What inspired your Wearing series? “There are two points: The reference point and the real point. In many ways Wearing tried to blend the two together in that the arrangements could reference handwork, interior design, and decoration, while the real points of physical balance, weight, and the usable form activated the situation. An example of the process would be taking a counter top, or a surface found in the home, then ‘dressing’ it with objects.”

Ian McDonald, Artist and Ceramicist

To understand what it was like for Ian McDonald growing up in California’s Laguna Beach, it helps to refer back to one of the greatest television dramas of all time. Not, mind you, MTV’s reality show of the same name, but the heart-wrenching high-school football epic Friday Night Lights — McDonald’s hometown being pretty much the diametrical opposite of Dillon, Texas. “Laguna was founded as an artists’ colony,” he says. “Our school mascot, The Artist, ran around with a brush and palette and a beret. Even the football stars took art classes.” In fact, one of McDonald’s earliest run-ins with the medium that would eventually become his life’s work happened when his own sports-star brothers brought their ceramics projects home from school, where their art teacher was a local studio potter.
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Hilda Hellström, Swedish Sculptor and Designer

In any designer’s career, there are hundreds of split-second decisions that conspire to create the precise conditions under which good work can emerge. For the Swedish-born, London-based designer Hilda Hellström, it came down to this one: When she was asked to create a project for this year’s Royal College of Art exhibition at the Milan Furniture Fair, she says with a laugh, “the wood workshop was quite busy, but the resin workshop was nice and quiet.” Of course, there’s more to the recent grad's breakout Sedimentation vases than that; Hellström is obsessed with the idea of imbuing her objects with a myth and narrative of their own. But in many ways the vessels — which are made from layers of pigmented Jesmonite, a non-toxic acrylic-based plaster often used in ceilings and restoration work — are a reaction against something else. “My father was a carpenter, so I was used to working with wood, and I was bored of how you have to consider that it’s a living material,” she says. “Wood tells you what to make, but working with a moldable material like Jesmonite is almost like playing God.”
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Kent Fonn Skåre, Artist and Graphic Designer

Being that he's still a student at Konstfack in Stockholm, you've probably never heard of Norwegian artist and graphic designer Kent Fonn Skåre. But his work, even at first glance, is ridiculously easy to love: It's got a heavy focus on materials, lots of marble, and a whiff of Memphis — yes, the three "M"s, the golden trifecta of the current avant-garde, or at least the little corner of it that we're obsessed with, which also includes folks like Clemence Seilles and Jens Praet. We discovered Fonn Skåre via a fleeting image on Pinterest, but found surprisingly little information on him and the ideas behind his work, so we did what we do best, harassing the poor man until we were able to tease out a bit of insight into his practice. Check out the interview and accompanying photos here, then bookmark Fonn Skåre's Flickr feed to browse more of his graphic design work and follow his future projects.
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Inspiration behind your Apollo light: “My dad had been given an old Poul Henningsen Artichoke Light by some Danish friends,” says Grasby. “It was in pieces when it arrived, so he gave it to us to fix. It was really complicated to put back together. We are interested in trying to simplify systems for use.”

International, furniture designers

Brian Eno is playing, green tea is brewing, and there are half-finished projects and prototypes stacked up ’round the place. I could be in any East London live-work space. But as I talk more to my hosts — Marc Bell and Robin Grasby of the emerging London design firm International — I realize there’s something simple that sets these two Northumbria grads apart from the thousands of hip creatives populating this corner of the city. They started the studio a year or so back, with the intention of doing something a little out of fashion in the design world: “Our approach is quite commercial,” admits Grasby. “We are looking to create a mass-produced product.” Yes, he’s used the c-word — and it wasn’t crafted. By opting for production, rather than taking advantage of London’s buoyant collectors’ market, the two are aware they’re taking a tougher route. Bell puts it plainly: “Rather than shapes we enjoy making or colors we like, our designs really are function-led.” Their work always seems to boil down to intended use, and at this stage they aren’t interested in seeing their pieces in galleries. But while there have only been a handful of designs released to date, International have been getting the right kind of attention.
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Okuda's Shaped Bookends are now for sale in the Sight Unseen Shop! Follow this link to buy a pair or two!

