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Posted by Ray  |  15 Sep 2014  |  Comments (1)

IndustrialFacility-HermanMiller-Locale-1.jpgLocale for Herman Miller (2013). Images courtesy of Industrial Facility unless otherwise noted

Given the current vogue for local, handwrought, artisanal or otherwise bespoke goods, the tide has effectively turned against mass production as millennials forgo the efficiencies of economies of scale in favor of purportedly more meaningful modes. The appeal of these objets is ostensibly the deeper level of personal connection—the prospect of shaking the very hand that made your wallet or dress or dining table is simultaneously atavistic and avant-garde—that justifies the cost of championing local production in the face of, um, faceless overseas manufacturing. This resurgence finds its most fundamental expression not in made-to-order heirlooms but in locavorism: Food products are literally rooted in a place, yet the fact that they are perishable precludes preciousness.

It's ironic, then, that "America has this great tradition of keeping kitchen appliances on the countertop." Kim Colin, co-founder and partner of design firm Industrial Facility, brings it up in the context of the broad shift away from the materialistic mentality of yore, rattling off a few generations' worth of examples. "Mr. Coffee's been there, the Kitchenaid's been there, George Foreman's grill was there for a while, the soda machine might be there now..." That these appliances have a shelf life (with the exception, perhaps, of the stand mixer) is a testament to the consummation of a consumer culture that revels in excess, the food itself being incidental. Whether or not we use them frequently enough to justify the countertop real estate, our society has long kept these objects on display, not only as status symbols in themselves but also because we have the luxury of space.

Or at least we did, before the world's metropolises drew in the majority of its 7.2 billion people and twentysomethings found themselves with less space and fewer things anyway. More kale, perhaps, but less of the other stuff.

IndustrialFacility-Mattiazzi-BrancaStool.jpgThe Branca Stool for Mattiazzi (2014)

We don't go out and find work, people find us.

Industrial Facility is arguably the best-kept secret in certain circles that extend far beyond its geographic locale of London. In contrast to the likes of Philippe Starck (with whom IF collaborated on TOG) or, say, friend-of-Apple Marc Newson, Kim Colin and her partner Sam Hecht opt for fly-by-night anonymity, much like one of their longtime clients. "[Muji is] not using design as a personality... if there is a personality, it would be Muji." Like kindred spirit Naoto Fukasawa, Industrial Facility's work dissolves into the client's brand—assuming, of course, that the client shares their refiend, purposeful design philosophy.

When Colin notes that "there's a kind of strange public awareness about us—we have what I would characterize as a cult following," she's referring to clients—Established & Sons, LaCie and Issey Miyake, to name a few—but the statement is true of consumers as well. It's not so much a signature style (again, they're designing for the likes of non-brand Muji) but a perspective that guides with their sub rosa appeal. "We're very interested in the actual ways we're living and the ways that's changing," Colin says. "We study it through the different kinds of clients we have... we learn how they're seeing the world, and we often have a very different point of view." She continues: "Those companies then realize that we have more to offer than a specific project on its own, and that we might have something to say about their business, or growth, or direction." Naturally, these deeper relationships tend to be self-selecting, and it's telling that Industrial Facility works closely with companies like Muji and Herman Miller in a design advisory role. "Our clients are unafraid of our questioning and our level of questioning."

Hence, Colin draws the distinction between their design practice and that of the 21st-Century artisan. "I think there are a lot of people working in design that are doing local products. Those are small batch, limited production or production-on-demand," she matter-of-factly declares. "Our scale is mass production, really, and that's why we named our studio Industrial Facility and not Sam Hecht and Kim Colin Studio. We want big companies not to be afraid to use design."

IndustrialFacility-HermanMiller-Formwork.jpgFormwork for Herman Miller (2014)

IndustrialFacility-HermanMiller-Formwork-prototypes.jpgPrototypes of Formwork

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Posted by Ray  |  30 May 2014  |  Comments (0)

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Predicting the future of design may be a grandiose (if not altogether futile) conceit, but we're always interested to see practical visions as to what it might hold. While big data and wearables remain in the ether as buzzwords—namely as potential avenues for designers to tap into Silicon Valley coffers—and digital fabrication has yet to deliver on its promise of an industrial revolution, it's refreshing to encounter well-executed projects that are on the cusp of production.

The work of Marjan van Aubel and James Shaw fits the bill. It's always a pleasure to actually meet designers with whom I've only exchanged a few e-mails and whose work I've only seen in JPGs, and although I met them very briefly in Milan, I had the opportunity to spend more time with them in their natural habitat in London shortly thereafter.

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I arranged to visit their Southwark studio on a pleasant April morning, and van Aubel happens to roll up by bicycle as I approach their block (as she doffs her helmet, she notes that she started wearing in London—after all, she's no longer in the cycling utopia of her native Netherlands). Shaw is already at the shop, working on what I later learn is a cabinet for van Aubel. It's an unassuming space in a quiet part of town: Each of the four rooms on the ground floor holds evidence of its occupant; the two designers share the building with ceramicist Jesse Wine and painter Glen Pudvine, who also lives in the apartment upstairs and occasionally hosts exhibitions in the front room of the space.

Indeed, PlazaPlaza is one of just a couple of creative spaces on the dead-end road in the predominantly residential South London neighborhood of Elephant & Castle. It's not far from attractions such as the Tate Modern and Borough Market (in fact, it took me about ten minutes to walk there after the studio visit), but an NYC analogue escapes me (Long Island City, maybe?).

