Dee Clements of Chicago’s Herron Studio

For Dee Clements, who makes beautiful hand-woven goods out of her Chicago design studio, Herron, sustainability is key. “I know it’s an overused buzzword, but it’s really important,” she says. Though she’s talking about the environmental impact of large-scale textile production and why she mainly uses small-farm fibers that aren’t chemically or unethically produced, sustainability, in a creative sense, is also on her mind.
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Samantha Bittman, Artist

It was a couple of years ago that Chicago-based artist Samantha Bittman first captivated us with her intricate, meticulous paintings on woven textiles. We’ve been transfixed by her work ever since, so when we had the chance recently to visit her studio and delve into her process, we jumped. Bittman creates dazzling surfaces of optically challenging patterns that draw you in to reveal greater depths, dimensionality, and unsteadying shifts in perspective. There’s an objective, mathematical precision to her pieces but there’s also a remarkably human warmth — the result, perhaps, of giving in to the parameters created by the loom while also resisting them.
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Lawrence Laske at Wright: Design Studio & Collected Works

Before we began Sight Unseen five years ago, Monica and I worked for the beautiful but now-defunct design magazine I.D. And though we were helping to run one of the most venerable design publications in the country, in hindsight, we were mere babies in terms of our design education. Which is perhaps why, when we received an entry to our annual competition for a molded plastic beach chair by a designer named Larry Laske back in 2008, the name failed to ring a bell. But maybe it wasn’t purely our ignorance. After all, Laske is the classic case of a behind-the-scenes designer who ought to be much more famous than he is. The creative mind behind two classic pieces for Knoll in his own right (the ‘90s-era Toothpick and Saguaro tables) Laske also worked for years alongside Ettore Sottsass, and designed incredible prototypes with some of the world’s most famous designers: Ingo Maurer, Philippe Starck, and Matteo Thun, among them. Next week at Wright, an online-only auction will be held to benefit Laske’s foundation, A Brain Tumor and A Dream.
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Steven Haulenbeek’s Ice-Cast Bronze Collection

We’ve heard of something being a product of its environment, but never has that phrase rung so true as it does with the pieces in Steven Haulenbeek’s Ice-Cast Bronze series, on view this month at Chicago’s Casati Gallery, which were made largely in a trough of ice outside Haulenbeek’s studio window during last winter’s deep freeze. Haulenbeek — who knows from frigid winters, having grown up and studied sculpture in Michigan and lived in Chicago for the better part of his adult life — originally conceived the series back in 2011, when he was fooling around with pouring wax into frozen puddles on Chicago’s city streets. But this winter’s extreme conditions — while providing little but consternation for everyone else — gave Haulenbeek the opportunity to take the whole operation onto a much larger scale. We recently spoke with the Chicago-based designer to find out a little more about the origins and making of his new collection.
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Future Tropes at Volume Gallery

"Timeless" is probably the most overused — and abused — word in design in recent years, typically employed by designers in the context of sustainability in order to imply that a piece has such a classic look or function that its expected longevity can somehow justify its existence in a sea of wastefulness and overproduction. Future Tropes, a new group show that opened this past weekend at Chicago's Volume Gallery, approaches the concept of timelessness from a very different angle, however: "The work should be slightly ahead of the world, slightly un-contemporary, setting the stage for future codes yet operating in a place that precedes our ability to apply language to those codes." (—Jan Verwoert, as adjusted by RO/LU.) In other words, objects that are equally linked to our prehistoric past and our distant, utopian future. Volume curators Sam Vinz and Claire Warner proposed that brief to Leon Ransmeier, ROLU, Jonathan Muecke, Tanya Aguiñiga, Jonathan Olivares, and Anders Ruhwald, who exchanged ideas on the topic before each creating a custom piece responding to it. See the results after the jump.
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Chad Kouri, artist

Chad Kouri took his first freelance design gig at the tender age of just 15, but like most creatives, Kouri had trouble at first striking a balance between paying the bills and pursuing his passions. “I moved to Chicago after high school to study design, but knew I didn’t have enough money to finish a four-year program. So I took as many classes as I could and then jumped out to work for a marketing firm, which was not at all fulfilling. I was basically designing junk mail for five years. After hours, I’d work on editorial illustrations or custom typography, but I quickly realized I didn’t enjoy being on a computer 16 hours a day. I started doing collage as a way to break away from screen time. I used to reference a lot of old ads and typography from the ’50s and ’60s, and I wanted to work larger but the pieces could only be as big as a magazine page. That’s how I transitioned to using flat shape and color, and that’s pretty much where I’m at in this experiment of an art career that I have.”
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Monique Meloche, Chicago Gallerist

When Monique Meloche took a chance on opening a Chicago gallery back in 2000, she launched with a show called Homewrecker, for which she invited 30 artists to exhibit over all three floors of her Ukrainian Village townhouse. The huge turnout prompted her to find a more permanent spot, as did gentle prodding from her husband. “He was like, ‘Sorry, I don’t want people sitting on my bed watching videos on Saturday when I come home from the gym.’” But while her home is no longer on public view, it remains a kind of lived-in display of contemporary paintings, photography, and sculptural works by artists she represents along with those she simply loves. We were lucky enough to visit recently and get to know Meloche a bit better.
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Week of April 21, 2014

A weekly Saturday recap to share with you our favorite links, discoveries, exhibitions, and more from the past seven days. This week: a perfect marriage of plant and pot, a permanent home for a previously nomadic gallery, and a ceramic series inspired by the Fantastic Four.
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Week of February 17, 2014

A weekly Saturday recap to share with you our favorite links, discoveries, exhibitions, and more from the past seven days. This week: inside the homes of two design powerhouses, a visit to fave duo New Friends (above), and a Richard Serra parked in the middle of Manhattan.
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Thaddeus Wolfe: Unsurfacing at Volume Gallery

Thaddeus Wolfe's Assemblage vases looked mysterious enough when he debuted them in 2011, first for sale with Matter and then with a special edition for Chicago's Volume Gallery — we'd never seen glass before that paired the shape and surface texture of rocks and minerals with amazing fades of opaque color. When we asked him to describe his process to us, it turned out that it was relatively easy to grasp, if not execute: He blew the vessels into faceted plaster-and-silicon molds. His newest take on the series — the Unsurfacing collection for Volume, on view as of tonight — looks even more complicated, layered with fragmented geometric patterns and contrasting colors.
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Eric Ashcraft, Artist

A Montana-born artist with an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Eric Ashcraft is an expert in mining dualities for his mixed media pieces. In his earlier work, painted still-lifes were framed by neon bulbs, junked-out TVs became a canvas for Thomas Kinkade-like paintings, and a couch cushion turned into a lightbox. In his more recent work, though, Ashcraft seems to be blurring the lines among media even more with a series of abstract shapes in wood painted with oil and acrylic. "I began the Polytopes series by experimenting with geometrical forms, attempting to create a flexible object-space where the languages of painting and sculpture could intermingle," says the artist. "The restricted correspondence of light, surface, form, color, line, perspective, and composition are used to abstract objects and images into one another, hopefully generating meaning for a viewer through associations with fundamental aspects of perception. Essentially, the polytopes are about what they are as objects and how they are experienced." See more after the jump, and then click here for the up-and-coming artist's whole portfolio.
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