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Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  29 Jan 2015  |  Comments (0)


For butterfingered woodworkers, dropping a project on the shop floor can be bad. But just imagine if your materials of choice were crystal and glass.


Since 2004, California-based artist Jack Storms has been producing these rare "optic sculptures." Created by precision-machining lead crystal and dichroic glass, a single piece can take up to 18 weeks to produce.


While Storms has advanced the art by inventing a lathe that allows him to turn glass like wood, he first learned the "cold-glass" process of joining lead crystal and dichroic glass from a glass artist in New Hampshire. "Working side by side with the artisan for over a year, Jack learned every component and facet of this incredibly challenging and rare art form and eventually was a strong enough sculptor to branch out on his own in 2004 and open StormWorks Studio," reads the bio on his website.


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  12 Dec 2014  |  Comments (0)


Earlier we showed you a movie Hayao Miyazaki never made, and here we can show you a piece of one that he did. The last piece, in fact, of the last movie he'll ever make, by most accounts; though the globally-beloved animation master has announced—and rescinded—his retirement before, this time he's rumored to be quitting for good.

So here we have something akin to watching Frank Lloyd Wright draw his last line, or Harley Earl shaving his last piece of clay. And it happens in a cramped-looking, low-ceilinged office lit by fluorescents, with an actual pencil and paper.

Not sure if you caught it, but the clip is significant as he changes the final meaning of the entire movie (The Wind Rises) by changing a single syllable of a single word uttered by one of the characters.


Posted by Kat Bauman  |  25 Nov 2014  |  Comments (0)


It's that time of the year. Throughout the Northern Hemisphere, it's growing cold and bleak. Though you may be beginning to think of snowy holiday cheer, delicious food roasting amid family and attractive gifts, I have a better option. Reflect on the demise of society as we know it with the New Survivalism project by Parsons & Charlesworth! This semi-sinister art project takes planning for post-apocalyptic living out of the bunker and into a more convivial, personal type of conjecture. What types of preparedness would we need, beyond mere survival?

The project's alternative bug-out bags offer six personal preparedness kits for modern survivalists whose water+rations are already taken care of. What upper-level essentials are there? In case of emergency, as in normal life, our priorities differ along very personal lines. While apocalyptic movies have their standard canon of character types, these packs and their owners' "mini manifestos" push outside of the tropes.


The first bag belongs to the Object Guardian, and it's more of an archival box. In a time after civilization's peak, who will keep the stories of our ancient objects and ways of life? Well, the guardian may be able to help. As a collector of all manner of old objects, the Guardian's bag protects an amalgamated ball of... stuff, seemingly cribbed from a history museum. From the mini manifesto:

Trying to memorize just some of them seemed ridiculous but what if I am the only one left to remember? Sure, they've got their Integrated Emergency Management plan all tied up but who is the real guardian? Who is taking the memories of these artifacts to the people, when the people can no longer come to them?

What happens to curators when the museums are abandoned? What happens to the millennia of learning?


Posted by Ray  |  18 Nov 2014  |  Comments (0)


Last time we checked in with Case Studyo, the Belgian limited-edition art purveyor, we took note of Grotesk's "6FT - 6IN" lamp. Now, just in time for the holidays, sometime Core-llaborator Andy Rementer is pleased to present "People Blocks 2," his second artist sculpture series comprising four winsome characters. From cyclopic Jaques (cardsharks might pick up on the pun) to bow-legged beagle Pierre, there's no denying that these modular sculptures have a broad appeal amongst art and design collectors alike.

The limited series features four new wooden characters entirely made and painted by hand. The individual pieces are interchangeable, allowing them to be re-assembled and stacked to create custom characters or abstract sculptures.
This new series continues in the spirit of the first edition with bold new shapes, colors and striking patterns. While their feet are planted firmly on the ground, the cast of characters also share a share a sense of unease and mystery, distinguishing features of Rementer's work.


