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Objects USA on YHBHS

Sighted on the interiors and art blog You Have Been Here Sometime, a chat with the three collectors behind Objects USA, an L.A.-based online and pop-up gallery dedicated to mid-century California design and crafts (and San Diego in particular). Ron Kerner, Steve Aldana, and Dave Hampton banded together to start Objects USA in 2005, after discovering they were all pretty much after the same stuff, and they've since expanded their repertoire to include hosting bi-annual "Mod Swap" trading events for other collectors. But though they were fortunate enough to find each other, they're aware that not everyone shares their taste: "Most people have gotten used to basic mid-century modern, and that's certainly where we all started," they write in the interview. "But for someone with visions of Pierre Koenig-style antiseptic interiors dancing in their head, our crazy hippie-modern fiber-art and funk movement meltdowns can seem unsettling." We think you'll like it just fine, which is why we’ve excerpted part of the interview here, where each partner tells the story behind his favorite object from his own collection, like these hand-carved wooden speakers from 1972.
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A collection of Artecnica's TranSglass vessels.

Tahmineh Javanbahkt, Creative Director at Artecnica

For a company that’s become known over the past decade for its ethically responsible products and its work with indigenous artisan communities, it’s surprising to learn that Artecnica’s first product was made from a relatively noxious material like resin. A small, egg-like alarm whose ovoid shape magnified its face, the Dada clock was designed by Tahmineh Javanbahkt, who co-founded the company in 1987 with her husband, the architect Enrico Bressan. “In the beginning, we started out doing mostly architecture,” Javanbahkt told me one day earlier this winter when I visited her home in Los Angeles. “We did Gianni Versace’s office and store; we would do set design for companies like Sebastian. In some of the buildings, we would do panels or dividers in resin, and eventually we made the Dada clock, which is what successfully started us in product design. But now we make it in glass!"
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Patrizia Moroso, Design Producer, and Anna Galtarossa, Artist

It gyrates, it whirs, and it's every bit the mechanically-powered spectacle of a department-store Christmas Village: Italian furniture brand Moroso's New York showroom has been transformed into a jolly urban landscape of brightly colored kinetic skyscrapers, an immersive installation created by the young Italian artist Anna Galtarossa. Woven amongst the shop's Tord Boontje lounge chairs and Front sofas, Galtarossa's fabric buildings were commissioned by company founder Patrizia Moroso as part of a newly launched grant project called the Moroso Award for Contemporary Art. Curated in partnership with the Civic Gallery of Contemporary Art in Monfalcone — along with a guest panel of design-industry talents like Tobias Rehberger, David Adjaye, and Patricia Urquiola — the award will fund not only Galtarossa's New York project but planned installations by additional 2011 recipients Martino Gamper and Christian Frosi. But even more, it serves Moroso's own effort to expand her support to art, a creative discipline that has lost crucial government funding in recent years, by highlighting its potential to impact the practice of design. We recently spoke with both Moroso and Galtarossa about the ways art and design can influence one another, and how Galtarossa's Skyscraper Nursery embodies those ideas.
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Another friend of Thomas’s, Kevin Beer, created this assemblage of found Italian pipes in briarwood. “He’s like an artist/picker/interior decorator, and he does a lot of collections of things like this. For years he’s been doing weird little bell jar dioramas, like dolls with birds heads. He’ll take things he found and sell them as they are, or he’ll do something like this, where he puts it on a wire armature. I like the texture, it looks like faux bois,” Thomas laughs.

Brooks Hudson Thomas of Specific Merchandise

I’d known about the Los Angeles design shop Specific Merchandise for nearly a year before I figured out that its name was a play on the idea of the general store. “I wanted to have a huge range of things, but when I started thinking about it, I liked the idea of flipping that and being specific rather than general,” says Brooks Hudson Thomas, the former Blackman Cruz manager who set out his own shingle at the beginning of last year on a stretch of Beverly Boulevard that includes Lawson-Fenning, L.A. Eyeworks, and the former digs of TenOverSix. “One model I had in mind was a museum shop, but sort of trying to kick its ass. The other was stores like Moss, Matter, and The Future Perfect, which also have that blurry store/gallery vibe.”
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The jewelry’s intricacy stems from Tanudiredja’s aesthetic preoccupation with volume: “I don’t like just normal flat designs — I like the three-dimensional,” he says. “I look at what materials would go nicely together, and how we can build it up so it’s standing. That’s the way I work: I usually look at the material first. It’s the same with clothing. I look at the fabric first.”

