of the word referred to sausages, as in black pudding or white pudding. Puddings range from Yorkshire pudding, to Sussex, to sweet, heavy puddings like Christmas plum pudding, to the lighter dessert puddings of milk, eggs, thickeners, and flavorings that Americans think of as puddings.

America’s Favorites

Andy Beach had quite a few strange, obscure books from his personal collection for sale at the Apartamento pop-up store in Milan last April. But America's Favorites kept us captivated for hours: A 1980 anthology of junk food that treated each item like some kind of museum specimen, listing its package dimensions, date of origin, ingredients, and backstory — from macaroni and cheese to Cheez Doodles. The best part was that there seemed to be not a trace of irony behind the presentation, a fact I confirmed by painstakingly tracking down and then interviewing its authors, Kay and Marshall Lee. They simply wanted to present food as art, and the 75 choices in the book happened to be Americans' most beloved.
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In a Box by Swatek Romanoff

There are more than 20,000 instances of great graphic design housed in the AIGA’s online archives, but for every Pushpin or Chiat\Day, there’s a Swatek Romanoff — a firm that churned out loads of wonderful work in its ’70s/’80s heyday but that isn’t the subject of much chatter among today’s design circles. When we were first putting together ideas for this site, it was Randall Swatek and David Romanoff’s whimsical 1979 “In a Box” series that inspired this column.
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Radius One desk set by William Sklaroff

When I was 19 and my family was moving out of my childhood home, my best friend and I hosted a joint garage sale. I dragged out all the crap the house had accumulated in the 50 years since my grandparents had built it, and she brought over a car’s worth of items her parents no longer had space for. Rummaging through her things, I rescued a Louis Vuitton bag from the '80s, the classic children's book The Lonely Doll, and an ashtray with rounded corners that spoke to my then-fledgling love for mid-century design. The box it came in said "Radius One."
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