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Aleksandra Pollner, Furniture Designer

After her family bribed their way out of Poland in the ’80s, says Aleksandra Pollner, they spent years moving from place to place to place. Her perpetually uprooted childhood, she says, had a profound effect on her work as an adult: “I became fascinated with boundaries, tensions, spaces in between, where we find solace, and what makes us feel comfort and discomfort,” concepts that inspired pieces like her new Line and Circle table and Ma floor light, pictured above.
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Chris Wolston’s Fetish Lights

One of the many great things about living in this post-Postmodern, cyber-gray area of the 2k10s, is that artists and designers can draw inspiration from pretty much any culture or period and come away with something new and exciting. There's the brightly colored, geometric, “playful” route that has become so popular with today’s makers — and then there’s Brooklyn’s Chris Wolston. His approach to making is often from a primordial or primitive perspective, where senses of the handmade and the human spirit are easily discernable.
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Oslo’s Camilla Løw on Her Graphic, Geometric Sculptures

There's this thing we do constantly at Sight Unseen that we don't even realize we're doing: We gravitate towards creatives who work in other disciplines, like art or fashion, only to find out they've either gone to school for or been massively inspired by design. Upon visiting, last June, the Oslo studio of sculptor Camilla Løw, whose work we'd seen on a few Tumblrs and fallen for, we quickly learned that she, too, fell into the latter camp — although she studied fine art, she spoke to us about architecture and her dreams of someday designing furniture, and showed us her prized books on Bauhaus jewelry and the work of Andrea Branzi. Some of her own pieces even function as vases or stools. But make no mistake, she is an artist, one who's shown at galleries like Jack Hanley and Andrew Kreps, fairs like Frieze, and museums like the Astrup Fearnley. Read on to learn more about her process and ideas, and how design fits into it all.
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e7’s Zinc Project Was One of This Year’s Salone Satellite Standouts

Our last bit of Milan coverage this week comes from a brand-new design studio comprised of three ECAL grads — Giulia Chéhab from Italy, Micael Filipe from Portugal and Romain Viricel from France — whose Zinc Project caught our eye in the very last row of this year's Salone Satellite. A table and shelf series made from galvanized zinc, the project was inspired by the aesthetic irregularities that arise from the galvanization process.
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As seen on Ellen's Design Challenge, designer Katie Stout's piece was the first to be evaluted by the panel of experts at the end of the first challenge. For this week, the designers had to create a unique and functional piece from materials contained in six identical crates. With her carpenter Karl Champley's help, Katie built a sideboard/cabinet made of steel, walnut and acrylic. (After)

To Star on Ellen’s Design Challenge

If the weirdness of Ellen Degeneres starting her own Project Runway–style furniture-design reality show didn't fully strike me when I first heard about it, a couple of months back, it definitely hit home shortly after the show first aired on HGTV last Monday night, when I got the following text from my mom: Do you know any of the designers on Ellen's Design Challenge? The weirdest part of all, of course, was that I did: Katie Stout, one of Sight Unseen's inaugural American Design Hot List picks and the winner of our own erstwhile design competition (our 2013 pumpkin-carving contest), is one of the show's six contestants. After watching the first episode myself, in which Stout introduces mainstream America to the squiggly cabinet above, we knew we had to get the full story from the designer. “It was really surreal,” she says of the experience.
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Örnsbergsauktionen 2015

Exhibition curators often face a funny dilemma: The more successful they become, the more great people start clamoring be involved in their projects, which ultimately only makes their selection process that much harder. Hence why the minds behind the Swedish design auction Örnsbergsauktionen — which for the past four years has consistently been pretty much the most amazing thing coming out of Stockholm Design Week — decided to tighten the curatorial reins this year, not only requiring that their 30 participants be designers who self-produce their own work in small batches but also leaning heavily towards the ones who work collectively or invent their own materials and processes. Once they managed to narrow their list down to the lucky few, which this year includes folks like Maria Jeglinska and Jenny Nordberg — plus of course founders Simon Klenell, Fredrik Paulsen, and Kristoffer Sundin themselves — they let the magic flow, resulting in the 40 objects that will head to the auction block on February 6. As usual, we've excerpted our favorites after the jump.
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Recreation Center’s Ceramics

There's a kind of genius in the way that Josephine Heilpern runs her ceramics studio, Recreation Center. Maybe not in the fact that she does everything — from designing to fabricating to filling orders — 100% on her own, with no help, running herself perpetually (yet gleefully) ragged, but more in how she knows exactly when to keep things simple versus when to let her imagination run wild. In the three years since she's been making the mugs, lamps, and mobiles we've been fortunate enough to stock in our online shop, she's barely changed her design formula, hewing to basic shapes and consistent patterns that resist becoming tiresome with daily use, yet on her site and her popular Instagram feed, she markets those objects with all the visual pizzazz of a 28-year-old raised on internet culture. When we invited her to shoot some of her creations exclusively for Sight Unseen, she turned up the styling charm, busting out the dollar-store props and studio scraps to bring her aesthetic vision to life.
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If you don’t have the fortitude to build your own Sculpey mobile, of course, you can always purchase one of Fort Makers’ existing wooden mobile designs in the studio’s online shop.

Make a Sculpey Mobile, With Fort Makers

The team behind Fort Makers don’t refer to themselves as a design studio but rather an “artist collective,” and there’s a marked difference: They make functional objects, but instead of producing a stream of products with a unified aesthetic, they each work individually under the studio umbrella, experimenting with whatever interests them at any given time. In a way, it’s that same sense of structureless structure that first attracted Noah Spencer to the idea of making mobiles: You can hang pretty much anything from them, as long as you get the balance right. “Any kind of visual language can be carried into the mobile world,” says Spencer, a Paul Loebach and Uhuru Design alum who co-founded Fort Makers in 2008. While he primarily makes models hung with simple wooden shapes, he’s also been toying around lately with more expressive elements made from polymer clay (aka Sculpey), a method he graciously offered to teach Sight Unseen readers in this tutorial.
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2014, Part V

This week we announced the 2014 American Design Hot List, Sight Unseen's unapologetically subjective annual editorial award for the 25 names to know now in American design. We're devoting an entire week to interviews with this year's honorees — get to know the next five Hot List designers here.
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2014, Part IV

This week we announced the 2014 American Design Hot List, Sight Unseen's unapologetically subjective annual editorial award for the 25 names to know now in American design. We're devoting an entire week to interviews with this year's honorees — get to know the next five Hot List designers here.
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2014, Part III

This week we announced the 2014 American Design Hot List, Sight Unseen's unapologetically subjective annual editorial award for the 25 names to know now in American design. We're devoting an entire week to interviews with this year's honorees — get to know the next five Hot List designers here.
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Steven Haulenbeek’s Ice-Cast Bronze Collection

We’ve heard of something being a product of its environment, but never has that phrase rung so true as it does with the pieces in Steven Haulenbeek’s Ice-Cast Bronze series, on view this month at Chicago’s Casati Gallery, which were made largely in a trough of ice outside Haulenbeek’s studio window during last winter’s deep freeze. Haulenbeek — who knows from frigid winters, having grown up and studied sculpture in Michigan and lived in Chicago for the better part of his adult life — originally conceived the series back in 2011, when he was fooling around with pouring wax into frozen puddles on Chicago’s city streets. But this winter’s extreme conditions — while providing little but consternation for everyone else — gave Haulenbeek the opportunity to take the whole operation onto a much larger scale. We recently spoke with the Chicago-based designer to find out a little more about the origins and making of his new collection.
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