Heaven Tanudiredja, Jewelry Designer

Heaven Tanudiredja didn’t have a chance to tidy up the day I visited his Antwerp studio in early February, leaving his desk a maelstrom of beads, tools, and findings, punctuated by the odd Marlboro package. “Cigarettes and Red Bull — this is the real me,” he joked, apologizing for the mess. But to the uninitiated visitor, of course, it was a fascinating sight, a glimpse at the primordial soup that would soon be transformed into Tanudiredja’s ever-more-elaborate fall jewelry collection, which he’ll show this week in Paris. Because everything is made by hand in the studio, his desk is actually a production hub; with his line Heaven now in its ninth season, and his elaborate bead-encrusted necklaces selling for $5,000 at the likes of Barneys New York, Tanudiredja and his three-person team are responsible for churning out upwards of 300 pieces every six months, each of which takes 48 hours of exacting beadwork to construct. Hence the stimulants — not to mention the thick-rimmed glasses he has to wear while working as a consequence of his failing eyesight.
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One of 10 knitting machines at the Eindhoven factory where Emily Hermans designs and produces custom textiles for her clothing line, MLY.

MLY by Emily Hermans

When Emily Hermans started her own clothing line in 2004, she did something kind of genius: She found a local knitwear factory in Eindhoven that would let her produce her own textile designs on its knitting machines, and then slowly convinced its owner to take her on as a partner. He would get equity in her line — MLY — and she could crank out prints to her heart’s content without paying a premium. There was only one catch.
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Wiseman is obsessed with abstracting the language of nature, and much of his work springs from a series of drawings he began developing six or seven years ago in which he would obsessively sketch idealized natural environments. “In the background would be these crystallized mountains, which eventually became the basis for my faceted vases, and in the foreground would be strange little animals interacting with objects,” he says. The moss drawings decorating the above vase stemmed from that series. “I drew a whole page of them, scanned them, and printed them onto ceramic decal paper. I individually compose patterns on each vase based on how I think the moss might grow. The ink has glass silica in it, which means it can be fired into the clay itself. It’s a really common industrial process for applying things like flowers and text to cups, but I like to twist those processes to make something that feels in a way more handmade.”

David Wiseman, Designer

For a designer whose most high-profile interiors client is Christian Dior, David Wiseman has none of the flamboyance you might expect — neither the stylized degeneracy of John Galliano nor the leather chaps–wearing showmanship of Peter Marino, the architect who in the past year-and-a-half has hired Wiseman to create massive, site-specific installations in his newly renovated Dior flagships from Shanghai to New York. Rather, Wiseman is a 29-year-old RISD grad whose studio is located in a former sweatshop in the industrial Glassell Park area of Los Angeles, just behind an unmarked door in the shadow of a taco truck.
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John Currin’s Studio in Art+Auction

John Currin's New York studio, as we'd imagined it, could have gone either way: Classical and lush, befitting a painter who got famous in the '90s portraying himself as a new Old Master while his contemporaries were overdosing on conceptualism, or strange and wild, bursting with the eclectic ephemera Currin references in his portraits, from vintage porn mags to movie clips to historical tomes. When we spotted an article posted on ARTINFO — which originally ran in Art+Auction magazine — promising a look into this very realm, we were surprised to see something that didn't particularly fit either mold. Perhaps it's the fact that, as the article mentions, he'd just moved in and redone the floors, or perhaps he tidied things up for the cameras. But aside from some odd-looking mannequins and a table piled with paint tubes, Currin's working space didn't look much like a working space at all. Luckily, writer Daniel Kunitz was able to paint a lovely, erm, picture of what it's like to be Currin — from his everyday anxieties to his video game habits to the music he listens to when he's feeling creative. Read the first half of the article here, then follow the jump to the ARTINFO site to learn more about Currin's artistic process.
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Gruzis in his studio, in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. He bikes there from his apartment in nearby Carroll Gardens six days a week. “I made art all the time as a kid,” he says. “I was an only child, so I just shut out the world and hung out in my own space — which I still do today, all day every day. I never really planned on being an artist, but I couldn’t really think of anything else I wanted to do, and I don’t like working for other people.” The two paintings in the foreground typify his aesthetic, which is inspired by the likes of Memphis, Saved by the Bell, and Patrick Nagel. The one on the left is actually part of a series painted over digital prints of cheesy beach tees he bought in Florida.

