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Kings County Distillery on The Makers Project

On occasion, the editors of Sight Unseen spot a story about creativity told from a viewpoint that’s not unlike our own. In the past year, we’ve noticed that documenting the studio interiors of people who spend their workdays making things has become a bit of a cottage industry on the web; our most recent obsession, Brooklyn-based photographer Jennifer Causey, chronicles the interior spaces of local fashion designers, florists, perfumers, jewelers, and food producers. We’re excerpting here Causey’s feature on Kings County Distillery, a homegrown moonshine producer that’s been run out of an East Williamsburg studio since early last year.
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Lukas and Oskar Peet, Product Designers

There's a reason why one of the first questions we always ask Sight Unseen subjects is "What did your parents do?" In the nearly two years we've been producing this site, it's become apparent that the ideas and habits of ultra-creative people usually germinate in childhood, and that the environments in which they were raised tend to have played a part — whether their formative years resembled those of Kiki van Eijk, whose father competed on the 1976 Dutch Olympic field hockey team but also taught her to paint, or Lauren Kovin, whose parents filled the house with Ettore Sottsass furniture. The more designers and artists in a given family, the more interesting things tend to get, which is why we decided to start this new Related column. In it, we'll periodically ask creative talents who are related to interview one another about their respective practices and what it was like growing up in close proximity. First up are brothers Lukas Peet, 24, and Oskar Peet, 27, up-and-coming designers who were born and raised in the Canadian mountain resort town of Banff, attended the Design Academy Eindhoven together, and whose Dutch-born father Rudi Peet immigrated to Banff in 1974 and has since established himself as a successful jewelry designer there.
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Free City is located at 1139 N Highland Ave, Hollywood, California.

Nina Garduno, Owner of Sweatpants To The Stars Brand Free City

To a certain kind of customer, it makes sense to drop half a grand on a Proenza Schouler necklace made from climbing rope or a hundred bucks on a T-shirt by Comme des Garçons: You’re paying for the craftsmanship of a couture brand and you’re buying the cachet of a label that normally retails for several times those amounts. But what of a sweatshirt — created by someone with no design training, no seasonal runway presentation, and no global retail empire — that sells for $198? That’s the conundrum that faced former Ron Herman buyer Nina Garduno when she started Free City more than a decade ago.
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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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David Lynch’s workshop in The Chronicle #2

It wouldn’t be totally wrongheaded to view The Chronicle — a new biannual publication produced by the cultish Copenhagen ready-to-wear brand Rützou — as a fashion designer’s mood board, come to life. For each issue, the creative team — which consists of Rützou’s designer, founder, and namesake Suzanne; her husband, creative director Peter Bundegaard; and editor-in-chief Frederik Bjerregaard — selects a thematic framework and then collates together visual inspiration to support it. Called “Poetic Realism,” the first issue was abstract and moody, with photographic essays on pattern or urban decay and collages of the magazines’ own diverse inspirations, including Luigi Colani, Matthew Barney, Ernst Haeckel, melancholy, and a Mott Street acupuncturist in New York’s Chinatown. The latest issue, called Sense and Sensibility, more literally serves as a scrapbook for creative inspiration: “Sketches, abstractions in watercolor, visual logbooks, black-and-white imagery, personal portraits, simple doodles, this vast collection is a glimpse into a range of international artists’ creative processes and their final work,” the team writes. By international artists, they mean the likes of Marc Newson, Julie Verhoeven, and David Lynch, who offers a glimpse into his Parisian printmaking lair in the excerpt we’ve reprinted today on Sight Unseen.
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Sister-and-brother team Georgie and Alex Cleary founded Alpha60 in Melbourne in 2005. The label's unofficial tagline is "sophisticated quirk" — the pair likes each piece to have some point of difference, something that sets it apart from the fashion norm. Photo by Annevi Petersson

Alpha60, Clothing Designers

When you're a graphic designer and an aircraft engineer with zero fashion training, and yet you find yourself becoming the go-to clothing line of Melbourne — worn by the likes of Patti Smith, LCD Soundsystem, and Jamie Oliver — you learn to get really good at improvising. And trusting your instincts. So it goes for Alex and Georgie Cleary, the brother-and-sister duo behind Alpha60, who base its designs not on fashion trends but on whatever random pop-culture reference they happen to be into at any given moment.
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Philippe Malouin’s studio on Yatzer.com

On occasion, the editors of Sight Unseen spot a story about creativity told from a viewpoint that’s not unlike our own. This one, posted yesterday on the design blog Yatzer, peeks in on the studio of Québec-born, London-based designer Philippe Malouin. Malouin is known for taking his time with a project — after painstaking research, his recent chainmail-like Yachiyo rug for Beirut’s Carwan Gallery famously took 3,000 hours to produce — and in the article, writer Stefania Vourazeri probes the young designer about his thoughts on permanence as well as the influence of art on his designs. "Production for the sake of production is not that interesting to me,” he explains.
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Hecht and Colin divide their collected objects into five distinct categories: those that exhibit an unusual degree of Care in their manufacture or materials; existing products that have been Modified slightly in their function; objects that share a down-to-earth, Straightforward simplicity; Situation, for objects that meet the needs of a specific locality; and Duality (shown above) for single objects that share two functions.

