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Carly Ayres

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Posted by Carly Ayres  |  22 Aug 2014  |  Comments (0)

GUR-IanStevenson.jpgIllustration by Ian Stevenson

Designer Célia Esteves first fell in love with the Portuguese tradition of rug weaving at an exhibition in her hometown of Viana do Castelo, in the north of Portugal. There she met—and got a tutorial from—an artisan who was creating rugs on a hand loom. Esteves left the exhibition smitten with the technique and determined to find a way to continue working with the traditional handcraft. "I found it so exciting and promising that I immediately wanted to share it with some of my illustrator friends," she says.

Luckily, Esteves has some very talented friends. She asked illustrators like André da Loba, Marta Monteiro and José Cardoso to create designs to be translated into woven rugs, and worked with the weaver she met at the exhibition to realize the project. The result is Rug by GUR, a remarkable pairing of contemporary illustration and traditional Portuguese rug weaving.

GUR-MartaMonteiro-JoaoDrumond.jpgIllustrations by Marta Monteiro (left) and Joao Drumond

GUR-JoanaEstrela.jpgIlustration by Joana Estrela

"The technique is very specific, and it can also be limiting," Esteves admits. "Sometimes it is not possible to do exactly what is designed." One of the challenges is the grid system required of the weaving, making it difficult to create continuous lines. Another is the material used, raw tirela, which is made of rags from used clothing, limiting the colors to what is available from nearby factories.


Posted by Carly Ayres  |  15 Aug 2014  |  Comments (0)


We first covered Jamie Wolfond's work when he was still a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, stuffing plastic pellets into fireproof molds and slumping them over other objects to create his Frumpy Chair series. Now, just a few months after graduating, Wolfond has launched Good Thing, a Brooklyn-based company that takes a new approach to manufacturing by building production into the ideation phase, collaborating with designers, artists and vendors to create a seamless process for realizing new products.

Experimentation with manufacturing is a motif throughout the Toronto-bred designer's work, as he utilizes techniques usually reserved for the mass production of industrial products to create small runs of household goods. At the onset of a new project, Wolfond often begins by working with an outside vendor—even before he knows what exactly it is he's designing. "By allowing the strengths and limitations of a producer to influence the product from a very early phase, I am able to design an object that does not need to be compromised for production," explains Wolfond. "Not only does this idea yield considered objects, but it also lends itself to efficient and inexpensive production."

Good Thing was born from that concept, applying the idea to a much larger scale with more products and larger production runs. Its debut collection features a series of collaborations with local NYC designers, artists and vendors, with household objects ranging from hand-spun copper vessels to sand-cast aluminum trivets. One standout piece is the Plastic Craft Pot, a collaboration between Wolfond and Benjamin Kicic that drew inspiration from ceramic coil pots, but reimagined in biodegradable plastic.


Kicic, also an alumnus of RISD, had been playing with the archetype of the coil pot since before he and Wolfond graduated last May, making several rapid-prototyped porcelain vessels over the past year. Given that they are both interested in the parallels between 3D printing and clay coiling, Wolfond and Kicic decided to collaborate on a piece for Good Thing, but quickly realized that rapid-prototyping coil pots was not a very efficient method of producing in volume. "It is one of the few processes that does not become less expensive with quantity," Wolfond says.


Posted by Carly Ayres  |   8 Aug 2014  |  Comments (2)


They say crisis breeds opportunity. This was certainly the case for Daniela and Jorge Perdomo: Sitting in the dark struggling to communicate with their friends and loved ones in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the siblings were struck with an idea. "I realized it was crazy that we have these supercomputers on us that don't enable us to communicate in times when we need it most," Daniela says. That was the genesis of the idea for goTenna, which acts as a two-way radio for mobile phones, connecting you to others even when there is no cellular service.

With backgrounds in business development and systems architecture, Daniela and Jorge now serve as the CEO and CTO, respectively, of goTenna. In the early concept phase of the device, they first set about validating their idea and the technology before beginning work on a prototype. Their goal was to build a solution that enabled smartphone-to-smartphone communication without having to ever plug into central connectivity. Whether at a crowded concert where service is spotty or deep in the woods with no signal at all, goTenna would allow a user to transmit messages to others who have the device. The Perdomos sent their first goTenna message on a beach in the Dominican Republic.