Evan Gruzis, Artist

Evan Gruzis explored altered states of awareness a few years back, and while he was wigging out, managed to scrawl down such revelatory thoughts as “there once was a movie, it was amazing”; “welcome to the temple of showers, please take a shower in one of our many showers”; and “no bother, it’s just the remix.” Having rediscovered the notes recently, he turned them into a series of works on paper by scanning and enlarging them, cutting out the individual letters, then sweeping over the cutouts with the flat, ’80s-style gradient that forms the background for many of his works, including semi-photorealistic still lifes and geometric abstractions inspired by Saved by the Bell and Memphis. Rather than using an airbrush — “blasphemy!” according to the 31-year-old artist — Gruzis builds up the gradients in meticulous layers of India ink, spreading upwards of 20 separate washes across wet paper with soft squirrel-hair paintbrushes until the effect is practically flawless. “It’s about taking a moment that isn’t even remembered and turning it into this layered, highly crafted, highly rendered thing,” he explains of the acid notes, the kind of process that keeps him locked away in his studio six days a week. “It’s about taking meaninglessness and glorifying it. That’s another way of putting what I do: Making absurdity seductive, and making the seductive vapid, so you get caught in this feedback loop.”
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Myself: “I am constantly gathering inspiration from my personal universe and experiences,” says Abbade. Case in point: her website, where Abbade hosts a series of self-portraits done in Photoshop, needlepoint, pencil, and the like, as well as a styling library where she often appears half-naked in neon pink bikini bottoms along with one other key piece. “At one point, I decided to catalog everything I own,” she says. “As a stylist you get a lot for free, but also when you have a specific style, people are always giving you thimgs. I was going to shoot one piece at a time, but I started with the stuff on my floor and never made to the drawers or the closet!”

Renata Abbade, designer and stylist

A lot of designers call themselves multidisciplinary, but they’ve got nothing on Renata Abbade. A former stylist for magazines like Purple and fashion brands like VPL, the São Paulo–born, Los Angeles–based designer has spent the better part of the last decade involved in a wonderfully weird array of activities: creating a cult jewelry line in ceramics, dancing on stage at Lollapalooza with the Brazilian band CSS, starring in a series of self-produced dance and workout videos (including one for CSS, in which she wore masks depicting each of the band members’ faces), designing terrariums, landscapes, rugs, tapestries, and fabrics, DJing down in Brazil, and performing with a semi-fictitious band called High Waisted. She refers to herself both as a freestylist and a fashion artist, but in truth, what she’s often creating amounts to something more like performance art, where she is the subject, channeling personal interests and experiences into new and different media. “To me, it feels like I’m only doing one thing, even if I’m involved in a lot of different things,” says Abbade. “Like with the terrariums, it’s basically styling with plants instead of clothes, and land instead of people.”
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"The table, with its cushioned surface on which everything rests softly, is an image of future. It is supposed to create a feeling of lightness, meditation, curiosity, and have an expression of self-confidence. Squeezed in between past and future is now, symbolized in the lamp fixture that rests on the thin glass bulbs, either on the floor or against the wall. What is now is frail and vulnerable. The past must be accepted, although there is a measure of potential change in the future."

