Nancy: “As kids, we used to sit and draw for hours next to each other, not talking to one another. I was obsessed with drawing factories. I’m obsessed with production. That sort of stuff will still make me stop in my tracks and my jaw drop.”

Kimberly: “She drew conveyer belts.”

Building Block, Accessory Designers

This time last year, Kimberly Wu was designing cars in Tokyo for Honda’s Advanced Studio and her sister, Nancy, was in Portland, designing shoes for Nike. In spare moments, Kimberly would visit hardware stores and collect the sort of everyday objects that seem to come into focus in other countries, and that somehow encapsulate the dilemma of being a transplant: how a change of scenery can sharpen your appreciation for the small details around you, and yet also remind you in their strangeness that it’s not quite like home. “The world can be as big or small as you want it to be,” Kimberly says, “And Tokyo is this place where you feel like the world is gigantic, but you also feel tiny in it. There are so many people around you always, but it’s so alone and solitary.” Meanwhile, across the choppy Pacific, Nancy was coming to a similar emotional conclusion, but drawn from a different set of observations. “Portland is like the opposite of Tokyo,” Nancy says. “It’s so small and quiet, and that can also be really lonely. I think we were both lonely.” So when Kimberly’s experiments combining those hardware-store finds with simple, pared-down bag shapes began to gain deserved notice, the sisters decided to leave their corporate lives and start Building Block together, trading too-infrequent visits for a joint move back to Southern California, where they grew up. “We’ve never worked together before, but in our heads we’ve always been working together,” Kimberly says.
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Future Eyes on I’m Revolting

When we first began following the inspiration blog mysteriously known as I'm Revolting, we knew we'd found a kindred spirit, at least aesthetically. (If you're even the slightest fan of our Pinterest, you should know that many of our posts originate with I'm Revolting's boards, or result from tumbling down the internet rabbit hole after reading one of her posts.) But it was only when we asked the Los Angeles–based blogger — whose real name is Su Wu — to pen one of our Q&A columns that we truly knew we'd stumbled upon one of our own: A former journalist who threw the contents of her interior world online after the publication for which she was writing folded, Wu is an image collector, a thinker, and a fantastic writer to boot. Today for Sight Unseen she interviews Brent Pearson, the artist behind a heavy, handmade pair of kaleidoscopic glasses known as Future Eyes.
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Jennifer Parry Dodge of Ermie

Jennifer Parry Dodge is a Los Angeles–based designer, whose beautifully printed textiles are often the result of photographs or scans of vintage textiles that have been manipulated in Photoshop. Her online store Ermie, named after a great-aunt Ermengarde who encouraged her creativity, encompasses a collection of works ranging from braided embroidered belts to watery cool crepe de chine garments made from her own textile creations. In addition to creating textiles, she maintains a blog that documents her transforming fascinations with color, textures, food, the desert, and her trips abroad. The first time I met Jennifer over coffee in downtown Los Angeles, I was immediately struck by the intensity of the colors in her work — colors that vibrated in the California sun, and intensified as the sun grew stronger. "Each pattern or print that I design has a history, however brief, of how it came to be. I’m sure the meaning for me differs from that of the viewer/ wearer/ user, but I hope some of the story comes through," she says.
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Okuda's Shaped Bookends are now for sale in the Sight Unseen Shop! Follow this link to buy a pair or two!

Shin Okuda (an excerpt from Paper View)

Today, we introduced a selection of housewares to the Sight Unseen Shop, including Shin Okuda's whimsical plywood and steel Shaped Bookends. We thought this was the perfect opportunity to introduce you to the Los Angeles designer's inspirations and work, which we originally showcased in Paper View, Sight Unseen's first-ever printed edition. Though the book has a limited run, copies are still for sale in our online shop. Get yours here before it's too late, and read on to find out more about one of our favorite up and coming designers.
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The undisputed winner of the weekend was Matt Gagnon’s Knit Fort, which was constructed on-site from bars of teak and rubber cording by the designer and his team over the course of a single afternoon. (André Balazs was rumored to have considered keeping the fort for his planned hotel renovation but ultimately declined.) For those who climbed the stairs from the hotel lobby, the fort emerged dramatically into view; for the rest, it beckoned invitingly from its perch on the patio’s raised platform, turning the terrace into something like summer camp.

At New York Design Week 2012, Part II: Hotel California

How could we have possibly known, when we first decided to host an exhibition of California design during our third annual Noho Design District, that we would be blessed with four straight days of glorious, Los Angeles–style sunshine? (Followed, of course, by a day of downpours, but more on that tomorrow.) Springtime in New York is a fickle beast, and when we first began to plan how best to use the gorgeous second-floor terrace space we’d been given at the new Standard, East Village hotel, we said a prayer for mild climes but also engaged in fretful what-ifs with our hotel ambassadors, talking of contingencies like awnings, tarps, and the possibility of moving everything — save for a nearly 50 square foot teak and rubber fort constructed on-site by Matt Gagnon — inside.
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For the Sight Unseen Shape Shop, we gathered the geometry-obsessed work of 30 designers who hail from Los Angeles to London. At the heart of the shop are three tables — a triangle, a circle, and a square — cut from raw OSB and washed in gray paint, designed by the talented Brooklyn firm The Principals.