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  12 Nov 2014  |  Comments (4)


Yesterday was Veteran's Day, the U.S. holiday where we Yanks honor the members of our military, past and present (and get our annual Band of Brothers fix on TV). The timing of the holiday is based on Armistice Day's 11-11-11—that's the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year, which in 1918 marked the official cessation of World War I hostilities.

Commissioned to design a Veteran's Day memorial for Anthem, Arizona, Phoenix-based artist Renee Palmer Jones took heed of both the "11" timing and the Arizona sun. As she writes:

At precisely 11:11 a.m., each year on 11-11, the sun aligns through the elliptical holes in each of the five marble pillars (each representing a branch of the the U.S. military) in order to perfectly illuminate a round mosaic inlaid into the bricks; that of the Great Seal of the United States. The symbolism of the five pillars standing in formation in order to protect the United States and to complete the solar illumination is representative of U.S. military personnel working together in all regards, in the security and defense of American citizens.


The project was designed by Palmer Jones, engineered by Jim Martin Oscar Oliden and Steve Rusch and constructed by the Haydon Building Corporation.


Posted by Ray  |  11 Nov 2014  |  Comments (3)

Met-Lombardo_Adam-Conservation-1.jpgPhotos courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (via Hyperallergic)

As a website and resource for industrial designers, we're always curious to learn about new materials and methods that may be of interest to our audience; it so happens that a lot of those same techniques can be applied to art conservation as well.

Sculpted by Tullio Lombardo in 1490–5 as a canonical classical nude, a life-size sculpture of Adam spent the subsequent four and a half centuries in Venice before it was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1936. Immortalized in marble, the biblical progenitor stoically occupied the Velez Blanco Patio for decades before a tragic turn of events following a 2000 renovation of the space, when its pedestal was replaced. Just two years later, the 770-pound, 6’3” Adam shattered upon falling from his four-foot-high, medium-density plywood pedestal—reportedly constructed in layers but hollow—when it gave way on the evening of October 6, 2002.


The allegorical irony of Adam's precipitous descent is duly noted, though the proverbial rib was not among the 28 large fragments as the torso remained largely intact. The damage, of course, was done, and after nearly twelve years, the conservation team at the Met has successfully restored the masterpiece and (better yet) documented the entire process:


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |   6 Nov 2014  |  Comments (0)


There's a reason we don't prototype things out of stone. We use wood, metal or plastic because when you inevitably screw something up, there's a chance you can fix it. Stone isn't exactly forgiving. Which is why I have the ultimate respect for the craftsmanship of stone sculptors, with their patience and the high level of skill required to render form from rock.

I always pictured them tapping away in some atelier with a hammer and chisel, but of course the modern-day stone sculptor has access to power tools. San-Francisco-based Chuck Clanton, whose material of choice is marble and whose work you see pictured here, uses chisels driven by air-powered hammers.


"I have been using the Cuturi air hammer line for 20 years," Clanton writes. "I learned about it from the 70-year-old artisani in Italy who have been sculpting for major studios all their lives. They use Cuturi because they stand up to 40-hour weeks, for decades."



Posted by erika rae  |  22 Sep 2014  |  Comments (1)


With all of the culture available to NYers, it might have been easy to miss the massive Picasso original that's been hanging in what is now the Four Seasons restaurant (in the Seagram Building) on Park Avenue since 1959. That being said, there are plenty of locals and tourists alike who wait hours to have the chance to see one of the area's many hidden art gems. "Le Tricorne"—a depiction of a bullfighting scene—is a 19’ × 20’ canvas, originally painted in 1919 and used as a stage curtain for the Ballets Russes. At the time, his wife Olga was a ballerina in the troupe.