Shin Okuda (an excerpt from Paper View)

Today, we introduced a selection of housewares to the Sight Unseen Shop, including Shin Okuda's whimsical plywood and steel Shaped Bookends. We thought this was the perfect opportunity to introduce you to the Los Angeles designer's inspirations and work, which we originally showcased in Paper View, Sight Unseen's first-ever printed edition. Though the book has a limited run, copies are still for sale in our online shop. Get yours here before it's too late, and read on to find out more about one of our favorite up and coming designers.
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What inspired your Digital Permutations series? “The word ‘permutation’ is derived from mathematical theory and it means ‘to rearrange objects or values.’ I call them permutations because they aren’t paintings, but they aren’t really collages either. The inspiration for each piece comes from a range of different sources: the hypnogogic sleep phase, sci-fi movies, surfing the web, Donald Duck comic strips, clouds, bacteria, fungi, water, rocks, and crystals.”

Andreas Ervik, graphics artist

When asked if the mountainous landscape of his native Norway influences his art, 24-year-old graphics artist Andreas Ervik suggests it’s actually the opposite: Growing up in Aalesund, a small city of about 40,000 inhabitants, he says, Norway’s cold, dark climate is what kept him indoors playing on his computer, surfing the net, and perfecting his craft — a mix of distorted prints and digital collages in which geological representations form an overarching motif. In fact, the internet has played such an integral role in the development of his aesthetic that Ervik admits he’s developed carpal tunnel syndrome in his wrists. Like a true millennial, he says, “I feel like I’m always connected. If not with hands to keyboard or touchscreen, I’m there online in spirit.”
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What inspired your Primarily / Primary series (pictured)? “The full name is actually Primarily / Primary (after Carol Bove, Scott Burton and Sol Le Witt), three artists we were obsessing about during that time that seem present in this project in a very literal way. The Seattle textile artist Ashley Helvey helped us with amazing wool felts for the chairs, and her work definitely inspired us, too.”

ROLU, Designers

Before Matt Olson and Mike Brady of the Minneapolis studio ROLU began making boxy plywood furniture in 2010 — earning them serious contemporary design cred and a reputation for channeling Donald Judd — they spent seven years designing landscapes, minimalist geometric compositions in steel, wood, concrete, and grass. It was those projects, says Olson, that have helped define the group’s work since, from their love for earthy materials to their awareness of design’s larger experiential qualities. “A landscape is a dynamic thing,” Olson explains. “It has smells, it grows and dies and changes. That taught me to pay attention to what’s really happening with an object; the chair as a visual and functional thing is only the start.” In ROLU’s case, chairs can also interact with users, reference sculptures and performance art and drawings, or become performances themselves, often by way of little more than a few planes of OSB.
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What is your next project? After making 26 new pieces in the span of a month for the show at Volume, opening tomorrow, Wolfe deserves a break: “Cleaning my apartment," he says.

Thaddeus Wolfe, Glass Artist

When asked if he identifies more as an artist or a designer, Thaddeus Wolfe seems genuinely stumped. But perhaps it’s that way for anyone working with glass, a material that’s notoriously hard to confine: “I don’t think I’m a great designer,” he muses. “Maybe it’s because I’m not a master of glass yet that I never quite get what I intend. But sometimes cool things happen from mistakes.” It’s a pretty self-deprecating summation of process coming from someone whose chaotic, mysteriously opaque Assemblage vases for MatterMade are the subject of a solo exhibition opening tomorrow at Chicago’s Volume Gallery, which has in the year and a half since it opened become somewhat of a barometer for the Next Big Thing.
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Favorite material to work with: In the beginning of her career as designer, Meijer worked mainly with ceramics. “It’s incredible that by mixing clay and water you can make amazing shapes. It’s like making something out of nothing. But you need precision and patience for it.”

