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A New Furniture Collection Highlights the Color-Shifting Magic of Car Paint

A new exhibition at A Plus A Gallery in Venice, Italy, brings together artists and designers Richard Wheater, Jochen Holz, and M–L–XL in conjunction with this summer's architecture biennale. Wheater’s neon installations show off light and shapes as much as the cords and electricity themselves; Holz’s neon lights and glass objects are wild and free, with bulges and tubes composing cartoon-like moments. But the real star here is M-L-XL's new furniture collection, inspired by everyday extruded metal L-profiles and painted with holographic car paint.
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The Cool Girl Cape Town Jewelry Brand At the Top of Our Wish List

Called Waif, the line is a labor of love by former ad woman and self-taught jewelry designer Gisele Human, who we've been assiduously following on Instagram, waiting for news of a new collection to drop. We got our wish this week when Human unveiled her Technicolor Melodrama collection, in which many pieces mix Human's signature metals with stones like malachite, sodalite, and Dalmatian jasper.
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Week of June 27, 2016

A weekly Saturday recap to share with you our favorite links, discoveries, exhibitions, and more from the past seven days. This week: a weirdly synchronous amount of folded metal, a colorful alternative to all those brass bottle openers, and a new way to experience an exhibition on the other side of the world.
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Meredith Turnbull, artist

A few Saturdays ago, we featured Australian artist Meredith Turnbull's incredible, powder-coated brass jewelry, but today we wanted to turn your attention to her equally terrific art practice. Navigating her website, we became intrigued by images of totemic metallic structures that were nevertheless labeled as photography. We asked Turnbull herself to clarify: "My practice as an artist has really been shaped by my training: first studying photography, then doing a degree in Art History, then later a degree in Fine Art specializing in gold and silversmithing. This affected the way I work and made me very interested in ideas in and around discipline, functionality, art and design history, and of course context! I'm preoccupied with theories and ideas about purposeful objects and their relationship to people as well as new contexts for those ideas. So I make objects across a variety of scales. Sometimes I photograph these but only exhibit the photograph; sometimes I show small objects alongside larger installation work. I'm always trying to work with scale and the context in which I'm exhibiting."
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Tom Dixon’s New Mass Coat and Book Stands

Tom Dixon has long been considered a master of metal (thanks, famously, to an early motorcycle accident requiring extensive bike repairs for which he learned, then fell in love with, welding). So we weren't the least bit surprised when we received a press release this morning revealing the London designer's newest wares — set to be released in two weeks at the Milan Furniture Fair — that contained a veritable smorgasbord of copper, cast-iron, brass, and shiny stainless steel, with a small contingent of nickel-plated aluminum tables that pair the faceting of a cut gem with the roughed-up surface of a silver ingot. There was one thing that really stood out for us, though: two minimalist brass sculptures, each an imposing 6.5 feet tall, one for holding books and the other for hanging coats. They're so different from anything we've seen Dixon show lately that they almost beg the question as to what new wunderkind he's brought on staff, but either way, they're a win. Someone with good taste, a huge budget, and high ceilings is about to make us very jealous.
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Gemma Holt, designer

Gemma Holt is one of those designers who seems to be both everywhere and nowhere at once. If you’re organizing a group exhibition heavy on young designers or putting together a collection of talents for an expertly curated new shop, chances are she's on your list: The RCA-trained, London-based designer’s work often has conceptually rigorous thinking behind it, but her forms are usually quite simple and her jewelry pieces are the sort of elegantly crafted bits that tend to fly off the shelves. If you’re the average Pinterest-happy design-lover, however, you might not know a whit about her, considering there’s maddeningly little written about Holt on the web. It’s possible she keeps a purposefully low profile; after all, she’s worked for years for one of the biggest names in furniture design (Martino Gamper). But today the secret’s out: We’re taking it upon ourselves to introduce you both to Holt herself and to three of her incredible pieces, which we’ve recently launched in the shop. (Above: O&D bangles, $380)
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What inspires Assembly's work in general? "Our launch collection was inspired by the idea of utility, a quality that was central to the way we lived in New York. But in general, we’re inspired by our environment — what it allows, what it restricts, what needs improvement. For example, living in New York was a great design challenge. We were in this apartment  that was so small that standard chairs had too large a footprint. We wondered, 'What's the smallest chair that a standard-size adult could fit in?' That's where the Halsey side chair comes from (above, center)."

