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Art and Artists

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Around the Web This Week

Becky

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Hey All! Where have you been whiling away your break time on the web this week? I can’t stop with the Street Art Utopia. Each one delights more than the last. However this week, this leaning tower of a concrete post made me smile the most:

I love it when a public works building gets turned into some sort of kick-butt residence, and water towers always seem to be the coolest ones; maybe because of their big old curves, uncommon in most residential architecture. This tour over at FreshHome takes us through a Belgian water tower converted by BAHM Design Studio.

I enjoyed seeing the kitchens that Dwell magazine dubbed their coolest ones from their archives. I love some of the ones like you see below, I imagined Unhappy Hipster captions for others. Either way, it’s a fun slideshow!

This guy, Andrew, the latest addition through the revolving door that is Jeff Lewis’s team  on Flipping Out, cracked  me up. Apparently he has a trust fund that only kicks in when he has a full time job, so he is a nervous wreck he’ll lose the most ridiculous job on earth. Jeff always sheds an employee or three each season, so the poor guy should be nervous.

Finally, I swear, Passive-Aggressive Notes is still one of the most genius sites I’ve read. What better passive-aggressive way is there to get back at a crazy note-leaver than to submit it to the site? This one about the deck blew my mind; it brings up the very serious issue of deck envy. If I received it, I think I’d have to move knowing I lived close to such a nut job.

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Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Dropping Some Knit Bombs

Becky

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Oh lord, is saying “bomb” on the internet anything like it is at the airport? I hope not! So inspired by, of all things, the Design Public newsletter’s mention of Debra Folz Designs’s pieces, I set off on a journey to find some cool knit bombs.

What is knit bombing? It’s also called yarn bombing and crochet bombing, and it involves urban guerillas armed with knitting needles, who wrap objects like trees, stop signs, fences, parking meters, park benches and other street and park furniture in (usually) very bright-colored yarn. This phenomenon has been gaining in popularity and spreading from city to city all around the world for several years now.

Fun mixes of patterns and colors enliven these mundane objects, making us take a second and third glance at ordinary things we usually pass by without noticing every day. It’s a more textured and temporary form of graffiti.

I swiped all of these images from Pinterest, which can make it difficult to track down original sources, so if you know any of them, please let me know in the comments section and I’ll fill them in! I do know that if there is a good knit bomb image out there, it’s likely been celebrated on and perhaps originally designed by Knitta. Knitta, founded by Magda Sayeg, is in great part responsible for this international craze.

While we haven’t heard of any of these brave guerillas with the mad granny skills have not yet been arrested, their work is not always legal. In the case of this stop sign flower, they could not survive traffic laws. This project by knitting guy welcomed spring but according to his last post the city was going to have to remove them:

Finally, here is a knit bomb worthy of Comic-con, a charming litle R2D2 bollard:

This is such a fun trend to follow. Let us know if you’ve knit bombed anything.

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Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Designer Interview: Domenic Fiorello Studio

Becky

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I recently had the pleasure of bombarding furniture designer Domenic Fiorello with questions. Thanks so much to Domenic for joining us today!
Please tell us a little about your background and how you landed where you are today.

A bit over a year ago, I graduated from the Furniture Design program at the Rochester Institute of Technology in upstate NY. This program had a huge influence on the way I approach my business. It focuses very heavily on design, prototypes, finished objects and craftsmanship. All of my work starts out with my hands physically making the first product … even if it eventually gets subbed out a larger manufacturer.

Your background includes furniture making as well as exhibition design and displays. How did  that experience lead you to the design of your plant pod? The product shots look like mini-exhibitions to me!

Hahaha, yes, yes that is very intentional. While in school I worked with a local art gallery. After seeing how perfect (and white) the walls had to be to display the work, I realized that I wanted my work to be clearly represented in its purest form. I respect seeing products in their environments – it allows people to see the product’s potential in their own homes. But I also have faith in the beauty of an object standing alone.

As for making my way to this design, In school I designed a lot of objects that were very laborious; objects that would have to be sold to a certain class of citizens. Switching the approach to designing a product that could reach other classes, I wanted to come up with something that was small for the ease of shipment and used cheap materials. Something that could take advantage of new, efficiency-driven technologies. Also, to design something that would fit into homes of various styles. These factors just led me to create the Plant Pods … and I think I satisfied all of the above-mentioned factors.

