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The Bouroullec Brothers in Disegno #1

Designers around the world owe Johanna Agerman Ross a drink, or perhaps even a hug: Her new project, the biannual magazine Disegno, is devoted to letting their work breathe. “I always found it frustrating working for a monthly, because I couldn’t give a subject enough time or space to make it worthwhile,” says the former Icon editor. “For a project that took 10 or 15 years to make, it felt bizarre to represent it in one image, or four pages.” Founded by her and produced with the help of creative director Daren Ellis, Disegno takes some of the visual tropes of fashion magazines — long pictorial features, single-photo spreads, conceptual photography — and marries them with the format of a textbook* and the investigative-reporting ambitions of The New Yorker. The story about Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec which we’ve excerpted here, for example, fills 22 pages of the new issue and runs to nearly 3,000 words; it’s accompanied by images captured over two full days the photographer spent with the brothers, one in their studio and one at the Centre Pompidou-Metz, where they were installing their latest retrospective, “Bivouac.” And articles on Martin Szekely, Azzedine Alaïa, and Issey Miyake’s Yoshiyuki Miyamae are set either over lunch, or in the subject’s living room. The focus, says Agerman Ross, is on proper storytelling. “The people behind the project, the process of making something, even the process of the writer finding out about the story — that’s all part of it,” she says. “It’s the new journalism.” Obviously, we couldn’t agree more.
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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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Carly Mayer: The Window

From Monday through Thursday of this week, Sight Unseen is featuring a documentary project by British sculptor Carly Mayer, who indulged her personal curiosity about the factories surrounding her home in Brighton, England, by inviting herself over to photograph their inner workings. For the fourth and final installment, Mayer roams around a small window workshop called Balcombe Glass. ""From an artistic standpoint, I can’t help but find glass beautiful in its most polished and righteous state," she says. "I spent a long time staring at the stock, imagining the pieces as sculptures in their own right. The machinery used to cut the glass fascinated me as well; I expected it to appear menacing and sharp whereas in truth it stood rather friendly, allowing me to photograph its rubber stoppers used to hold the glass firmly in place during production."
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Carly Mayer: The Ratchet Strap

From Monday through Thursday of this week, Sight Unseen is featuring a documentary project by British sculptor Carly Mayer, who indulged her personal curiosity about the factories surrounding her home in Brighton, England, by inviting herself over to photograph their inner workings. Today she explores the making of the humble ratchet strap, overlooked by many but essential to some. "Personally, I had never given the humble ratchet strap much thought," Mayer writes. "It serves a purpose not universal or common, but practical and specialist. Most of us would never have any need for one. As I ventured into the factory, I was greeted by several heavy-duty sewing machines, and unlike the typical assembly line, a more fractured setup, with pods of people working on specific tasks. The stacks of brightly colored, coiled strapping looked like massive sweets in an out-of-scale candy shop."
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Carly Mayer: The Firework

From Monday through Thursday of this week, Sight Unseen is featuring a documentary project by British sculptor Carly Mayer, who indulged her personal curiosity about the factories surrounding her home in Brighton, England, by inviting herself over to photograph their inner workings. "Wells fireworks is, strangely enough, situated on the Duke of Norfolk’s estate in Arundel in West Sussex," Mayer says of today's installment. "What looks like a familiar farmhouse outbuilding with a stunning countryside backdrop is actually home to a successful pyrotechnic manufacturing plant. The business was originally started in 1837 by Joseph Wells — after he'd made a living as an explosive-lighter on the River Thames in London, but long before the Pussycat Dolls' tour would benefit from his company's products."
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Carly Mayer: The Roof Tile

From Monday through Thursday of this week, Sight Unseen is featuring a documentary project by British sculptor Carly Mayer, who indulged her personal curiosity about the factories surrounding her home in Brighton, England, by inviting herself over to photograph their inner workings. First up is the Keymer roof-tile factory. "Keymer is set back into the beautiful countryside of Burgess Hill, Sussex," Mayer writes. "Upon approaching the factory, the first thing that strikes you is the massive abundance of crates stacked with perfectly formed and notably familiar roof tiles. The next would be the sheer size of this 50-acre site, one of the oldest surviving brick and tile companies still laboring from a clay pit, which reaches as far as the eye can see. The business itself traces back to 1588 and was moved to its current site in 1860, exactly where I stood with my digital SLR camera. There was an instant sense of being thrown full-pelt back in time, as the whole essence of the operation was so delicately preserved. It gave me a child-like desire to pick up a stick and explore."
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In your words, what do you do? [C] "We are trained as architects but have drifted from the profession to become furniture designers with hands deeply in the art world."

Where They Create, by Paul Barbera

Because he’s been doing it since he was 16 — when he used his very first camera to shoot the art studio of a friend’s father — documenting the workspaces of creatives is second nature to Australian photographer Paul Barbera. So much so that he can now identify his own memes: piles of rubbish on a table, trash cans, air conditioners, outdated technology. “How many fax machines have I found that are covered in dust but powered up, just in case I get a fax?” laughs Barbera, whose new book Where They Create and three-year-old website of the same name are full of such telling references.
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Chen's Metamorphic Rock bookends, currently for sale through Phillips de Pury, are made from fine-grain concrete and stone-yard reject scraps. Their complete and utter randomness is part of their appeal — each one is entirely one of a kind, and even Chen himself doesn't really follow a set recipe when he's fabricating them.