The Matter of Things, by Beckmans College of Design Students

Attend an event like the Stockholm Furniture Fair, which is packed with designs by fresh-faced students and recent graduates, and you're bound to see furniture so conceptual it borders on fine art (if not naiveté or cliché). That's because students at some of the best design schools around the world are taught not just how to make things, but also how to think creatively and develop narratives — Stockholm's Beckmans College of Design among them. Thirteen members of its current graduating class exhibited together at the city's furniture fair this week, and rather than developing a suite of beautifully variegated chairs like a neighboring booth from the Lund Institute of Technology, they did some serious and deliberate navel-gazing in an attempt to develop furniture capable of manipulating its own emotional connection with users. Called "The Matter of Things," the project asked each of its participants to choose an abstract problem to solve — like bonding, treasuring memories, or making physical contact — and embody it in a not-quite-as-abstract form. Not all of the results are particularly life-changing, but they do demonstrate the kind of thought processes that eventually lead to greatness.
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What inspired your Carpetry Sideboard? "I had been obsessed with Persian rugs and the relationship the West has with them — here they’re often used in stately homes and palaces. I decided to create my own homage to this, and I made a carpet that appears to be quite Persian from a distance, but on closer inspection you see it has very British details woven in, such as the Tudor rose and the Crown Jewels. I also wanted to use traditional British manufacturing techniques, so when weaving the carpet, we used a Wilton loom, which is very rare these days. From there, the idea was to transform the carpet into a piece of furniture rather than a floor covering, so I developed it into a sideboard; when it's closed it’s almost like a floating carpet, and when it’s open, the pattern literally comes alive. It’s one of my favorite pieces."

Lee Broom, Furniture and Interior Designer

Growing up in Birmingham, England, Lee Broom had dreams of becoming an actor. So it doesn't come as a shock to learn that his first proper job was in the office of Vivienne Westwood, the dramatic doyenne of women’s fashion. What’s surprising is how he got there — at age 17, no less: “I was in theater school at the time, and I was into design as a hobby,” explains Broom. “Somehow I decided to enter a fashion design competition judged by Vivienne Westwood, and I won. At the event, I asked Vivienne for her autograph; she wrote her phone number instead and asked if I wanted to spend a couple of days at her studio. I hopped on a train to London and literally spent two days, just Vivienne and myself in her office, while she talked me through her work. I showed her a portfolio of around 100 outfits I had designed, and she said I could stay on as an intern. I ended up being there for seven months.” Broom’s career since then — though wildly divergent from both of those original paths — has been full of moments like these, where by some alchemic mixture of doggedness, talent, and sheer pluck, he has managed to end up in the exact right place at the right time, sending his career spinning into another unplanned yet deeply satisfying trajectory.
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Design object you wish you'd made: “The typical Anglepoise lamp. Actually we prefer the rip-offs rather than the original one, which is probably a shame, but that’s why we wish we’d made it. It’s a real icon of a lamp and found in any color on nearly any desk. It’s technically nearly perfect, and at the same time, mechanically quite simple.” Pictured: Mischer Traxler’s new Relumine lamps, for which they retrofit two vintage lights with modern fittings, then connect them with a fluorescent tube bulb inside a glass casing.

Mischer Traxler, Designers

As a high school student in Vienna, Thomas Traxler followed a course of study fairly typical for Austrian teens. Having had the choice to either study liberal arts — as his future partner Katharina Mischer was doing — or to specialize, he chose to immerse himself in the world of automation techniques. Typical school projects included constructing a kind of assembly-line handling system to transfer goods from one conveyor belt to the other. “It prepares you to work in an engineering office constructing machines that eliminate the need for people,” Traxler, now 29, explains. “It wasn’t creative at all; you had to make things the cheapest, fastest, most durable, and easiest way. After the third year, I knew I didn’t want to continue.” When he ended up at design school as an undergrad, where he met Mischer, the pair were pretty much coming from opposite worlds: She was interested in art, nature, and the unexpected, and he was still learning how to reconcile those things with his inclination for the mechanical. So in a way, their collaboration was both perfect and inevitable. “In technical school you’re trained as a technical idiot — you’re not meant to think out of the box,” he says. “So it’s important to have the perspective of someone who’s not in the box.”
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