Domenic Fiorello Plant Pod, made from White Oak; has keyhole hangers with screws and template for ease of installation

Where do you look for inspiration?

I look to fine art a lot. I am a huge fan of Sol LeWitt and Mark Rothko. I’m not going to try to define mid-century fine art, but these guys, in my mind, draw from using simple forms and compositions, but through subtlety, there is always a surreal “wow” effect.

Sol LeWitt image from Mass MOCA catalog

Subtlety is very important in my work. I also look to mid-century Scandinavian design as well. I’m in awe every time I see a collection of Hans Wegner chairs.

Wegner dining chairs; image from Vintage & Modern

Do you get creative blocks? How do you un-block?

My creative blocks always tend to happen while in the drawing phase of a design. I will start making models, anything to get my hands involved. It becomes a different way of thinking. Seeing an idea in 3 dimensions really opens the doors as well. Another thing I do is call up a few other designer/maker friends. We’ll get together drink a beer and just start talking about ideas. 3 heads are always better than one.

What else are you working on?

This is a new piece I recently finished, the KF table. The KF Table is a result of my studies in the visual texture of fabric. In recent years my work has been influenced by layering two-dimensional patterns over three-dimensional forms. To further push this idea I was curious to see if I could achieve a fabric-like look. Ultimately, the goal was not to mimic herringbone fabric, but to play off the qualities of the fabric.

photo from Domenic Fiorello Studio

This piece is more of an experimentation of pattern study than a product that will hit the market. I soon hope to push the textural idea into something more producible though.

Top of KF table; photo by Domenic Fiorello Studio

We can’t wait to see what else Domenic comes up with; for now, we’ll enjoy the beautiful Plant Pod perches he’s created for our succulents. Order one for yourself here.

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Friday, June 8th, 2012

So Five Minutes Ago … Food Trucks …

Becky

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… So right now … Art Trucks!

I’m rather in awe that this hit my radar via Town & Country, which I started to receive for free for no reason. While I’m more of a Garden & Gun kinda gal, the issue with Gretchen Mol on the covers was quite wonderful, and I especially love the way they shot her at the newly-renovated Lautner Hotel in Desert Springs California.

I digress. Art trucks are genius. I mean, I just hit a neighborhood festival last weekend where all of these artists have to schlep their lovely wares for miles only to have to set up a tent on a sweltering day and set everything up on a hot day. Why not use a decommissioned short bus, an airstream, an RV or an old Wonder Bread truck?

That’s exactly was artists Matthew Chase-Daniels and Jerry Wellman have done in their home town of Santa Fe. Here’s how they describe their endeavor:

Housed in the back of a custom retrofitted 1970 aluminum stepvan, Axle Contemporary is an art gallery on wheels. We host installations, performance, and thematic group exhibitions of works on paper, including photography, drawing, painting, and limited edition prints. Our mobility allows us to visit both typical art venues and unusual ones, such as high schools, festivals, workshops, empty lots, and city streets.

Gallery space inside the truck

This is one of the most fun ideas I’ve heard in awhile. I love the thought that it could pull up to a school like the old Bookmobile and let kids see an art show; it’s certainly easier than bussing them all to the museum and getting those pesky permission slips signed. Anywhere a Fry Guy truck could pull up, some culture could be added without creating competition. I wonder what other kinds of trucks we should be coming up with? Maybe we need a roving Design Public Airstream outfitted with killer furniture and accessories we could tempt you with? What would you put in a truck and take to the mall parking lots and street festivals? Let us know in the comments section!

Images swiped from Axle Contemporary


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Thursday, May 10th, 2012

Designer Interviews: Sharon & Ted Burnett of Strand Design

Becky

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Hey All, today we’re chatting with Sharon Burdett, co-founder, along with Ted Burdett, of Strand Design. Thanks so much to Sharon for sharing a little more about how a career leads to designing furniture at your own company, choosing recycled and recyclable materials, producing goods locally, and hip-hop night in Florence …

Please tell me a bit about your background – what led you to creating Strand Design?

Strand Design was created out of our desire to work together on collaborative projects, and became an actual company three years ago when we both decided to pursue these collaborative projects on a full time basis.