It wasn't until a year later that the duo started thinking about design. In January 2014, the Perdomos approached Pensa to collaborate on the hardware and housing for the technology. Both based in Brooklyn, goTenna decided to work with Pensa after going through a dozen iterations and came together to arrive at their final design. "Our original prototypes were big, clunky devices that plugged into the audio jack of your phone," Daniela says. "Now we've got a sleek, small, rugged device that wirelessly pairs with your smartphone and will work for a huge variety of users."



Balancing that sleekness with ruggedness was one of the biggest challenges for Pensa and the goTenna team. "We didn't want people to have a giant external device that they have to carry around with them at all times, and we also wanted to make sure that it could withstand the elements," Daniela says. They chose rugged materials like aluminum and PC-ABS, made to be water-resistant and dust-tight. A nylon strap was added to make it easy to attach the device onto other gear.


Posted by Carly Ayres  |   1 Aug 2014  |  Comments (0)


When it comes to lights that retail for tens of thousands of dollars, you better believe every detail is excruciatingly considered. That's certainly the case with Bec Brittain's line of high-end lighting, luxury pieces thoughtfully designed and painstakingly assembled in her studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn. A prime example: During New York Design Week last May, the designer launched her latest iteration of Echo—a series of pendants with a price tag of around $40K each—which uses fins of glass around a central axis to reflect and diffuse beams of light.

Started in 2013, the Echo series is an exploration of light directed inward, toward mirror and glass. Thus Echo 1 has five angled LED arms that shine light toward the center, where it is reflected by bronze mirrors. The next version, Echo 2, employs opal white glass panels to softly diffuse light, while Echo 3 uses gray mirrored panels to create a much stronger, brighter glow. This year's addition to the series, Echo 4, introduces custom-cut perforations to break up its mirrored panels.

The perforated mirror is a first for Brittain's lighting work, chosen for how it works with linear light. "The lines are segmented and thrown, to create an effect we had hoped for but could barely anticipate," explains the designer. "This is one of our most exciting new fixtures, as the visual impact is at a maximum. The perforated mirror panels work with each other in a way that makes the fixture undefinable; it becomes a concentrated optical illusion."


When approaching a new idea for lighting, Brittain always begins by sketching—allowing the fixture to take form in these sketches, before moving to physical models. "We look at proportions, feasibility, concept; we try to understand the project as best we can with these methods, and then bring it to a digital model to work out the details and individual parts," she says. For the Echo 4, that meant prototyping the fixture in foam core and mocking it up using hardware from her SHY light series. Some sample glass was cut. In other cases, Brittain's team has 3D-printed hardware prototypes." It's a really great way to see the pieces and test them," Brittain says. "We move between the computer and these prototypes, and then order a small run of machined parts before moving into production."


Posted by Carly Ayres  |  25 Jul 2014  |  Comments (1)


On any given day, many Marines carry more than 15 pounds of batteries along with all their other rations and gear. Add that to the fact that they're mostly on their feet, constantly moving, and you have a recipe for fatigue. But what if you could harness the energy from their movements and the weight of that gear while also decreasing the amount of poundage these Marines have to heft? That was the idea that brought together Lockheed Martin and STC Footwear to design and develop a pair of boots that capture the energy from all those footsteps and turn it into usable power.

The Kinetic Boots were announced early last May at the Marine Corps' Experimental Forward Operating Base (ExFOB) event, where Marines demonstrated their ability to generate around three watts of power after an hourlong walk, enough to charge an iPhone 5 three times. This just a start—Lockheed Martin and STC anticipate that the boots' have the potential to generate nearly twice as much power after further development.

"There were two or three key challenges that we identified on day one," says Michel Bisson, CEO and Chairman of the Canada-based STC Footwear. "The main one was that we wanted to use only the wasted energy generated when the person walks or runs. It was very critical for us that no additional work be required by any part of the body (i.e. joint) other than carrying the two to three ounces that the system weighed." Lockheed had previously explored solar-power chest panels and helmets, but those devices added significant weight, and STC was determined to avoid that trap.