The real question here is, why is it being moved at all? It turns out that Aby J. Rosen, owner of the Seagram Building, doesn't want the piece up in the space anymore and wants more room for "other art"—I'd be interested to know what he will find worthy of replacing a Picasso. This didn't really present much of an issue, considering that Rosen doesn't even own the piece. That honor goes to the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

The handlers in charge of moving the piece had no idea as to how or what was keeping the art attached to the wall, making for an adventurous and relatively risky removal process. The New York Times recently put together a fantastic look at how "Le Tricorne" was analyzed and moved from the area:


Posted by erika rae  |  22 Aug 2014  |  Comments (1)


Let me just start off by saying that I don't condone illegal forgery or theft—but I do think that someone who can put the art world in a tizzy with his own look-alike art without breaking any sort of law deserves some major props. Mark Landis is that man. And we're not talking paint-by-numbers, either. Landis's work may not follow the original mediums of his source material—he even mentions using colored pencils where a Sotheby's expert would cite chalk—but his work has been displayed in buildings around the country. Disguised as a philanthropist, Landis spends his time making obscure donations to organizations in order to have his work displayed.


That's all good and well, but here's where it gets really interesting: Registrar Matthew Leininger caught on to Landis's trick and starting following his moves. While the eccentric forger's story is well-documented—Google his name and you'll get results from the likes of the New York Times and the The Daily Beast—a new, Kickstarted documentary presents the cat-and-mouse dynamic between the two as Landis convinces 46 museums in 20 different states to display over 100 pieces of his work. Art and Craft has the makings of a real-life manhunt thriller—think Catch Me If You Can sans the DiCaprio/Hanks draw and fewer costume changes. Check out the trailer:


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  14 Aug 2014  |  Comments (0)


Last night, artist Jeong-Hyun Seok released this astonishing digital painting on social media, and it soon began popping up all over my feeds, racking up tens of thousands of shares, "Likes" and forwards in a matter of hours. It's no surprise why—the digital illustrator has managed to sum up human life in a few minutes using a Wacom tablet and Painter 11:

Seok whipped this out as a calling card for a digital illustration class he's teaching in Seoul. Judging by the comments coming in on the video in a multitude of languages, it's safe to say he's overshot his local market. Wacom and Corel oughta sponsor this guy.

Posted by Kat Bauman  |  13 Aug 2014  |  Comments (0)


Can you call it a selfie when the self is programmed? Regardless of the semantics, there's something simultaneously obnoxious and sweet about a self-involved robot, and several recent series document a startling trend towards public vanity in our high tech friends. The first offender: the Google cam! Bored with recording every knowable foot of street and path throughout the globe, Google Cam dispatched to locations of social and cultural import to take in our art too. As a part of the Cultural Institute project the wheeled voyeur was pushed through numerous galleries to document both the spaces and their historic contents. Thanks to the vigilance of artist Mario Santamaria, we now know the large undertaking was punctuated with less high-minded photos too. Santamaria, an artist based in Barcelona, created a tumblr called The Camera In The Mirror, collecting the many odd moments that the Google camera snapped itself in a mirror. The result is eerily Kubricky, Lynchish for sure, with a touch of.. Wall-E?




Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  23 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)


I hate to write this, but "You'll never believe what happens next!"

Speaking of anamorphosis, check out French artist Bernard Pras' nutty room-sized sculpture below. Pras practices the cylinder-free variant of anamorphosis, and the results have to be seen to be believed:


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  22 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)


Charles Edward Stuart, colloquially referred to as Bonnie Prince Charlie, fomented the Jacobite uprising of 1745 in an effort to seize the British throne. Charlie's Scottish troops were defeated in battle a year later and he fled to France. In the brutal English crackdown that ensued, Scottish households found to contain a portrait of Bonnie Prince Charlie were in for trouble, so former supporters interested in surviving got rid of them.


But not all of them. One artist used a clever technique to secretly hide a portrait of BPC in plain sight. A seemingly abstract circular pattern was painted on a tray...

0anamorphiccylinders-003.jpgImage by Kate Furr-Danner]

...and once a mirrored cylinder was placed in the center, boom, you had Bonnie Prince Charlie staring back at you.



Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  21 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)


If design school served you well, the sketches you were cranking out senior year should've been a damn sight better than your freshman scribbles. As your skills continue to develop, is there anything more painful for a creative than to look back at your early work? Do you save your lame renderings from 2004 for posterity, or junk them because they're no longer representative of your current skillset?

