When we first took notice of Los Angeles ceramicist Morgan Peck in 2012, it was because she had suddenly become ubiquitous in the concept-shop scene, with her vessels and abstract mini-sculptures popping up at all of our favorite places (Mociun, Totokaelo, Iko Iko). Now that she's moved into an entirely new territory — the art world — with the opening of her solo show at LA's Jancar Jones Gallery last week, we figured it was the perfect time to revisit her work. We asked Peck for her thoughts on her change of scenery, and how her sculptures have made the transition from shelf to plinth. "When Ava and Eric offered me the opportunity to have a show at Jancar Jones last February the first thing I thought was: Are you sure?" she says.
If you've never been to the Swiss version of Art Basel and Design Miami/Basel, what they say about it is pretty much true: If Miami's overall vibe seems to put partying, relaxation, and hedonism first and serious business second, Basel is decidedly the other way around. People wear more clothes in Basel. Everything is twice as expensive. If there's one obvious advantage — for a journalist or casual observer — to attending Basel over Miami, it's that you're far less likely to be distracted by hangovers, pool parties, boozy brunches, and beach FOMO. You spend the entire day scrutinizing the actual work, and if you're lucky, like we were, you come home with a camera full of satisfying discoveries.
If there weren't already plenty of reasons for us to love Kyle DeWoody — her friendliness, her amazing taste, the fact that she's not afraid to rock a baseball cap — she's also a poster child for blurring disciplinary boundaries, something we've long championed as well. She even named her company after the idea: She explains Grey Area, the online gallery she founded with Manish Vora in 2011, as "the undefined space between art and design, where art is made functional and the functional is made art." Even her own background has defied any categorization: Before founding Grey Area, she moved from curating to art consulting to design to film production and journalism. (In fact, DeWoody hooked up with Vora when he was running the arts website Art Log, for whom she used to write.) Her wide-ranging interests are in part what make Grey Area so great — the gallery sells everything from plush, hand-stitched Sharpies to elegant leaning brass bar carts, from plaster iPhone pillows by Snarkitecture to cat-themed beach towels by Andrew Kuo. DeWoody is constantly scouting new talent from unexpected sources, so for our Creative Women at Work series with Shinola, we got in touch to find out exactly how she does it. Here are some of her workplace essentials.
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.
Renate Müller is 68 years old and has been designing children's toys for half a century, some of which she created for her family's toy factory in Sonneberg, Germany, in the '60s and '70s, and the rest of which she still makes by hand in her nearby studio, as part of the personal line she began in 1978. The materials she uses for that line have stayed exactly the same ever since (jute, wood, leather), as has her process and her policy of working alone, save for the occasional hand lent by her daughter. Many of her animal typologies have remained perennial, too. Yet when it came time to create 26 new pieces for her second solo show at New York design gallery R & Company, which opened yesterday, Müller decided to bust out a pretty major — and amusing — twist: Surrealist creatures with two heads, or no heads, that only someone with a very vivid, childlike sense of imagination could possibly dream up.
Kueng Caputo’s first moment of fame came a few years ago from a series called “Copy,” where the two design-school friends would purposefully mimic a recently released work from a major talent by creating an exaggerated or distilled fakery of that piece. The process was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek homage to the original artists as well as a way for Sarah Kueng and Lovis Caputo to explore how those pieces had acquired their specific character or value. Whatever lessons they learned from that experiment must have stuck, for in the last two years, the Swiss design duo have released two collections that seem predestined for design greatness.
The first time we met Misha Kahn, he was slapping gold metallic wallpaper with long-lashed googly eyes onto the walls of a tiny room we’d afforded four RISD students at our 2011 Noho Design District showcase. We were never sure quite what to make of the wallpaper — was it technically even “furniture design,” or was it more a piece of Surrealist art? — but we knew from first sight that we loved it. Which is pretty much how we’ve felt about all of the work that’s followed from the Brooklyn-based, Duluth, Minnesota–born designer’s studio, whether it’s a pink bench made from layers of resin and trash, a series of tables that resemble Froebel blocks on acid, or sewn cement pieces that look like the work of a woozy Jeff Koons.
In some ways, L’ArcoBaleno — the new design buying site from Ambra Medda, former founding director of Design Miami — isn’t so different from our own home here on the web. Both sites mix a curated marketplace with original editorial content; both emphasize process and context, and champion emerging talent. But of course here at Sight Unseen, we limit our shop selections to things that can be shipped USPS in a Priority Flat-Rate box. On L’ArcoBaleno, which launched earlier this week, one can purchase — with insured shipping of course — collectible designs from around the globe, ranging from a $23,000 blown-glass totem by newly christened design darling Bethan Laura Wood to a $75,000 Plexiglas and car lacquer dining table by Maria Pergay. The site is bit like a more avant-garde 1stdibs; in fact, it’s a lot like the Design Miami fair itself, if you could make impulse purchases in the Aranda/Lasch pavilion at three in the morning.
If you’re a longtime reader of Sight Unseen, you know it’s rare that we write about a big-name designer. In part, it’s a question of access — it’s far easier to get an RCA grad on the phone than, say, Hella Jongerius. But it’s also a question of ubiquity: If you read a bunch of design blogs, you’re going to hear about something like Yves Behar’s new Smart Lock until your face falls off. But the Campana Brothers — despite being one of the biggest names in design — have somehow always eluded that extreme ubiquity.
Don't get your hopes up — you won't find Karin Johansson's necklaces in the Sight Unseen shop anytime soon, or at any other shop for that matter. Johansson isn't a fashion designer, after all, but a Sweden-based jewelry artist who's spent nearly two decades learning and refining her metalworking techniques, and her pieces are only available through high-end galleries like Barcelona's Klimt02. That's where we spotted the New Places collection, a colorfully graphic amalgam of handmade elements in enamel, plastic, and precious metals, plus crushed and "reconstructed" stone; Johansson based each necklace on a different photograph she'd taken while traveling inside her own city and beyond. "The inspiration and the starting point for New Places were photos I'd collected for a few years of different views, landscapes, and cities," Johansson explains. "Simply by drawing a line in the picture and connecting the ends, then picking up the colors, I discovered a necklace giving hints of houses, streets, trees, water, sky, lines, and directions."
We talk a lot on this site about inspiration, and with most of our subjects that conversation assumes a certain measure of materiality — that we’ll be discussing the things they’ve amassed over the years or the places they return to over and over again on their travels. But for the British artist Sam Orlando Miller, it’s the lack of these things that gives him the energy and space to create. In 2000, after spending more than a decade in London building up his interiors firm, Miller and his wife, Helen, left it all behind for a quiet life in the Le Marche region of Italy, a mile from the nearest village, close to the coastline of the Adriatic Sea. But though they live in an admittedly enviable location, Miller says, “it didn’t need to be Italy. It just needed to be somewhere that was wilder than London, away from the culture I’d been immersed in. I found it difficult to think when surrounded by all that stuff. Here, you have to think about your own creativity and what your voice is. When you’re surrounded by nature, all of a sudden you’re on your own, psychologically.” And so rather than things, Miller collects thoughts and sketches and conversations, running over them again and again in his head until one bumps into the other and becomes a full-fledged idea. That’s what happened with his most recent body of work, The Sky Blue Series — a collection of mirrors and objects commissioned by the San Francisco gallery Hedge for a solo show, on view until this coming Monday, that marks Miller’s American debut.