Lauren Kovin had one of those creatively privileged childhoods we all dream about: Her father was a graphic designer, her mother an interior designer who stocked their New Hope, Pennsylvania, home with Memphis furniture and modern art. Kovin spent more time in galleries than in shopping malls. An Avedon portrait of a nude Nastassja Kinski hung over the family’s dining room table. Heaven, right? Wrong.
It’s not so inconceivable that a painting or sculpture would take years to complete, accumulating layers of meaning as the artist played with contour or color. But a photograph? Dutch husband-and-wife duo Sylvie Zijlmans and Hewald Jongenelis spent nearly four years on Ten to One, a large-scale photograph on view now at Rotterdam’s Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.
The fourth and most recent issue of Apartamento, one of our very favorite publications, includes a special kids' supplement called Kinder, curated by Andy Beach, one of our very favorite bloggers. Apartamento bills itself as "an everyday life interiors magazine," and Kinder follows suit: There's an acid-trip of a coloring book illustrated by Andy Rementer; the Memphis-esque results of a furniture-building workshop for kids; and a story about a collection of objects that Los Angeles graphic designer Geoff McFetridge made for his daughter Frances, which is excerpted here in its entirety.
Is it times of trouble that attract us so keenly to the nostalgia of souvenirs — the snow globes, the ticket stubs, the ubiquitous museum totes? At the end of a chaotic decade, a rash of exhibitions has popped up dedicated to the kitschy takeaways of travel. The largest of these, “The Souvenir Effect,” curated by Òscar Guayabero for Barcelona’s Disseny Hub design museum, opened at the height of Spanish tourist season in July and comes to a close this Sunday.
The piano — an upright, the kind you see in the back of saloons in Western movies — had been gathering dust at the antique shop for years. It sounded like hell, and its price had been marked down repeatedly. The tag said $300 the day Sebastian Errazuriz saw it, which struck him as a bargain considering he had zero intention of playing the thing: He would buy it, load it into a van with his brother, then string it up from the double-height ceiling of his Brooklyn design studio as a “constant reminder of the possibility of death — a kind of personal Post-It.”
The scientific process behind many of life’s workaday phenomena is something called capillary action, which is the molecular attraction that makes liquid flow through a porous medium, for those in need of a high-school refresher. It’s what makes tears flow through your lachrymal ducts, what gives micro-fiber its super-absorbent properties, and why groundwater naturally spreads into areas of dry soil. It’s also what powers the Ink Calendar by Oscar Diaz.
When most of us get a package in the mail, it’s the book we ordered from Amazon, or a birthday gift from our parents. When Bec Brittain gets a package, it’s usually full of dead bugs. She orders them in bulk off the internet for a dollar a pop, then chops them into pieces and transforms them into hybrid bug-monsters.
It sounds like the start of a lame joke: Did you hear the one about the Moor and the Sicilian? But for Moulding Tradition, Formafantasma’s Design Academy Eindhoven thesis project, the Italian-born, Eindhoven-based duo did in fact look to a centuries-old conflict between Sicily and the North Africans who once conquered the tiny island and who now arrive there in droves, seeking refuge.
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.
When Henry David Thoreau took to the woods in 1845 to begin his Walden experiment, it was more of an exercise in social deprivation than an outright attempt to recharge his creative batteries. But his flight from civilization does prove that he — and all the generations of writers and makers who have flocked to sylvan retreats for productivity’s sake — felt every bit as besieged by the distractions of modern life as we do nearly two centuries later. Paging through Arcadia (Gestalten, 2009), a catalog of contemporary architectural hideaways built among trees and mountains, all I could think about was how powerful a tool nature has always been in creative life: We need to be immersed in culture to inform the things we create, but we also desperately need escape to give our minds the space to process it.
It started with a dead hamster. In the late ’90s, Dutch photographer Danielle Van Ark was living in Rotterdam, reacquainting herself with the charms of the grain-eating, wheel-chasing starter pet. Her hamster expired right around the time the Beastie Boys were coming out with a single called "Intergalactic". “The cover of that single was basically a giant hamster attacking humanity, and it inspired me to have my hamster stuffed,” Van Ark says. “I found someone in a village near Rotterdam who does it, and I loved the place instantly.”