Dutch artist Telmo Pieper saved his drawings from childhood—and, amusingly, updated them using the modern-day digital painting skills he presumably did not possess at four years of age. The resultant works are called his "kiddie arts series" and they're pretty awesome.




Posted by Ray  |  18 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)


Like many designspotters, we first took note of Jólan Van der Wiel at the Transnatural exhibition in Milan in 2012, one of two exhibitions that included his "Gravity Stools" (we saw him in Ventura Lambrate as well). He's been busy since then, transposing his magnetic modus operandi to couture—with fellow Amsterdammer/futurist Iris van Herpen, of course— and now, with a project called "Architecture Meets Magnetism," into ceramics.

By developing a formula for clay slip with iron fillings, the Gerrit Rietveld Academy grad (and now teacher) arrived at a material that he calls 'dragonstone.' Wired's Liz Stinson likens them to Tim Burton machinations, but I'm seeing some Giger-worthy gnarliness in the extruded stalagmite carapaces. The designer, for his part, was inpsired by Gaudí: In Dezeen, van der Wiel expresses admiration for the Spanish architect's use of "gravity to calculate the final shape of [La Sagrada Familia]." "I thought, 'What if he had to power the turn off the gravitational field for a while?' Then he could have made the building straight up."

The project is part of ongoing research into the applications of magnetic forces, which Van der Wiel conducted at the European Ceramic Workcentre in Den Bosch.
After discovering that clay could be shaped by magnetism, he is now exploring applications for the technique in architecture.
"The idea of creating buildings with magnetic field has always fascinated me," said Van der Wiel. "I'm drawn to the idea that the force would make the final design of the building—architects would only have to think about the rough shape and a natural force would do the rest."
"This would create a totally different architectural field," he added. "These are the very first models showing how future buildings and objects could look when they are shaped by natural forces."




Posted by Kat Bauman  |  18 Jul 2014  |  Comments (1)


Gratingly early on the morning of July 15, artist Azuma Makoto meticulously prepared a lush floral display that would soon hurtle to pieces from around 90,000 feet above earth with Baumgartner-esque aplomb. The huge unnamed bouquet and "Shiki 1," a gnarled White Pine bonsai, departed earth from Black Rock Desert—of Burning Man fame—outside of Gerlach, NV. Much like that other Black Rock spectacle of poetic excess, these plants were part of a creative urge to push the bounds of living systems into an inhospitable zone. This is the EXOBIOTANICA project, the Red Bull-esque dream of Makoto, a Japanese artist who specializes in floral installations and reasonably spooky interpretations of bonsai traditional floral arrangement.


Aided by JP Aerospace, a volunteer-run organization that builds and shoots things into orbit, and Makoto's 10-person team, Exobiotanica succeeded in lifting these delicate plants into the stratosphere. They used massive helium balloons and high-tech styrofoam-and-metal-frame carriers, with plastic parachutes that deployed once the balloons lost pressure and fell to a thicker atmosphere. The contraptions, named Away 100 and Away 101, were recorded from the ground and accompanied by "six Go Pro video cameras tied in a ball." Which was probably a little more involved than it sounds.



Posted by erika rae  |  15 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)


Ed. Note: This post has been updated with the correct name of the artist. His name is Ren Yue, not Ren Ri.

Much like urban gardening, beekeeping seems to have inspired renewed interest among hobbyists around the world. Sure, it's got a certain appeal for DIYers who have graduated from pickling and homebrewing, but its also got the ecological upshot as a response to the precipitous decline in the global bee population (we've previously seen a design solution that addresses the issue scientifically known as Colony Collapse Disorder, which was the subject of a recent Op-Ed in the Times). Ren Yue is a Beijing-based bee enthusiast who falls into that beekeeper population, but he's also an artist—and it's safe to say that he's not your average honey harvester.

Ren started studying honeybees back in 2008. After a couple of years spent learning the art of beekeeping and observing how the hives function, he developed a strategy that turns the hive's beeswax into semi-calculated sculptures. Ren lets nature run its course for a large part of the second installment of the series, titled "Yuansu II," but does provide a few prefabricated touches of his own—plastic vessels to house the hives and a weekly 'rotation' schedule for the constructions.


