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New Work by David Taylor

In case you hadn’t noticed, the big trend in these leaner, post­–economic disaster days, has been to elevate the lowest of low-grade materials into something elegant by design. OSB, polystyrene, plywood, plastic, MDF, resin — the list is endless. But you’d be hard pressed to think of a designer who does the opposite, who purposefully debases the precious commodity he’s been trained to craft to perfection. And yet what other choice did David Taylor have? After graduating from Konstfack in 1999, the Stockholm-based silversmith began to see the price of his raw materials soar: “Silver simply became too expensive for me to work with,” he says. “Without the benefit of a commission, working on spec becomes impossible when silver has quadrupled in price over the last eight years.” But Taylor’s loss was our gain: The designer began dabbling a few years ago in what he calls “a cheaper neighborhood,” making object assemblages by grafting more inexpensive materials like concrete, brass, and steel onto smaller silver pieces.
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Last project you worked on: “I’ve been collaborating more with Kristoffer recently as together we can take on much larger commissions. We recently designed an office and a shop interior here in Stockholm. I also just made a side table for a plant for in my house.”

Fredrik Paulsen, furniture designer

Fredrik Paulsen’s work, both as a designer and as a co-founder of Stockholm’s brilliant Örnsbergsauktionen is shaking the foundations of what you think Scandinavian design ought to be. “Here you are taught to produce work for the everyman,” Paulsen says. “It’s the legacy of IKEA: Good design for everyone. But if your work doesn’t really fit into mass production and it is not intended for it, then there is no platform or venue to show it.” It was this void that led Paulsen and his friends and fellow designers Simon Klenell and Kristoffer Sundin to stage their first auction during last year’s Stockholm’s Design Week. They invited contemporaries — some they knew, others they only knew of — to submit diverse, self-made works that went beyond the cookie-cutter forms they’d grown tired of, and put them up for bidding. It paid off.
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Katrin Greiling’s Tata Lookbook

The first time Katrin Greiling visited Indonesia, back in 2011 on a Swedish Arts Grant, she arrived, as she always does, with her camera. The Stockholm-based designer got her first camera when she was 10, flirted with the idea of photography school, and now, in addition to her design practice, shoots portraits and interiors for publications like Wallpaper, Abitare, and Form. But photography is more than just a hobby for Greiling. She was in Indodesia to produce a daybed for Kvadrat’s Hallingdal 65 project, but she soon found that she couldn’t stop herself from photographing the rattan production going on in the same furniture workshop, a sheet-metal structure wedged among Java’s dense architecture. “Photography legitimizes me to be in certain circumstances, to come closer to a subject than a normal visitor would,” she says. By photographing the workers and their process, she came to understand rattan’s properties. It suddenly came to her: “Of course I had to work with rattan."
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Örnsbergsauktionen 2013

When Fredrik Paulsen, Kristoffer Sundin, and Simon Klenell organized an auction for independent design in the basement of their Stockholm studio last year, it was with a bit of trepidation: Would anyone come? Would the pieces sell? Would the Swedish design market, with its thirst for Scandinavian midcentury classics, be open to more unique and sometimes weird works? Apparently the answer was yes on all fronts, for the Ornsbergsauktionen — which was one of our favorite exhibitions of 2012 — is back this year in conjunction with Stockholm Design Week, complete with a gorgeous new graphic identity by Bergen, a sharp new website from Konst & Teknik, and new editions by returning favorites like TAF as well as newbies (and Sight Unseen friends) Gemma Holt, Hilda Hellström, and Silo Studio. In Stockholm, the viewing is open until the night of the auction, February 8, but you can get peek of the goods above (that's Paulsen's stained pine and Valchromat Prism shelf up top) and below, as well as on the auction homepage where pre-bids are being taken.
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New Places Necklaces by Karin Johansson

Don't get your hopes up — you won't find Karin Johansson's necklaces in the Sight Unseen shop anytime soon, or at any other shop for that matter. Johansson isn't a fashion designer, after all, but a Sweden-based jewelry artist who's spent nearly two decades learning and refining her metalworking techniques, and her pieces are only available through high-end galleries like Barcelona's Klimt02. That's where we spotted the New Places collection, a colorfully graphic amalgam of handmade elements in enamel, plastic, and precious metals, plus crushed and "reconstructed" stone; Johansson based each necklace on a different photograph she'd taken while traveling inside her own city and beyond. "The inspiration and the starting point for New Places were photos I'd collected for a few years of different views, landscapes, and cities," Johansson explains. "Simply by drawing a line in the picture and connecting the ends, then picking up the colors, I discovered a necklace giving hints of houses, streets, trees, water, sky, lines, and directions."
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Le Corbusier’s Secret Laboratory

They had us at the title: "Le Corbusier's Secret Laboratory," aka the painting studio where the architect took a pause from buildings and furniture to create expressive artworks like the sculpture above, many of which will be on view at Stockholm's Moderna Museet starting this Saturday. Though his work has been under the microscope for so long now, obviously, that it would be silly to consider any part of his oeuvre truly a secret, the museum claims to have some rarely shown pieces up its sleeve, and a thesis that puts his career in something of a new perspective: "A central theme of this exhibition is Le Corbusier’s oscillation between two seemingly disparate pursuits — his celebration of mechanical objects and his search for poetic forms," its curators write.
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Malin Gabriella Nordin’s Children’s Workshop

