American Design Hot List 2014
New York, ianstell.com
Ian Stell fascinated the design world this year with his movable, transformable furniture, which he launched with Matter this spring.
What is American design to you, and what excites you about it?
It seems that the American design community has benefitted from being seen for years as provincial. Although the U.S. has been a significant market for the large European manufacturers, it has with few exceptions been passed over as a source of new ideas for these companies. This comparative isolation has been a gift to emerging American designers in two ways: It has forced us to be scrappily entrepreneurial, and it has also allowed us to develop a distinctive regional voice — a precious rarity amid the homogenizing forces of the global marketplace and culture.
What are your plans and highlights for the upcoming year?
I will be introducing new work using layered, bisecting anamorphic text, which I’ve been experimenting with for a little while. These will take the form of handwoven carpets, ceramic vessels, and furniture. I’m working on kinetic light fixtures, where form and light will be modulated through simple hands-on manipulation, and I’m working on more variations from the Pantograph series. One will be a vanity, with a shifting, fractured mirror plane and functioning drawers that pivot from a rectangle to a parallelogram in plan. I’m also in discussion with a a developer and cultural patron in Berlin about a large-scale installation on a platform in the Spree river.
What inspires your work in general?
Inspiration for me is always a moving/morphing target. Lately I’ve found it fruitful to flit back and forth between different departments at the Metropolitan Museum, maybe focusing on the myriad variations on a particular everyday object — perhaps a chest or a bottle. It’s great the way that museum affords brash and at moments almost comical segues: a hallway behind of the temple of Dendur leads to 19th century American furniture galleries (note the drastic shift in climate control), a doorway at the end of the hall of totems from New Guinea spills into Greek and Roman statuary. I love surfing these breaks of aesthetic turbulence.