By housing the queen bee in the center of each structure, Ren was able to 'engineer' the architecture of the hive: Worker bees naturally began to build out from her location in all directions, leaving a waxy hexagonal structure in their wake. He rotated the plastic cases every seven days—a biblical reference—to give the queen and her workers a new center of gravity to work from, resulting in an undulating final form. Ren never planned which way to turn the sculptures—a roll of the dice made that decision, introducing a nice touch of spontaneity to a highly ordered process of nature.


Posted by Ray  |   8 Jul 2014  |  Comments (5)


Well, you could always take a cue from our favorite IKEA hack of all time and use them to fuel a fire... but not only does burning pallets lack the elegance of the ad hoc bow drill (in the above hack), there are any number of reasons not to scrap them for firewood.*

We've seen from at least a few pallet-based design projects, including upcycled chairs and a full-fledged office, not to mention our own pop-up exhibition design. Among the pallet facts that we picked up along the way—some 700 million pallets are manufactured each year; North American standard pallets measure in at 48” × 40”—we were interested to learn that the EPAL-spec'd EUR-pallet comes in at different dimensions and standards.

It so happens that the 1200×800mm2 Europallet, as it is colloquially known, is suitably sized to span the (active) tram tracks that criss-cross certain cities around the world. Whereas several stateside and Italian streetcar systems run on 'broad gauge' tracks—wider than the 1435mm standard gauge that also turns up in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Great Britain, Germany, etc.—the taxonomy also includes narrow gauge tracks, including a one-meter width in cities such as Antwerp, Basel, Belgrade, Bern, Frankfurt, Geneva, Ghent, Helsinki, Zürich to name a few. (Different widths are named after different locales, including Russian, Irish, Iberian and Indian, all of which are broad gauge; see the full list here.)

And while trams are certainly a practical mode of transportation, the tracks can be a hazard to certain smaller-wheeled vehicles such as bicycles or skateboards. Which brings us to Tomas Moravec's pallet hack:

While the Slovakian artist has created many performative works of sculpture, installation and video art since he made the Duchamp-meets-Alÿs piece in 2008, the video went up just a few months ago. The brief description notes that Bratislavan trams run on felicitously narrow 1000mm-wide tracks: "A new transport vehicle brings change into the spatial perspective of a passenger in motion and generally changes the life of the city, through which the pallet can run, guided by a map of the city lines." (We have to assume that it would technically work in any of the cities listed above as well.)



Posted by erika rae  |   1 Jul 2014  |  Comments (0)


It's unfortunate that we can't all take in the swirling blues and greens of the large bodies of water that make up 70 percent of the Earth's surface in person—by scientists' best estimates, we've explored less than five percent of the depths. Yet the azure expanse has long been a source of inspiration for artists and designers, and Ben Young's handmade glass sculptures capture the essence of the seas with the "frozen in time/space" feel of Umberto Boccioni's "Unique Forms of Continuity in Space." The almost childlike simplicity of his work belies the painstaking process behind the evocative three-dimensional illustrations.



The work ranges from a seashore scene featuring a lighthouse and water-bashed rock formations to more abstract wave columns pitted with airy chasms. The attention-grabbing sculptures are all the more impressive because the Sydney-based designer crafts them entirely by hand. In a world where each week brings a new 3D-printed whattchamacallit to the novelty-hungry blogosphere, it's refreshing to discover something that boasts the precision of today's technology but is actually made by hand. Looking at the glass-cut waves, it's easy to assume that the intricate peaks and troughs come alive with help from modern tech, but Young assures us that it's all done with a few glass-cutting tools and a whole lot of mind power. "There's not a computer or machine involved in the whole process," he says.


Check out this video to hear Young talk about his creative process (it includes a lot of surfing and skateboarding—which might explain his intimate grasp on nature's curves):


Posted by erika rae  |  26 Jun 2014  |  Comments (1)


Flowers are great—until they wilt after a couple of days and find a new home in the trash can. Harvard research fellow and chemio-"botanist" Wim Noorduin has found away to capture the same beauty of a fresh bouquet in an entirely new way. His microbial art—what he calls crystal nano flowers—may be invisible to the naked eye, but take a look at them under a microscope and, lo and behold, an entire arrangement has blossomed in front of your eyes.



