In the new Ventura Lambrate neighborhood of Milan, Niels van Eijk and Miriam van der Lubbe mounted a retrospective of their work from 1998 to 2010, the bulk of which was represented by a pictorial timeline of process shots, sketches, and models.

Process at the Milan Furniture Fair

Tom Dixon, Bram Boo, e15, and Thomas Eyck all showed products in copper at the 2010 Milan Furniture Fair, which closes today. There was also a minor strain of fur-covered chairs — plus one hairy, Cousin-It-style storage unit by the Campana Brothers for Edra — and a tendency toward LED and OLED lighting. But as far as Sight Unseen is concerned, the only trend worth writing home about was the diaristic glimpse into process that so many designers chose to offer this year, supplementing their finished products with sketches, models, and real-time demonstrations.
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Jennifer McCurdy: One of the craftswomen showcased in Alhadeff's 2007 "Three Women" show at The Future Perfect, McCurdy makes wheel-thrown and hand-carved porcelain vessels so intricate, they look like they've been made in a mold or even rapid-prototyped.

David Alhadeff, Owner of The Future Perfect

As design-store owner Dave Alhadeff sees it, there’s a distinction between the kinds of craftspeople he is and isn’t interested in: The latter make objects primarily to show off their manual skills, while the former are motivated by a larger concept, a wish to make tangible some abstract artistic meaning. Carving toothpicks into forest animals? Skills. Carving porcelain into vases so mind-bogglingly intricate they appear to be made by machine? Concept. A subtle difference, but one that helps it seem slightly less absurd to picture Alhadeff — who runs The Future Perfect, one of New York’s most well-respected purveyors of contemporary design — roaming the aisles of a Westchester craft fair, chatting up potters and glassblowers. Concept, he explains, is what builds a bridge between pure craft and design.
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What inspired your Bonbon lamps? "While working on another lamp, the craftsman made me a lampshade which had bad dimensions. I was looking at that piece thinking how can I use it? I didn't want to throw it away, so I decided to knit some strings over it. Then I made different shapes and knitted over them, and now they're called Bonbons because they remind me of silk bonbons."

Ana Kras, Designer and Photographer

You only need to know a few things about Belgrade to understand where Ana Kraš comes from: It's been invaded countless times throughout history, even by the Nazis, after which it was then ravaged by Tito, Milošević, the Kosovo War, and the associated NATO bombings. When it finally emerged from its troubles in 1999, its government and economy were in shambles; the average salary in Belgrade is still less than 400 euros per month. To have become a designer in this context is exceedingly difficult — Kraš's design school had no workshop, materials, or experienced professors, and almost none of her compatriots can afford to spend money on furniture — and yet you won't find a trace of that struggle in the talented 26-year-old's work. At least not by looking at it.
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In a room with a bright orange Verner Panton chair and a $10,000 couch by Jaime Hayon — not to mention incredible moldings — Nora Rabins’s found theater seat with massive steel wings (a wing chair, get it?) steals the show. “We love her work because it’s so interactive, and she changes the way you would normally use things,” says Stokowski of the Providence, Rhode Island–based RISD grad. “The wings literally fold up around you. Everyone wants to sit in it.”

Fair Folks & a Goat

At Fair Folks & a Goat, a new retail gallery and tea salon hybrid on New York’s Upper East Side, everything inside the gracious late 19th-century studio apartment is for sale. Well, almost everything — a small candy dish that reads “When I count my blessings, I count you twice” was a gift from co-owner Anthony Mazzei’s mother and “it’s a million dollars,” he jokes, while the vintage paperbacks lining a wall of shelves constitute an actual lending library. Here, the props and merch blend into a seamless backdrop for a new kind of social gathering. “We wanted to create a space for young people to have a home away from home, where instead of alcohol and loud music it would be more like a physical incarnation of a magazine, with design, art, fashion, and culture,” says Mazzei.
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Rodrigo Almeida's new collection — built by hand in his São Paulo studio — includes the Concreta chair shown here. It's made from wood and rope, with sparkly plastic cushions. Color is a huge element of Almeida's work. "When I walk in Brazil, the greens are so strong, sky is so blue — it’s different," he says. "I lived for a few years in the U.S., and while the flowers are more beautiful, the green is more like gray. So you get a spot of color, but not blocks of color like in Brazil. These are the kinds of things you internalize as a designer."

Rodrigo Almeida, Furniture Designer

To any reader who went to design school and is, years later, still making student loan payments month after month, you might want to close your eyes for this one: Rodrigo Almeida — the 34-year-old Brazilian furniture designer who's pals with the Campana brothers, has been featured in Wallpaper, and has made pieces for top galleries like Contrasts and FAT — didn't go to university, not even as an undergrad. What you're looking at here is raw talent, and a career that began when Almeida simply picked up the Brazilian magazine Arc Design six years ago and thought, "I want to do that."
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Nacho Carbonell, Designer

It’s half past eight on a Wednesday evening, and in the kitchen of the Pastoor Van Ars church, a few miles from Eindhoven’s prestigious Design Academy, a long table has been set with two propane gas burners. Normally, the burners here are used to boil massive amounts of newspaper into pulp bound for the cocoon-like structures of Nacho Carbonell’s Evolution collection. But tonight the Spanish-born designer has hijacked the flames to fry up two huge paellas: chicken and pancetta for the meat-eaters, eggplant and artichokes for the vegetarians.
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Mathematically speaking, the Rubik’s Snake — a twistable length of 24 right isosceles triangular prisms — can attain more than a zillion possible configurations. This made it a go-to toy in Dror’s childhood repertoire. “It’s a very simple joinery of triangles, and yet the possibilities are incredible,” he explains. “You keep on discovering new geometries.”

Dror Benshetrit, Designer

This story was originally published on November 3, 2009. A year and a half later, Dror Benshetrit unveiled at the New Museum a simple, scalable structural joint system called QuaDror, which just may turn out to be his magnum opus. It takes obvious inspiration from the kinds of toys he shared with Sight Unseen here. // Some furniture expands if you’re having extra dinner guests, or folds if you’re schlepping it to a picnic. But most of it just sits there, content to be rather than do. This drives New York–based designer Dror Benshetrit crazy. “Static freaks me out,” he’s said, and so the Design Academy Eindhoven graduate has spent the entirety of his young career making things that either capture a state of transformation (his progressively shattered series of vases for Rosenthal) or actually transform themselves (the Pick Chair and Folding Sofa that flatten using simple mechanics). When I first saw Dror’s latest project, a trivet for Alessi whose concentric metal arcs are magnetized so they can be reconfigured endlessly — and even, the designer enthusiasticaly suggests, worn as a necklace — I thought: If he can’t even let a trivet sit still then his fascination with movement must be more than a design philosophy, it’s probably coded in his DNA. I was right. Dror has been obsessed with kinetic toys since he was a child.
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