The colors themselves also change as the pieces are fired. “I can now manage to calculate the right temperature for each color, but the patterns and the way the paint flows and drips is always different from what I expect,” Lee says. “But that’s what I enjoy about it.”

Kwangho Lee’s Enamel-Skinned Copper Series

Kwangho Lee fancies himself a simple man. The 29-year-old grew up on a farm in South Korea watching his mother knit clothes and his grandfather make tools with his bare hands, which ultimately became the inspirations behind his work. He values nostalgia and rejects greed, and more like a craftsman than a designer, he prefers sculpting and manipulating ordinary materials to engineering the precise outcome of an object. “I dream of producing my works like a farmer patiently waiting to harvest the rice in autumn after planting the seed in spring,” he muses on his website. It all starts to sound a bit trite, but then you see the outcome: hot-pink shelves knitted from slick PVC tubing, lights suspended inside a mess of electrical wire, towering Impressionist thrones carved from blocks of black sponge. Lee may have old-fashioned ideals, but he designs for the modern world, and that’s the kind of transformative alchemy that draws people to an artist.
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John D’Agostino’s Empire of Glass

On the photography blog Feature Shoot: An interview with artist John D'Agostino, who uses smashed stained-glass Tiffany windows from the 1930s as photographic negatives. D'Agostino's grandfather rescued the shards from the East River when Tiffany's studio was being torn down; the grime crusted on them from being stored away for 75 years now forms a crucial part of his imagery. "The layers of detritus on the surface of the glass have decomposed into wonderful biomorphic forms [that] combine with the layers of color underneath," he says. "This creates a dialogue between past and present."
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Mexico: “With the fruit on the table, this is like a color still life,” says van Eijk. “I’m intrigued by them. The Settings project I did for the Zuiderzee museum was really about setting and still lives. And this was just standing on the street somewhere, not designed at all, like a coincidence. Maybe no one thought about it looking nice. If you really designed it or styled it, it would never look as special as this. Then you almost start thinking, is it good to be a designer? Isn’t it nicer if there are no designers in the world? It’s interesting if you can keep this kind of intuitive thinking in your work, and try not to direct everything, but to let coincidence play a role. It’s really hard to achieve; you have to put a lot of effort into making something effortless.”

Kiki and Joost’s World Travels

When Kiki van Eijk and Joost van Bleiswijk were invited this year to each create a series based on the collections at the Zuiderzee Museum, an art and history center in a former port region in the north of Holland, they got to do what they’re known for doing best: looking backwards to research archetypal objects from the past — in this case old Dutch ironing boards, apothecary pots, and shipping trunks — then reinterpreting them using new shapes and luxe materials. What most people don’t realize, though, is that the couple are equally obsessed with looking outwards, having backpacked their way through far-flung countries together each year since they graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven, photographing intriguing uses of color, pattern, texture, and technique along the way.
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MVM interviews David Shrigley

Sighted on Robot shop's website: Norwegian graphic designer Magnus Voll Mathiassen and Glasgow-based artist David Shrigley have an open-ended discussion about art, illustration, Lou Reed, rulers, and art versus branding. Of the latter, Shrigley says: "I sometimes think of my work as always the same, but then at the same time always different. It's the same aesthetic and maybe the same attitude, but (then) if there wasn't something different in there; if there wasn't some kind of surprise each time, I would probably stop doing it."
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Right now, Daniel Emma is: “At this very moment we’re eating popcorn.  However generally speaking, we’re preparing for the release of our first production collection D.E (pictured), which will be available to retailers from mid-October. This work is a combination of our Solids and Basics collections, and consists of small desk objects and housewares.”

Daniel Emma, Product Designers

Australian wine capital Adelaide has a population of 1.3 million, putting it on par with Dallas or San Diego. But as native Daniel To sees it, it’s a big city with a small-town mentality — one that nearly consigned him and his wife Emma Aiston to a life designing laundry lines. “We met at the University of South Australia, where our design program was heavily engineering based and suited to what’s required for the city's industry,” explains To. “Adelaide has three main manufacturing companies: one making garden sheds, one light switches, and a third clothes-drying lines.” Rather than learning about mid-century modern, Memphis, or the Bauhaus — all of which would later inform their work as the independent studio Daniel Emma — the pair were taught to perfect their technical-drawing skills and gear up to become cogs in the local wheel. Just as they were starting their final projects in 2006, though, they had a kind of mutual awakening.
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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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Spread from Death magazine, Issue #2

Death Magazine, Issue #2

The funny thing about Death magazine — a thrice-yearly publication inviting designers, artists, and writers to use humanity's darkest subject as a creative catalyst — is that it's not really all that morbid. You'd get more depressing stuff asking musicians to write songs about love. While Portland-based graphic designer Forrest Martin was moved to found the magazine last year in part by a deep-seated fear about his eventual demise ("I'm an agnostic worrier raised by a professional hypochondriac," he told a blog at the time), his contributors filter the issue at hand through all kinds of artistic lenses, some of them masterfully subtle. In Death's recently launched second issue, Michael Zavros's lush large-scale charcoal drawings of young male models with their faces scratched out could just as easily be from an artsy spread in a fashion glossy as they could a death threat from a homicidal stalker, while photographer Jason Lazarus's super-saturated color fields, sprinkled with the cremated remains of the late artist Robert Heinecken, on first glance resemble star systems photographed in deep space.
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From left, on an IKO WAKA big dot paper print: Rattan Takraw ball, nabeshiki trivet, vintage pink streamer, glazed dish from Hagi, IKO IKO hand-cast bronze bangle, nabeshiki trivet. “I had been looking for something everyone in Japan used, the kind of thing you’d see on everyone’s table. All the houses we went to had these woven trivets, which are only made in Okinawa. I saw them at department stores, so I don’t think they’re seen as these highly prized craft objects. It’s more that people use them, and they happen to be a cool design. But everyone does recognize that they always come from Okinawa, which is an idea we’ve lost in America. While our objects may be designed here, we always know they’re from another place, which takes away that regional or local feel.”