The first project that we created together was a line of reclaimed vinyl bags that we called “Tree Theory.” We sourced almost all of the components from the waste stream, literally taking vinyl billboards out of the dumpster, and cutting seat belts out of cars in the junk yard. It was messy, and very fun. Since that project, we’ve continued to produce designs that utilize recycled materials, or can be recycled easily (i.e., no “monstrous hybrids”) but we don’t feel that the designs should have a specific “green” aesthetic; we want the designs to speak for themselves.

Strand Design Birdhouse Floor Lamp


What preceded the Strand Design phase of your lives?

Ted has been designing, creating, and making things from the moment he could hold a pencil in his hand (that the pencil was made from old-growth lumber would become an issue as his awareness of and love for the natural world matured).

Ted’s relentless curiosity, lust for life, and desire to create led to an equally curious education — anthropology, fine woodworking, and environmental ecology at The University of Wisconsin at Madison; dinner parties and hip-hop night at the Lorenzo de Medici Art Institute of Florence, Italy; and, finally, The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) where he received his BFA in Industrial Design in 2004.


Ted’s design career began in soft goods at California Innovations’ Chicago office. There Ted was drawn deep into the world of product design on a massive scale, simultaneously enchanted and challenged by cost engineering and development trips overseas, high stakes design presentations for large retailers, and the ultimate challenge of trying to design products for six year old girls … luckily, there was foosball and the most amazing coworkers to help him cope with the stress.

In addition to his work at Strand, Ted is an instructor in Industrial Design at UIC. He loves it there.

Strand Design Better Dog Spotlight

As for myself, though fascinated by just about everything, a passion for writing and image-making led me to study graphic design over biochemistry, philosophy, psychiatry and poetry …

I received her undergraduate degree in graphic design from California College of the Arts in 2000, where I had the good fortune to learn from and work with some of the best designers in the profession. After graduating from CCA and working in The Bay Area for a few years, I headed back to Chicago to earn my MFA at The School of The Art Institute Chicago.

Before starting Strand with Ted in 2009, I worked as an in-house designer for the international fashion company Oilily, then at RGLA, one of the top retail design firms in the country, and I freelanced for several boutique design firms in San Francisco and Chicago.

When I’m not at Strand, I can be found practicing yoga, reading books, or eating chocolate. Sometimes all at once.

What’s your workspace like?

Our workspace is in an old warehouse in the west loop of Chicago. We are lucky to have a large amount of space, and we’ve been tweaking it continuously for the last three years. We have our prototype workshop in the basement of the building, our office on the ground floor, and our storage and assembly space on the top floor.


Tell us a bit about your neighborhood.

We absolutely love our neighborhood. It’s an exciting and almost bizarre mix of different businesses. The west loop is home to some of the most respected restaurants in the city, great galleries and boutiques, and packed in between all of these “tourist friendly” destinations are old meat packing shops and food wholesalers that have been around for decades. It inspires us both to think about how much the city changes, and how many layers of history are present simultaneously.

Strand Design Basket Lug Trug

Tell us a bit about designing sustainable products and some of the sustainable materials, processes and/or technologies you employ.

There are many reasons that we are committed to sustainability, and some of those reasons may not be as obvious at first as others. As designers of objects, we are certainly interested in reducing the environmental impact of the objects that we make, and this can be seen most clearly in our material choices.

• We use urban lumber or reclaimed lumber instead of wood from forests

• We use locally fabricated steel because of steel’s almost endless ability to be recycled,

• We use recycled rubber and recycled plastics.

• We also design our products with the intent that they can be disassembled into their component parts, which facilitates recycling as well as ease of repair.

Strand Design Eleven Side Table

In addition to our commitment to responsible sourcing of materials, we’re passionate about producing our designs locally. We work with local manufacturers, many of whom have been in business for decades, and the relationships that we have forged with these great local companies have a huge impact on the quality of our work. In addition to supporting the local economy, we truly believe that we can produce better products here.

Strand Design Tripod Table/Stool

Where did the name Strand Design come from?

The name Strand Design came from the very first collaborative project that Ted and I did together almost a decade ago. We were experimenting with carbon fiber jewelry, and the tiny fiber “strands” are just so amazing looking! The name just came from that moment of inspiration and we stuck with it.

What’s next for you and your company?

Slow and steady growth, and collaborations with other designers are on the horizon.

Thanks so much to Sharon Burdett for visiting with us today! Click here to see all of Strand Designs’s current line.

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