American Design Hot List 2018
New York, smstwrt.com
Sam Stewart first gained attention in the design world creating furniture for the hip New York eatery Dimes, and he’s developed a minor cult following since. 2018 was his breakout year, with a solo show at Fort Gansevoort, a booth at Collective, lights for Michael Bargo, and maybe the coolest couch we’ve ever seen (designed for Laila Gohar and Omar Sosa of Apartamento, below).
What is American design to you, and what excites you about it?
My approach and the context that I work within is very localized to New York City. Sometimes I find it difficult to imagine belonging to a broader context. I don’t think this is uncommon in today’s landscape. Realizing my work on a consistent basis is expensive and logistically difficult. It’s imperative to have a hyper-focused specificity to what I do; it just isn’t practical to be more expansive. This type of approach is exciting because it offers insight into the idiosyncrasy of the individual mind, whose intimacy is more relatable to me than the collective or group.
It’s honestly a bit difficult for me to consider American design outside of the context of New York City. This is because the world of design is a relatively new context for my work. Up until the last year, the community that had been most supportive of what I do — both professionally and socially — was artists. However, there’s a longstanding tradition of overlap between the world of art and design in America, especially for those who outsource their work to expert fabricators, that I find really exciting. There’s a seemingly endless array of craftspeople here who can make almost anything that you can imagine. Often the first person I meet is be the right fit for the job, but people tend to be pretty open about referring someone who might. I’ve learned so much from these relationships and dialogues with the people who make things. It’s invaluable. And I’m sure this is true in other cities; however, I feel like NYC is a particularly exciting for this.
What are your plans and highlights for the upcoming year?
There are a couple of shows that I’ll be making new work for that I’m excited about. One is “Blow Up,” a group show at Friedman Benda that opens tonight. It’s curated by PIN-UP magazine founder and editor Felix Burrichter, where “the exhibition will take the miniaturized domestic ideal of the dollhouse and blow it back up to full size.” I’m making a small breakfast table for the ‘Kitchen’ in the dollhouse. It’s a kind of bent pill-shaped form, veneered in a high-gloss walnut burl, and heavily dressed around the sides in patterned fabric, with an embroidered lace tablecloth, and faux mother-of-pearl beads. The other is a solo show in June at MEGA gallery in Milan, Italy. It will include new sculpture, video, and audio work. It will touch on subjects such as memory, the automobile interior, and design for the purposes of deception. Lastly, I’m still working on two long-term, and continuously evolving, private home interior commissions that will extend well into the upcoming year.
What inspires or informs your work in general?
I still find my eye drawn towards the often overlooked, mundane elements of the city’s infrastructure. For example, the common street vent or standpipe extending from the exterior walls or rooftops of buildings. These shapes strongly informed a few lighting designs from the past year. On the other hand, my interest has grown in a more conceptual direction — specifically by adopting some of the principles of Gaston Bachelard’s, The Poetics of Space, and looking at design as something that elicits an emotional response, that design can be something more human and essential than merely the linear advancement of practical and useful things.