A Drawn Interview with Mieke Meijer

If you read Sight Unseen often enough, you know that we're supporters of all things creative, collaborative, and multidisciplinary. Matylda Krzykowski may be known for her curating talents (which we've featured here once or twice before), but she's also a designer and a blogger — in other words, she's someone who gets as few hours of sleep each week as we do. Being such a like-minded individual, we invited Krzykowski to contribute a guest post for Sight Unseen in a format similar to the one she employs on her own site, Mat and Me: Interviews that invite personalities from the design world to respond to questions with small, charming pencil drawings rather than mere spoken words. She in turn posed the challenge to Mieke Meijer, an Eindhoven-based product designer who recently contributed to the first in a series of projects at the new Depot Basel space, an open-ended design workshop in an old Swiss grain silo for which Krzykowski sits on the curation board. We'd been following Meijer's work ourselves ever since we spotted her Gravel Plant project in Milan last year, which channels the geometries of industrial buildings into a system of storage modules whose functions are as myriad as their randomized profiles. Posted here is a selection of the drawings she submitted, plus photos that Krzykowski shot while visiting her studio last month.
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Ravenhill also cites the work of midcentury designers like Jean Prouvé, Charles and Ray Eames, and Friso Kramer: "They had such an amazing sensitivity about how things are made," he says. Ravenhill's Cord Lamp, shown above, improved upon the original wooden iteration while also reinterpreting Prouve’s classic Swing Jib design for a modern, cost-conscious consumer. "It has a simple construction, where the cloth-covered cord acts as both the power source and the tension element that holds the arm straight and prevents it from swinging too freely," Ravenhill says.

Brendan Ravenhill, Furniture and Product Designer

Believe it or not, Los Angeles–based designer Brendan Ravenhill owes the success of his Cord Lamp, at least in part, to Etsy. It’s not that the designer spends his days hawking the spare, Prouvé-inspired insta-classic on the online crafters’ marketplace. But a few years ago, Ravenhill was coerced by his wife to participate in something she’d created on the site called Mail Order Pals. “It was basically a penpal for purchase," Ravenhill told me when I visited his Echo Park home and studio earlier this summer. "People could buy you in order to receive a letter or a surprise package in the mail.” After someone “bought” Ravenhill, he went to the hardware store and whipped up an elegantly simple wooden swing-arm lamp in one night. Upon seeing his creation, the designer’s wife convinced him it was just too nice to send. The penpal ended up getting a wire sculpture of a penguin, and the couple began living with the lamp. In the months that followed, Ravenhill became obsessed with the design, refining and tweaking it in his head to the point that by the time he was approached to create a piece to show with the American Design Club at a trade fair in New York, he was able to fashion a prototype in just one week. The final lamp — composed primarily of porcelain, cast aluminum, a cloth cord, and a bare bulb — packs and ships flat and sells for less than $200 at places like The Future Perfect, cementing the young designer’s status as a rising talent to watch.
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The RCA’s Platform 14 Graduate Projects

There’s a funny ritual that goes on at the start of each year in the Design Products program at London’s Royal College of Art. The masters program is split into five separate units, or “platforms,” and the professors helming each — which at last count included Sebastian Wrong, Doshi Levien, and curator Daniel Charny — are charged with convincing new students to turn away from the others to join their course. Mostly they rely on written manifestos describing the aims and ideals of their particular curriculum, like enacting social change or loosening the boundaries of the discipline, but there are also more nuanced incentives, like we will hire Jasper Morrison’s photographer to take extremely clever shots of your final projects, a move recently employed by Platform 14 leaders André Klauser and Ben Wilson. Granted, when they called in camerasmith Nicola Tree to shoot the images you see here — which are a Sight Unseen exclusive — it was meant more to teach their six graduating students that documenting work is a key part of the design process, especially in a course aimed at fostering entrepreneurship.
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What inspired your Totems? “For our premiere collection we decided to propose ‘totems for living’ — they’re intended as monolithic objects that dominate the habitat, yet remain entirely functional.”

Oeuffice, Furniture Designers

Had Jakub Zak and Nicolas Bellavance-Lecompte met and not formed a partnership, it might have seemed almost sacrilegious, a kind of fuck-you to the gods of fate. After simultaneously studying design in their native Canada, and then again at the very same university in Berlin together, the pair only became aware of one another's existence once they'd both moved to Milan to start their professional lives — Lecompte as a roving member of the Montreal-based Samare studio and Zak as a designer for Patricia Urquiola. As if the shared condition of being the only two Canadians they knew who were actively working in the Milanese design scene weren't enough, they happened to meet at the precise moment in each of their careers where they were yearning to try something independent, experimental, and new. Samare was three years old and growing quite successful, but its physical manifestation was way across the Atlantic, and it maintained a relatively narrow focus on Canadian crafts and heritage; Zak was — and still is — working full time for Urquiola, "which is pretty demanding," he says. "You reach a stage where you want to start doing projects of your own. Oeuffice is a research-minded collaboration where Nicolas and I can play with new techniques and materials in ways we might not have the opportunity to otherwise."
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