Usefulness in Small Things

Yesterday on Sight Unseen, we featured a London design couple whose work seems to flourish under the very weight of their creative differences. Today, we turn our attentions to a London design couple whose outlooks are so similar, and whose work so beautifully streamlined, that it can often be difficult to tell where the mind of one ends and the other begins. We’ve been fans of the work of Industrial Facility’s Kim Colin and Sam Hecht since the very earliest days of our design journalism, but while the book they released earlier this year doesn’t include a single image from that output, it speaks volumes about the way the two begin to design together. Usefulness in Small Things: Items from the Under a Fiver Collection brings together the couple’s collection of mass-produced, locally sourced, everyday objects that Hecht has been amassing for nearly 20 years — cheese knives from Japan, plastering tools from Greece, vomit bags from the UK, wine bottle sponges from France, and the like, all chosen for low cost — under five pounds — and for their ability to tell Hecht when he traveled something about where he was. “Each of the objects I found appealed to me for a specific reason: the ability to address and identify a small and localized need, even when some were hopelessly flawed in their execution,” he writes in the introduction.
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Nipa Doshi and Jonathan Levien in their studio, a loft-like space in London’s Shoreditch neighborhood. The couple met in the ’90s as students at the RCA, where they remember being outspokenly critical about one another’s work; more than ten years after founding their own studio in 2000, they still approach design in markedly different ways, and yet the dialogue they’ve since developed is now a crucial part of their process. They balance each other out. (Though, as Doshi admits, “in a way you’re more brutal with each other because of the personal relationship. Communication can sometimes be harder because you’re not making allowances for the other person’s feelings.”)

Doshi Levien, Product and Furniture Designers

If you'd expect anyone to spend their days working amidst a snowdrift’s worth of process and ephemera, it’s London designers Doshi Levien. What you see piled atop the shelves and pinned to the walls of the couple’s Shoreditch studio, after all, is the product of two very different yet equally prolific minds working through their own approaches to the same tasks — Nipa Doshi being the Bombay-born lover of handicraft who collages, paints, and draws her way towards ideas from the ground up, and her Scottish husband Jonathan Levien, who spent his childhood in his parents’ toy factory and developed the more exacting methods of an industrial designer, prototyping proclivities and all. While both enjoy surrounding themselves with collected objects like Italian ice cream cups and Chinese pencil boxes, it’s impossible to understate the importance of the couple’s divergent interests to their work’s unique point of view; the designs that made them famous, after all, were daybeds and sofas for Moroso that combined industrially produced furnishings with hand-embroidery and textiles sourced from Indian artisans. It would be a cliché way of characterizing the pair if it weren’t so overwhelmingly true, even by their own admission: “After ten years of working together, I see it as an essential ingredient in what we do, almost a layer in the approach without which it would feel naked,” says Levien.
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The Making of Tom Price’s Meltdown Chairs on Tales of the Hunt

Sighted on the new design-art documentary website Tales of the Hunt, a video chronicling the making of Tom Price's Meltdown Series, for which the London talent employs inventive heating methods to transform commonplace objects like PVC pipes, polypropylene rope, and even polyester clothing into dramatic chairs and tables. The site itself is the creation of the precocious young Belgian design-art dealer Victor Hunt, whose interests lie particularly in objects that are created by hand using highly experimental processes; his collection contains not only finished products but prototypes, failures, and abandoned one-offs that further highlight those processes. It was only natural that Hunt would launch a video series dedicated to showing his clients and the design-art world at large the stories behind the works he supports, and likewise that Sight Unseen would want to become a partner in the endeavor. From time to time we'll share with you new videos posted on the site, starting with Price's. Watch it after the jump, then head to Tales from the Hunt to view the other offerings so far, including a behind-the-scenes look at how Maarten de Ceulaer's Balloon Bowls are created.
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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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Antique wallpapers purchased from a flea market in Paris.

Kneeland Co

If you’ve ever spent an afternoon gazing out the window, futilely hoping that design inspiration might strike, you’ve probably wished you knew someone like Joanna Williams. As the proprietor of Kneeland Co., a Los Angeles–based, appointment-only studio that sources vintage prints, textiles, garments, and jewelry for the fashion and interiors industries, it’s Williams’s job to scour the globe, bringing back creative inspiration for sale. In Williams’s world, a book of early 20th-century decorative medallions, snagged from Pasadena’s legendary Rose Bowl Flea Market, might serve as inspiration for a new tile pattern, and the striped detail from a Moroccan wedding blanket might one day mutate into a maxidress for Anthropologie. As glamorous a life as that might sound, Williams concedes that it’s still a lot of hard work: “You’re definitely always searching and looking, trying to meet the right people, and making sure you don’t get ripped off,” she told me when I visited her new Atwater Village studio earlier this month.
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An Interview With Dan Funderburgh from WRAP Issue #2

Though it was never intended that way, Wrap magazine might just be the perfect racket. With each 11.7 x 16.5–inch editorial spread backed by an illustration meant to double as wrapping paper, it's practically compulsory to buy two of every issue — one to keep forever, and one to dissect into packaging for your best friend's birthday present. As far as the London-based magazine's founders, Chris Harrison and Polly Glass, are concerned, either approach is perfectly valid. "As designers, the most satisfying feeling is seeing people using and enjoying what you've made," they say. Both began as jewelry designers for brands like Matthew Williamson and Paul Smith, with Glass venturing into furniture design for Innermost before leaving to devote her time to Wrap, which they hope will eventually blossom into an illustration-driven housewares and stationery brand. The pair's first issue launched last fall with stories about and contributions from up-and-comers including Merijn Hos and Sam Harris, and the second issue came out last week, its size bumped from A4 to A3 and its designer interviews even more in-depth. Sight Unseen secured permission to reprint here an interview with the Brooklyn-based illustrator and William Morris disciple Dan Funderburgh, whose wallpaper design pictured above was adapted especially for Wrap.
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