Make a Metamorphic Rock Bookend, With Chen Chen

"It's not like it's a science," says Brooklyn designer Chen Chen as he's mixing up a batch of cement in the Brooklyn studio he shares with collaborator Kai Tsien Williams, attempting to explain why he can't offer an exact set of measurements for replicating his concrete bookends. They're fitting words to have chosen, though, coming from him: The Shanghai-born, Wyoming-raised designer had two chemists for parents, and yet it seems like his entire practice has revolved around losing control during the design process rather than maintaining it. Since he joined forces earlier this year with Williams — a fellow Pratt grad who also runs the design fabrication business Three Phase Studio — the pair have spent most of their time together choosing offbeat materials like expanding foam and studio scraps and experimenting for weeks to see what kinds of unexpected effects they can elicit from them.
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Digital Artist and Scientist Krist Wood on Rhizome.org

Any first-time visitor to the internet-art blog Computers Club could be forgiven for getting lost in the meandering stream of digital illustrations, photo manipulations, and animated gifs created by its close-knit group of international contributors. With no real nav bar or About Us page to use as a guide, either, they would even be justified in wondering what, exactly, it all means. And if, like I did back in 2009, this visitor decided to trace the site all the way to its founder, they would discover an even bigger enigma: Krist Wood, a doctor in Yale University's Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology who spends his days studying the protein nanomotors responsible for cell motion, and who calls his scientific work "part of my art practice." Indeed, I found Wood so intriguing — and Computers Club so freakishly addictive — that I contacted him two years ago, when Sight Unseen was just about to launch, in the hopes that I could feature both him and his cohorts on the site somehow. And yet without a clear understanding of how to capture such a disparate and mysterious group, I let the ball drop, which is why I was so pleased to see an interview with Wood published at the always-thought-provoking Rhizome blog earlier this week, one that actually sheds light on Wood's oeuvre. It's partially excerpted here.
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Misaki Kawai, Artist

Misaki Kawai's work is insane. In a good way. When Sweden's LOYAL gallery sent us these images from her new solo show, "Wet Shiny Surprise," we were taken with their use of geometry and pattern — not to mention their resemblance to Memphis design — but we had no idea the Japanese-born, New York–based artist also made paintings of weightlifting robots, surfing octopuses, and people pooping in the woods. What unites all of Kawai's art, from the beautiful to the bizarre, is her talent for blending childlike imagery with absurdist humor, a quality she suspects might have something to do with spending her childhood in Osaka, the center of Japan's comedy scene. But to the extent that her pieces seem like windows onto a strange and addictive parallel world, she gets most of her inspiration from navigating this one: After a post-graduate trip to Turkey, Nepal, and Thailand left her "greatly influenced by handmade dolls, textiles, and low-quality manufactured objects," Kawai began traveling regularly, collecting both physical and experiential scraps and incorporating them into her paintings and sculptures. When we interviewed her for this story, she had just finished opening the show at LOYAL and had moved on to Beijing and Mongolia, where she was riding camels and investigating the local dress. What she'll do with that fodder, we can only imagine.
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Mike Meiré, Art Director

History isn't always kind to guys like Mike Meiré — become the poster child for a rebellious and polarizing creative movement like the "New Ugly," which rocked the graphic design world in 2007 with its stretched typography and defiantly awkward layouts, and you're practically begging for an expiration date. To achieve the kind of unqualified success that Meiré has since he started his career in Cologne 25 years ago demands two basic personal attributes: The ability to talk about even your most controversial work in a straightforward, no-bullshit manner, which helps people believe in what you're doing, and the talent to excel at a diverse range of projects just in case they don't. What you learn from reading interviews with Meiré, or in our case, sitting across from him at a dinner party hosted by Apartamento magazine during the Milan Furniture Fair, is that he's driven far less by the desire to make a statement than by an earnest ambition to offer people products that are different from all the other ones already available to them. You also realize that the same guy who made his name art-directing publications like Brand Eins and 032c — and who most recently helped Russian doyenne Dasha Zhukova launch her latest project, the art and fashion magazine Garage — is just as likely to spend his time hanging pheasants inside modern farmhouse installations for Dornbracht, or collecting and exhibiting street food carts from around the world. In other words, even with the hype surrounding 032c having long abated, and that of Garage conspicuously angling to take its place, we still think Meiré's a fundamentally interesting guy, so we asked him to share some of his favorite tools and inspirations below.
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Faye Toogood Assemblage 3

Faye Toogood on Assemblage 3, for Phillips de Pury

When we — and the rest of the design world — were first introduced to her at the 2009 London Design Festival, Faye Toogood already seemed like Superwoman: Having just left her post as a stylist at the UK shelter magazine World of Interiors and cast out on her own, she'd engineered a coming-out party for herself that included a collaborative installation with Gallery Fumi featuring designs made from corn, a Memphis-inspired playroom with an Arabeschi di Latte egg bar, and a temporary shop for Tom Dixon that showcased how she'd begun to transform his brand image. Just seeing her do it was enough to make us feel stressed, and that was before we knew that she was about to reinvent herself again, this time as a furniture designer. Her first collection, Assemblage 1, was inspired by modernist sculpture, British craftsmanship, and her childhood growing up in the English countryside; it gave way to Assemblage 2 in Milan earlier this year, which took a darker, edgier turn. Finally, with Phillips de Pury last week, Toogood unveiled the third chapter in the series, and the most ambitious to date — it's based around her fascination with iridescence, and it took a motorcycle fabricator, a gun maker, and a studio full of assistants in gas masks to complete. I was asked by Phillips to conduct an in-depth interview with Toogood to appear in the show's catalog, and so Sight Unseen received special permission to reprint that interview here. It's lengthy, but it offers a good deal of insight into the mind of one of the most intriguing and ambitious personalities working in design right now.
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