Kristin Dickson of L.A.’s Iko Iko

Inside Kristin Dickson’s store Iko Iko in L.A.’s Echo Park neighborhood, there are polka dot shirts and wooden knitting needles, zig-zag coathooks and Mexican moccasins, ceramic urns and jars of jam. There are selections from Dickson’s crystal and vintage-book collections — the latter with titles like “On Weaving” or “On Fiberworks” — plus pieces from her boyfriend Shin Okuda’s furniture line Waka Waka. And as of this month, these items were joined by a haul of objects from a three-week trip the couple took to Okuda’s native Japan, where the fare spanned vintage textiles to traditional trivets to novelties like toothpaste and black Q-tips. It’s a credit to the pair’s curating talents that the shop nevertheless feels like the product of a coherent vision. “I focus on work that balances high design with craft and traditional processes,” says Dickson. “I want it to be a fun exploration of textures, cultural artifacts, utilitarian objects, and beautiful curiosities.”
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Once in a while, Uhuru's small custom-designed pieces end up in one of their New York Design Week collection debuts. This ebonized walnut media unit, made from a single slab of wood held together with metal plates, may be a 2011 addition, though the studio is also contemplating a line of outdoor furniture.

Uhuru, Furniture Designers

If you were familiar only with Uhuru’s work, it would be enough to surmise that the Brooklyn-based furniture designers are experts at creating something beautiful from practically nothing. (The formal term for this, we’re told, is up-cycling.) In the half-decade since RISD grads Jason Horvath and Bill Hilgendorf have been designing their own line, they’ve produced chairs from Kentucky bourbon barrels, loungers from the Ipe wood planks of a demolished Coney Island boardwalk, and scrapwood stools so stylish they were recently picked to decorate the café at New York’s SANAA-designed New Museum. But while it's true Uhuru are a resourceful bunch, step into their sprawling Red Hook studio and any assumptions you might have about their bootstraps process all but disappear.
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Two-wheelers: “Once I designed the Copenhagen and it turned out to be popular, Puma asked me to design something for them as well, and then suddenly I had a design career. I followed four principles: One is that all of the parts should be integrated so the bike seems like one object. Another is that it looks iconic. It also needs to be easy to maintain, because you don’t expect to go to the car mechanic every other day, but with a bike that’s what you sometimes end up doing. The last is useability — if you transfer the paradigm of bikes to cars, it would be like having two stick shifts, and we would never accept that. Apart from those ideas, Biomega is run like an Italian furniture company: This is what I believe the world needs, and this is how it’s gonna be.”

Jens Martin Skibsted of Biomega

As the founder and creative director of Biomega, Copenhagen's Jens Martin Skibsted is one of the most respected names in bicycle design. But to hear him tell the story of how he got there, you'd think he'd done everything in his power to avoid that fate. After believing for most of his life that he would grow up to be a poet, he decided to study film in Paris — "writing sci-fi movies about giant ants" — then dropped it altogether and took up philosophy for six years. It was during that time that he took a trip to Barcelona with his girlfriend and was struck by the random conviction that he ought to start a company making city bicycles. "I started drawing bikes, but tried to forget about it because I have so many ideas, and I can’t do everything," recalls Skibsted, who as a child filled notepads with inventions like chopsticks connected at one end, many of which he says exist now. "But this was one idea I couldn't really forget."
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Established & Sons’s Design Against the Clock

Sighted at Gestalten: The Berlin-based book publisher posts a video documenting Established & Sons's Design Against the Clock event at last week's London Design Festival, which invited five teams of designers to spend a day creating works in front of the public. "There's somewhat of a distance that's been created through technology between the actual material and the hand-eye coordination of making things, and that's what I'm keen to experiment with," says E&S co-founder Sebastian Wrong.
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The finished chairs. “In the original project, the chairs were all beaten up, so it was nice to fancy them up. But Richard needs to have something consistent if people want to buy a whole set, so these chairs are brand new. I still have a back stock of vintage ones, though, and if I see a cool folding chair, I’ll buy it.”

Tanya Aguiñiga, Textile and Furniture Designer

Los Angeles designer Tanya Aguiñiga already had two studios when she took up a third this summer: the first in the backyard of the Atwater Village bungalow she shares with her husband and two sisters, and the second six blocks away, in a converted industrial-park-turned-artists’-community near the train tracks. But in early July, Aguiñiga picked up and moved her shop 2,000 miles south to the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, for a five-week residency — the first in a project she calls Artists Helping Artisans. “I had gone to Oaxaca and Chiapas in 2007, and there was so much amazing stuff being produced by the women there,” she says. “People aren’t aware of it because the skills aren’t being passed down anymore and because people are scared to travel within Mexico. There’s isn’t enough tourism or income to sustain these crafts.”
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