Much like nurturing a bonsai tree, Noorduin engineers the crystals as they bloom into floral bouquets. The process itself is surprisingly simple: Noorduin combines a mixture of inexpensive chemicals in a beaker, which crystallize over the course of two hours. He manipulates the crystals as they grow to give them them shape, color and dimension. Each structure measures in at around the diameter of a single hair.


Check out the video from Creator's Project for more insight into the work:


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  26 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)


A statue is supposed to be forever, and we're all lucky that Michelangelo's David has survived for over five centuries. But a recently unveiled statue in the Kazazh city of Ust-Kamenogorsk lasted just one day before authorities yanked it off of the public corner where it was installed.

The statue featured two people, Kazakh philosopher/composer Abay Kunanbayev and Russian scientist/political activist Yevgeny Mikhaelis. Unfortunately, the sculptors of the memorial were reportedly not given adequate time to develop their masterpiece; as a result, the poorly-proportioned men resemble fantasy creatures more than human beings. Even worse, Mikhaelis is depicted as holding some sort of rectangular object in his outstretched hand. The result, irritated locals reported, resembles two Hobbits taking a selfie.

"We were in a huge rush," co-sculptor Vladimir Samoylov said, "and look what happened."


Authorities say the statue will be re-worked and re-installed.


Posted by erika rae  |  16 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)


Reportedly developed some four millenia ago and revived by Italian artisans in the 16th Century, murrine is among those crafts that long predates the much-ballyhooed contemporary craft movement. Yet artist Loren Stump has found a way to breathe new life into the age-old glass design technique, in which canes of glass are fused (in parallel) and sliced to reveal intricately patterned sections. (Picture a Swiss cake roll, or that bakeable play-dough that could be mashed together and sliced to similar effect.)



As with Takayo Kiyota's sushi art, Stump works backward from a two-dimensional image, extruding the picture plane to extrapolate an arrangement of colored rods. Apparently he likes a challenge, considering he tends to to take on extremely detailed historical images like Da Vinci's Virgin on the Rocks (seen above) and Henry VIII. He also does commissioned pieces, if you've got any special requests.

Stump started out as a stained glass artist and eventually made the switch to working with molten varieties and creating his own process and tools—including a mysterious vacuum-controlled apparatus called the Stumpsucker.


Posted by hipstomp / Rain Noe  |  11 Jun 2014  |  Comments (1)



I loves me some booze, but I can't stand cocktails. Anything I drink, I drink straight. This has nothing to do with manliness and everything to do with respecting the craft of the liquor manufacturers I patronize. There are families that spent centuries getting their distillation process just right, tweaking the flavors, getting the profiles just so, then you animals go and dump your pomegranate juice into it? You don't cover a Le Corbusier chaise longue with a throw blanket, nor spray fluorescent green paint on a Rembrandt because it's trendy. Please remember that cocktails became popular during Prohibition, when you needed to mask the taste of the nasty bathtub gin that was all you could get back then.

BevShots is a company that recognizes booze as art--but in their eyes, a visual art. Started by research scientist Michael Davidson, the organization puts crystallized booze on a slide and photographs it through a polarized light microscope. The results are stunningly beautiful, as you can see here.



Posted by erika rae  |   5 Jun 2014  |  Comments (0)


We've been taking inspiration from nature for a long time—and in typical throwback fashion, this week's topic is far from new. Jizai Okimono—which translates to "move freely decorative object" and describes the art of carving animals from materials like wood, iron and copper featuring animated joints that are just as functional as the living subjects—has been around since the late 1700s. Sushi Factory, a user on Flickr, seems to have a good amount of information on the beginnings of this artform: "Among works which bear dates, the earliest known is a dragon bearing a line-engraved signature of its maker Myochin Muneaki dated 1713. This is followed by a butterfly with a line-engraved signature by craftsman Myochin Muneyasu, dated 1753."