The Sight Unseen Shape Shop at Creatures of Comfort

By the close of Sight Unseen's four-day pop-up during the Noho Design District last year, we'd come to realize a few things. One: that we quite enjoy being shopkeepers — the merchandising of objects, the banter with the public, the satisfying swipe of each credit card through our handy Square readers. And two: that four days was not nearly enough. As we watched the objects we'd put so much effort into procuring move on to more permanent retail homes, we felt a vague sense of deflation, almost like a break-up, and we immediately began plotting for pop-up number two. Never, though, did we dream what would happen next: We were approached by Jade Lai, owner of the impeccably curated Creatures of Comfort store in New York and Los Angeles, to create a Sight Unseen pop-up in the gallery space of her New York store, which had previously played host to temporary outposts from the likes of Confettisystem, Textfield, and the Japanese housewares shop Playmountain. After months of planning, we finally debuted the Sight Unseen Shape Shop this Tuesday at a blowout party.
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Todosomething, Furniture Designers

Todosomething is a Los Angeles–based design and fabrication studio that specializes in custom furniture and cabinetry with precise, exquisite finishes and subdued color palettes. But in the last few years, as their studio has grown, partners Chad Petersen and Dakota Witzenburg have begun producing their own products as well, which are extensions of their minimal design aesthetic—the ’60s-inflected, powder-coated metal (S)tool, the paint-tipped plywood A(+) Chair, a scorched-pine slab table with spindly steel legs. Between the two practices, which overlap in more than just appearance, they’ve cultivated a reputation as representatives of a certain Modern American style, one influenced by everything from Sol Lewitt to Shaker furniture.
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Peter Shire Studio

The Sight Unseen Book

Here at Sight Unseen, we typically only take a break from our regular programming in order to retreat to someplace warm and sunny, where we can subsist primarily on fish tacos and beer. But for the next two weeks, we'll actually be hunkering down in our New York apartments, spinning out stories for the imminent publication of the first Sight Unseen book, which is set to debut in early April as part of the Unfiltered project by Karlsson's Vodka. We're especially excited to announce that our book launch will coincide with the debut of a Sight Unseen pop-up shop taking place at the New York branch of Creatures of Comfort for the entire month of April. Both the book and the shop will be populated with amazing work both by makers we've already covered for the site, and by those we've always longed to feature. Over the next two weeks, we'll be posting preview images here from some of the book's features, but we're leaving it up to you, our readers, to guess who the subject of each photograph might be.
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Miranda July’s Resale Shop at Partners & Spade

For It Chooses You, a resale shop popping up at Partners & Spade in New York, Miranda July scoured the New York classifieds, buying up other people’s discards — like a collection of stolen oil paints or a pair of taxidermied deer hooves — and interviewing the sellers to discern the original meaning of those once-cherished objects.
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Ravenhill also cites the work of midcentury designers like Jean Prouvé, Charles and Ray Eames, and Friso Kramer: "They had such an amazing sensitivity about how things are made," he says. Ravenhill's Cord Lamp, shown above, improved upon the original wooden iteration while also reinterpreting Prouve’s classic Swing Jib design for a modern, cost-conscious consumer. "It has a simple construction, where the cloth-covered cord acts as both the power source and the tension element that holds the arm straight and prevents it from swinging too freely," Ravenhill says.

Brendan Ravenhill, Furniture and Product Designer

Believe it or not, Los Angeles–based designer Brendan Ravenhill owes the success of his Cord Lamp, at least in part, to Etsy. It’s not that the designer spends his days hawking the spare, Prouvé-inspired insta-classic on the online crafters’ marketplace. But a few years ago, Ravenhill was coerced by his wife to participate in something she’d created on the site called Mail Order Pals. “It was basically a penpal for purchase," Ravenhill told me when I visited his Echo Park home and studio earlier this summer. "People could buy you in order to receive a letter or a surprise package in the mail.” After someone “bought” Ravenhill, he went to the hardware store and whipped up an elegantly simple wooden swing-arm lamp in one night. Upon seeing his creation, the designer’s wife convinced him it was just too nice to send. The penpal ended up getting a wire sculpture of a penguin, and the couple began living with the lamp. In the months that followed, Ravenhill became obsessed with the design, refining and tweaking it in his head to the point that by the time he was approached to create a piece to show with the American Design Club at a trade fair in New York, he was able to fashion a prototype in just one week. The final lamp — composed primarily of porcelain, cast aluminum, a cloth cord, and a bare bulb — packs and ships flat and sells for less than $200 at places like The Future Perfect, cementing the young designer’s status as a rising talent to watch.
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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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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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