Assembly, Furniture Designers

Even for struggling post-grads, the constraints under which Pete Oyler and Nora Mattingly of the fledgling design studio Assembly created their debut furniture collection would be considered rather limiting. The couple — he a Kentucky-born RISD furniture grad, she a Pratt-educated interior design major — were living in a cramped apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant with a third roommate, sharing a studio space in even farther-out Brooklyn, and commuting nearly four hours to a woodworking shop in Westhampton, Massachusetts, where Oyler had apprenticed for two years before grad school. But rather than chafing against such strictures of space, the two worked with them, creating pieces that were easily transportable and could be effortlessly placed in any small space: side chairs with smaller-than-usual footprints, glass-and-blackened-steel lamps with hand-blown shades hardly bigger than the bulb, even a stripped-down toilet paper–holder that doesn’t consist of much more than a brass cylinder that mounts directly into the wall.
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Kyouei’s Dish of Light and Random Musical Box

When the latest projects from the Japanese design company Kyouei came across the transom this weekend, we felt a bit like grandmothers. Which is odd, because we're not old enough to be anyone's grandmother, much less a Japanese product designer and sound producer who's nine years our elder. But there was still a burst of "my how you've grown" pride bubbling up, considering we discovered Kouichi Okamoto's firm back in our early I.D. magazine days, when he was still doing clever little Droog-ish housewares like light bulb–shaped paper lanterns and bowls that imitated crater lakes — before the vast majority of our fellow Americans even knew Kyouei existed. And look at Okamoto now! Making sophisticated sound machines, musical tables, and these amazing iron lamps that evoke modernist sculpture.
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Max Lipsey’s Acciaio Series

It was hard not to feel a burst of pride when, after introducing Matter's Jamie Gray to Max Lipsey in advance of his appearance in our 2011 Noho Next showcase, we heard the pair had a major collab in the works. Unveiled at the Qubique fair in Berlin in October, Lipsey's Acciaio: Stage 2 collection for MatterMade picks up where the Eindhoven-based designer's first bicycle-inspired series left off, ratcheting up the proportions of the welded-steel objects and forming them into more complicated, experimental shapes, like the turquoise table/cabinet hybrid pictured above. There is, however, one significant difference: While the new pieces are limited-edition only, Lipsey himself manufactures the originals, slaving away in his workshop to produce each and every order by hand. Earlier this week, he sent Sight Unseen a short video documenting how he does it — which you can watch here — and obliged to answer a few questions for us about how the process has since evolved.
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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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Zieta may be a designer, but he’s first and foremost a researcher: He’s spent the past eight years working on his PhD while refining the industrial processes behind his FiDU technology, the fact that he ended up with a hit furniture line on his hands being merely a bonus. At least part of that focus can be credited to his geneology: “My grandpa was a metalsmith, in a very, very old way," he says. "He made horseshoes, and we make this very innovative and modern art.”

Oskar Zieta’s Metal-inflating Facility

When Oskar Zieta was given the honor of creating a site-specific installation in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s sprawling central garden during this year’s London Design Festival, he had a fairly significant advantage. With his own high-tech metalworking factory in Poland capable of producing large-scale inflated-steel structures, he had the means to fabricate whatever flight of fancy he and his team might possibly dream up, no matter how ambitious. And yet standing in his way was an obstacle far more prosaic in nature, one it would take ingenuity moreso than technological muscle to surmount: teeny tiny doorways. “The doors were really small, and all the ideas of getting to the garden by a helicopter or by a crane had to be rejected because of the risk of destroying the museum’s façade,” he told the fair’s bloggers at the time. But for someone like Zieta — who’s spent the past eight years monomaniacally experimenting with the proportions of the metal sheets he welds at the edges and then blasts full of air — it read like an intellectual call to arms.
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