Like with any truly memorable artform, this craft was built on a group of people with a big batch of freetime. In this instance, we can thank the metalsmiths and armor makers of centuries past for bringing this artistry to light after the demand for armor plummeted. Each subject comes with its own difficultly level—the lobster being considered the most intricate of all.



Recently, Ryosuke Ohtake—a 25-year-old artist based in Tokyo—impressed Jizai Okimono artists and enthusiasts with his carved lobster. Here's the kicker: It was his first go-around in Jizai Okimono. Here's a video of Ohtake demonstrating the flexibility of his design's joints:


Posted by Ray  |   5 Jun 2014  |  Comments (1)


I'd declared it in so many words in the Editor's Note to the inaugural issue of the C77 Design Daily, but I must admit I was expressly thinking of the Kara Walker installation at the Domino Sugar Factory when I wrote the first sentences of that short text:

We live in an age of spectacle, and so too does it seem like reality is more spectacular than ever before. Between the endless airspace of social media and the inconceivably powerful devices we carry along with our pocket change, we are all but expected to express ourselves at every turn—who can fault us for indulging in the collective narcissism? Instagrammability is an unspoken criteria for the barrage of phenomena that surround us, and product, furniture and exhibition design are among the many things that will be captured, filtered and liked by thousands of eyeballs and fingertips... most of which will never come in contact with the actual things or places.

Cheeky not only for its title—"A Subtlety" is ostensibly ironic but is actually an allusion to a medieval confection—Walker's highly photogenic (albeit often blown-out) room-sized sphinx has high cheekbones and a prodigious posterior, among other unsubtle traits. That, and the fact that the massive, 35ft-high, 75ft-long mammy lords over her adoring public, her exaggerated mammaries and genitalia more cartoonish than obscene. Reportedly sculpted from some 40 tons of sugar (it's not solid), non-profit arts organization Creative Time commissioned the piece from Walker, which is accompanied by attendants scattered throughout the turbine hall-like space of the former sugar refinery; it also happens to be the first three-dimensional work for the New York-based artist, who is best known for her silhouetted cut-outs.



In the interest of providing context (both for those of you who are planning on visiting and those of you who will vicariously consume it via the Internet), some recommended reading: Hrag Vartanian's take includes with a brief history of the site (partly adapted from an October 2013 Times article) alongside his photo essay; Audie Cornish's helpfully descriptive NPR story; and Hilton Als' erudite yet accessible blogpost for The New Yorker.

Much has been made of the subtitular wall text, printed in foot-high letters on the exterior of the building (and reproduced in the video and all of the articles above), but loaded rhetoric aside, there is indeed a certain subtlety to the craftsmanship behind the piece. It's hard to tell from the time lapse video above, but the Art21 segment below nicely captures both Walker's myriad reference points and the actual fabrication of the work, which was assembled and hand-finished in situ. Self-styled scholars can read up at their leisure; the makers among you might be more interested in the middle section of the video:


Posted by erika rae  |  30 May 2014  |  Comments (0)


If you liked our write-up on the artists behind the gold-gilded pub mirrors we ran a while back, you'll want to tune into this. While we typically take signage for granted, whether it promises the "Biggest Sale Ever!" or contains a particularly humorous typo, there's an artform hidden between the lines that most of us don't ever hear about. Directors Faythe Levine & Sam Macon went on a journey to put a spotlight on a community they saw falling to the wayside—sign painters. The result is "Sign Painters," a documentary featuring the hands behind the painted signs on storefront windows, walls, billboards and just about every other texted surface you can think of.

SignPainters-Directors.jpgFaythe Levine and Sam Macon, directors of Sign Painters

It takes more than just a steady hand to make it in the sign-painting world. According to the documentary synopsis: "What was once a common job has now become a highly specialized underground trade, a unique craft struggling with technological advances." The film features anecdotes from famed sign painters including Ira Coyne, Bob Dewhurst, Keith Knecht, Norma Jeane Maloney and Stephen Powers. Check out the trailer: