Melissa Bartley, Field Visual Manager of Terrain at Styers

When we first began hearing rumblings a few years back about Terrain, the garden center/home store/plant nirvana/farm-to-table café/dreamy wedding venue located 40 minutes outside of Philadelphia, we had no idea that the place was founded and operated by Urban Outfitters. Wouldn’t it be nice, we thought, to do a profile one day on the sweet couple who must own the place? But don’t laugh at our cluelessness just yet. Though its flagship campus is huge — nearly a dozen buildings spread out over five acres — Terrain has the intimate vibe and the quirkily curated stock of a much smaller operation. Credit for projecting that cozy vibe, despite being part of one of the biggest retail conglomerates in the country, goes in large part to Terrain’s visual team — the buyers, merchandisers, and creatives who stock the place with mason jars, ticking stripe aprons, vintage planters, sea salt soaps, bocce ball sets, and terrariums.
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The Curator of Philly’s Legendary Barnes Foundation on her Favorite Pieces From the Collection

In 2002, when the Barnes Foundation announced a plan to move from its original location in Merion, Pennsylvania, to nicer, big-time architect–designed digs in Philadelphia, there was a bit of an uproar. How, devotees of the collection wondered, could anything ever replicate the obsessiveness with which Alfred C. Barnes — the quirky early 20th-century art enthusiast who amassed the collection — originally arranged things? When the new building, designed by Tsien & Williams, opened last year, those people breathed a sigh of relief at its apparent fidelity (every room is the same dimension as its counterpart in Merion, and everything was reinstalled to one-sixteenth of an inch.) But here’s something even more freeing: visiting the Barnes as we did, knowing next to nothing about the whole endeavor and therefore being able to judge the collection on its own merits.
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Bodega Gallery Press

Just walking into Bodega Gallery in Philadelphia’s Old City and being greeted by one of its five cool, young founders — or browsing its online archive of past exhibitions, which is peppered with names like Sam Falls and Travess Smalley — you could easily file it alongside similar edgy, high-brow art establishments in cities like L.A., New York, or Paris. And then you find yourself conversing with a few of said cool, young founders (all of them artists themselves and graduates of Hampshire College), and you hear them say things like “stuff is for sale if people want to buy it, but that’s not the driving force,” or “this is just a space — everything happens around it, and nothing happens at it,” and you realize that the economics of a place like Philly can be even more freeing for projects like this than you’d imagined. Bodega really is just a space, one that's run by Elyse Derosia, Ariela Kuh, Lydia Okrent, James Pettengill, and Eric Veit, but where it feels like almost anything could happen.
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Jessica Hans’s Ceramics Are Aggressively Irregular — Which Is Precisely Why We Love Them

If you think about it, most ceramicists are obsessed with perfecting the clay — wedging it to get rid of bubbles, erasing seams that might come from using a mold, shaving off excess little bits. Jessica Hans is not that ceramicist. Her pots and planters are lumpy and misshapen. They have uneven mouths and aggressively irregular textures. When we visited her sunny, third-floor studio, on top of the South Philly row house she shares with her filmmaker boyfriend, our first thought was that her ceramics all looked like they’d walked out of the prop closet from a Tim Burton movie. (Which, if you read our site with any regularity, you know is one of the highest compliments we could give someone. We’re pretty into weird.)
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Ben Fiess, Ceramicist

Before he moved to Philadelphia in September of last year, Ben Fiess was living on a Minnesota farm, 20 minutes south of St. Paul, five miles from the nearest small town. “One of my friends in graduate school’s parents had recently retired and inherited the family farm,” Fiess says. “No one had been there for a decade or so, so it was in disrepair, but they actually had a lot of kilns and equipment because my friend’s mother taught art. It was a good opportunity to live for free and keep making work.” When he wasn’t making ceramics, Fiess spent his time planting asparagus roots, working at farmer’s markets across the border in Wisconsin, and ripping up sod. “I could go a week without seeing anyone unless I drove into the city,” Fiess remembers. So how is it that when we visited Philly back in January, every other artist and designer we met knew exactly who Fiess was? (“That guy moved to Philly? That’s so cool,” was the typical refrain.)
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Joel Evey, Graphic Designer

Joel Evey owes his career to Pixar, believe it or not. He made a name for himself as part of the team that was bringing edgy, high-brow graphics to Urban Outfitters back in 2010 — with a style some like to call the “new ugly” — but at age 15, it was Toy Story that changed his life. “I saw it for the first time and was like, wow, that’s crazy! You can do that with a computer?” recalls Evey, who at the time was already about to head off to college early to study computer science. Instead of hard coding, he decided to pursue animation and 3-D graphics instead. “But animations took so long to render that I started to think, ‘Well, what happens when I take this image and just render one of them?’ Then, ‘What if I put type on it? What would that look like?’” The rest, as they say, is history.
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Julianne Ahn of Object & Totem

Like most ceramic artists we know, Julianne Ahn didn’t originally train at the wheel. “I went to school for undergrad in textile design, and then I got an MFA in the Fiber Materials Studies department at SAIC — which is a way more conceptual major,” the Philadelphia-based designer told us when we visited her studio this winter. “I did that on purpose to complement my undergraduate degree, which was about technique and craft-making. Somewhere in the middle, I’ve managed to find a balance between concept and design.”
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New Friends, Weavers

Back in 2009, Kelly Rakowski was a graphic designer at Todd Oldham in New York, and Alex Segreti was living in Philadelphia, working in the textiles department at Urban Outfitters. In her free time, Rakowski ran a blog called Nothing is New, for which she scoured image archives on the web, unearthing old exhibition catalogs, classic spreads from magazines like Domus, and vintage ceramics and textiles. Segreti had a blog as well, called Weird Friends, where she documented similar obsessions: craft, pattern, art, ceramics, textiles, and dogs. The two had never met, but when Rakowski emailed Segreti on a whim one day to tell her how much she liked her site, they began to bond; when both expressed a desire to learn how to weave by hand, they decided to embark on an experiment. They shipped each other yarn, so they’d have the same palette to work from, and a few months later Rakowski made the trip to Philly. They had dinner, retired to Segreti’s apartment, and showed each other their weavings. “They kind of looked the same,” Rakowski remembers. “It was crazy. Now we always come up with the idea together but work separately, and when we meet, we forget who did what because everything magically works.” The two eventually made their design partnership official, merging the names of their online identities into a fitting moniker: New Friends.
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The Sight Unseen Book

The launch of the first-ever Sight Unseen book — debuting in April as part of the Karlsson’s Vodka Unfiltered project — is just around the corner. This week, we’re posting sneak peek images and asking our readers to guess who the subject of each photograph might be. Here’s a quote from today’s featured designer, an illustrator and University of the Arts grad who spent some formative years at Fabrica, where he became inspired by these vintage Italian comics: “There is a fun, visually approachable quality to my work but ultimately I try to convey some darkness or satirical angle. If it’s too nice, then it’s boring for me.”
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Andy Beach of Reference Library in 01 Magazine

Sighted in the seventh issue of the online journal 01 Magazine, an interview with Philly-based blogger extraordinaire Andy Beach. Despite having never met the two women behind the Vancouver-based publication, we feel a certain kinship with them: They meander across disciplines, they cover folks who are near and dear to us like ConfettiSystem and ROLU, and they even have a healthy appreciation for the absurd. But when we saw the story about Beach, in particular, we knew we had to repost it, as we've been trying to weasel our way into the man's home ever since we first met him in Milan two years ago, when he did a pop-up shop with Apartamento and sold us this book from his personal collection. For now, we'll settle for excerpting a Q+A that shines a light on the goings-on behind the scenes of his cult blog Reference Library, including the avalanche of inspiration binders that started it all
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Pierre’s Costumes

So you’ve decided to dress up as a pirate for Halloween. But have you given any thought as to whether you’d like to be a bloody pirate, a pirate captain, a captain’s mate, a cutthroat pirate, a Caribbean pirate maid, a pirate man, a pirate mistress, a pirate maiden, Lady Hook the Pirate Wench, a sea dog, a sea scoundrel, or Will Blackthorn? If you live in Philadelphia, and you’re plagued by these sorts of questions, you're probably already a customer of Pierre’s Costumes in Old City, which has been in its current location near the Wexler Gallery for more than a decade and in the costuming business since 1943, when the Philadelphia Mummers came ringing at this former medical and restaurant uniform-supply shop. But for the uninitiated — like Sight Unseen's editors were when we stumbled into the store quite by accident midway between Halloween and Christmas last year — Pierre’s is something of a revelation: a labyrinthine, two-floor facility housing thousands of rentals, professional mascot costumes, Santa suits, make-up kits, wigs, and accessories, with a workshop in back where seamstresses and tailors work furiously on repairs and custom designs for everyone from Fruit of the Loom to Bam Margera to Toys ‘R’ Us.
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Art in the Age

When Philadelphia adman Steven Grasse talks about his 20 years at the helm of Gyro Worldwide, the successful agency he shuttered in 2008, his assessment is as blunt as you might expect from the man who invented Bikini Bandits, a video series about strippers, guns, and hot rods: “I was the asshole who did the Camel ads,” he says. “At Gyro, we had this ‘I’ll fuck anything that moves’ philosophy.” That all changed in 2008, when he sold Sailor Jerry — the rum brand he created before going on to help develop Hendrick's Gin — to William Grant & Sons for “more money than I ever made in advertising,” he says. Grasse quickly changed the name of his agency to Quaker City Mercantile, and transformed its mission completely. “Now we only work on brands that we create and own or with clients I truly like personally,” he says. The most personal of those projects is Art in the Age, the Old City store and liquor brand Grasse began working on the day he sold Sailor Jerry.
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