Malin Gabriela Nordin isn’t the type who’d be quick to align herself with an art movement — the 24-year-old prefers to stay as insulated as possible from outside influences, which is why she left her friends and family in Stockholm four years ago to attend art school in comparably tiny Bergen, Norway. But as it turns out, Nordin is something of a Surrealist, at least from where we’re standing: Everything about her process is geared towards connecting with her subconscious, from letting her sculptures develop intuitively and spontaneously to painting with quick-dry acrylics, eliminating any lag between her mind and the canvas. And then there’s her obsession with children. “My work has to do with reconstructing fragments from memories, and I've been working with my own childhood a lot,” she says. “I think of kids at that age as more free.” It’s that notion that led Dalí and Picasso to pay homage to the creativity of the pint-sized, and that led Nordin to make them the subject of her senior graduation project, inviting eleven children to participate in her artistic process.
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Hilda Hellström, Swedish Sculptor and Designer

In any designer’s career, there are hundreds of split-second decisions that conspire to create the precise conditions under which good work can emerge. For the Swedish-born, London-based designer Hilda Hellström, it came down to this one: When she was asked to create a project for this year’s Royal College of Art exhibition at the Milan Furniture Fair, she says with a laugh, “the wood workshop was quite busy, but the resin workshop was nice and quiet.” Of course, there’s more to the recent grad's breakout Sedimentation vases than that; Hellström is obsessed with the idea of imbuing her objects with a myth and narrative of their own. But in many ways the vessels — which are made from layers of pigmented Jesmonite, a non-toxic acrylic-based plaster often used in ceilings and restoration work — are a reaction against something else. “My father was a carpenter, so I was used to working with wood, and I was bored of how you have to consider that it’s a living material,” she says. “Wood tells you what to make, but working with a moldable material like Jesmonite is almost like playing God.”
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Kent Fonn Skåre, Artist and Graphic Designer

Being that he's still a student at Konstfack in Stockholm, you've probably never heard of Norwegian artist and graphic designer Kent Fonn Skåre. But his work, even at first glance, is ridiculously easy to love: It's got a heavy focus on materials, lots of marble, and a whiff of Memphis — yes, the three "M"s, the golden trifecta of the current avant-garde, or at least the little corner of it that we're obsessed with, which also includes folks like Clemence Seilles and Jens Praet. We discovered Fonn Skåre via a fleeting image on Pinterest, but found surprisingly little information on him and the ideas behind his work, so we did what we do best, harassing the poor man until we were able to tease out a bit of insight into his practice. Check out the interview and accompanying photos here, then bookmark Fonn Skåre's Flickr feed to browse more of his graphic design work and follow his future projects.
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At the 2012 Stockholm Design Week

Last week, the editors of Sight Unseen toured the former Cooper Square Hotel, which is in the process of blossoming into a gorgeously rendered East Village branch of the Standard. We met with the organizers of Wanted Design to talk about New York Design Week, and a planned alliance between offsite shows including the American Design Club, Model Citizens, and our Noho Design District. We had an ungodly amount of $1 oysters, bought a new pair of Warby Parker glasses, and got into a glaring match with an Apple Genius Bar employee who refused to replace a power adapter that had met an untimely death. What we did not do, however, was attend Stockholm Design Week — we stayed put this year while our friends braved jetlag and below-freezing temperatures to experience the annual unveiling of all things new in Scandinavian design. And yet rather than totally miss out on all the action, we found a willing scout who, while she preferred to remain anonymous for various reasons, was happy to report back on the goings-on in and around the fair — all with a Sight Unseen slant, of course.
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Örnsbergsauktionen at Stockholm Design Week

If you live in Chicago, and you’re interested in buying the self-produced, often prototypical work of today’s younger design generation, you might head to Sam Vinz and Claire Warner’s pop-up Volume Gallery, or maybe to Wright auction house. If you’re in New York or London, it’s Phillips de Pury. But Stockholm? “We really didn’t have a place like this,” says Fredrik Paulsen, a young Swedish designer, RCA grad, and co-creator of the Örnsbergsauktionen, a self-produced auction of 48 unique contemporary items launching this Friday in conjunction with Stockholm Design Week.
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The magic of Uglycute lies in its members’ ability to turn ordinary, low-cost materials like plywood, particle board, cage mesh, or crappy carpeting into striking installations and covetable furniture, like this tessellated shelving unit. It was developed for Alisa Grifo and Marco Romeny of the New York store Kiosk, who use it as display for shop-in-shops they’ve installed in places like Melbourne and London. The couple, who keep an apartment in Romeny’s native Stockholm, have a longstanding friendship and ongoing collaboration with Uglycute — they were the ones who first introduced Sight Unseen to the group’s work.

Uglycute, Furniture and Interior Designers

For Uglycute, it all began with a Bruno Matthson knockoff. It was 1999 and Swedish design was having a moment, but not, it seemed to the group’s four fledgling members, for the kinds of edgy experimental crafts and artistic hybrids being made by the emerging scene at the time — Wallpaper magazine and its ilk were still peering into the long shadows of Sweden’s old modernist icons. And so architecture grad Fredrik Stenberg and artists Jonas Nobel, Andreas Nobel, and Markus Degerman vented their frustration in the only way they knew how: by mounting a show around a sarcastic simulacrum of Matthson’s Eva chair made from a clunky particle-board box and cheap nylon straps. Complemented by a set of primitive clay pinch pots and a crude plywood table, the installation served as a launch pad for the group, and its subject matter — elevating cheap materials in order to question traditional norms of beauty and value — lent their firm its distinctive name. “It was meant as a new take on formalistic values,” says Nobel, who with the other three partners has since built a thriving practice known for its work with museums and clients like Cheap Monday.
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