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Nevertheless, the space itself feels familiar; it's comfortable, functional, and well-used, yet rather unremarkable, as studios go. Which is not to say that van Aubel and Shaw haven't made it their own: Viva Radio is the soundtrack (van Aubel: "It's from New York, very hyper. It's nice studio music") and curious grove of potted plants, adopted from a plant-tending service a few doors down, adds a splash of greenery. That, and the fact that a squad of Well Proven Chairs and Stools takes up much of the office space, not to mention various prototypes, samples and experiments crammed into the various nooks and crannies of the studio.

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Posted by Kat Bauman  |   6 May 2014  |  Comments (1)

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Like many innovative products, FINEX is a new-old idea. Take something beloved, assumed to be a terminal stage of evolution, and find the threads of dissatisfaction and tinker until it's the product of your dreams. Sounds easy, but it also takes passion and dedication and quirky obsession to pull off. Flash back to when the company debuted on Kickstarter and you might recall their clear passion for cast iron, their pragmatism, and their attractive design work. Their American-made ergonomic octagon proved compelling, even for the non-gourmand. After being 844% funded, FINEX hit the ground running. Since then they've been knocking out their Kickstarter orders and as of now the general public can get in on the well-seared action too.

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To see how their company functions and celebrate Hand-Eye Supply becoming the first vendor, I visited their historic Portland factory and interviewed founder Mike Whitehead. Mike is an obsessive cast iron collector and passionate about the process. Between checking out cool vintage waffle maker handles and jumping into his own machinery, he gave me the rundown on how these updated old-school skillets get made.


We're partnering with Western Foundries for our casting. We make the patterns here [in Portland] at Willamette Pattern. Everything they make is normally the size of this room. They do like, nuclear reactor coolers, massive casting the size of cars—so this is like a dinky little thing for them. Then they go up to [be cast in] Spokane. Then they go to heat-treat in Clackamas. They're heated to 1,100 degrees for at least an hour, with a slow cool-down, which releases the inherent stresses in the sand-casting process. If we didn't do that, when we machine these we might get some warpage because there's a lot of stress in casting.

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Posted by Kat Bauman  |  24 Mar 2014  |  Comments (0)

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It's not hard to love letters, they give us ideas and inspiration and connect us to the world through writing. For traditional printers that letter-love is as precise as a knife-edge. This month the Hand-Eye Supply team visited the letterpress virtuosos at Portland's KeeganMeegan & Co. to watch them work and drop off our new printer's rulers. Well-known for their traditional letterpress work and hand illustrated printing, the duo combines old-school techniques and visuals with inviting modern design.

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Letterpress, the OG method of putting squiggly lines onto paper, uses blocks of carefully aligned moveable type mounted in a bed, an inked plate or roller, and something to carefully squish the paper in. KM & Co. uses particularly epic-looking platen presses that look like they're just a generation or two removed from Gutenberg, yet are capable of producing stylish work for businesses and famous bands.

As you can imagine, their work relies on tiny adjustments, painstaking attention and a lot of patience. While computerized layout can still be a chore, it's a much longer process when doing it by hand. To shuffle type and images into the careful alignment needed, the line gauge is an invaluable tool. It has several features that give letterpress, printmaking, graphic design, zine layout and other typographic or tactile traditionalists a leg up.

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Posted by Anki Delfmann  |  17 Mar 2014  |  Comments (0)

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We travel far and wide to bring you insights into the latest developments in manufacturing techniques. This time, we trekked all the way into the Himalayas to bring you one of the most ancient ones, relying only on local production, manual labor and artisan skill. Alongside Bhutan's internationally applauded concept of Gross National Happiness, the jaw-dropping landscapes, and the plethora of Buddhist sights, the country takes a distinct pride in its cultural heritage in arts and crafts, and along with painting, weaving and woodwork, paper making is one of them. While young people here as much as anywhere stare at their smart devices and wear the latest candy-colored headphones, keeping old wisdom alive and kicking is one of the pillars of the country's master plan for happiness, and this is visible in architecture, clothing and products for everyday life.

In 1990, the Ministry of Trade and Industry established the Jungshi Handmade Paper Factory (Jungshi meaning natural) in Bhutan's capital Thimphu, to expand the old domestic skill for commercial purposes, and thus give the ancient art a relevance in the modern world. Today, they export their products to the US, Japan, Europe, India and Nepal. We were invited to get a closer look at all the steps involved in the manufacturing process, from raw material to finished product.

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The paper made here is based on unique materials of the Himalaya, the bark of the The Daphne Papyri, which can be found at altitudes of 3,000 feet and above, the bark of the Edgeworthia Papyri, plus various additional ingredients like flowers and leaves (for example from the ubiquitous chili and hemp plants), to add textures and patterns.

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As a first step, the bark is soaked in water and boiled, then washed and cleaned to sort the good fibers from the bad.

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Next, the material is pounded into a pulp, and mixed with water and vegetable starch made from Hibiscus plant roots.

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Posted by Brit Leissler  |  10 Oct 2013  |  Comments (1)

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Based in a former bread factory in Berlin's Mitte district is the production of IC! Berlin—a frames company that has its roots in a design student graduation project of the University of the Arts (UDK) from 1996. Students at the time, Harald Gottschling and Philipp Haffmanns had the idea to create eyeglass frames with hinges that would work without any screws, so they came up with a unique solution of a snap-in hinge that could be produced from sheet aluminum. And to make even more sense of this concept, the actual frames were created from laser-cut, anodized aluminum sheets.

Encouraged by their professor to turn this project into reality after graduation, they got a patent on their hinges and teamed up with Ralph Anderl to turn their idea into a profitable business. Now, 18 years later, the company has grown to 100 employees, a total product profile of roughly 1,500 different designs (of which about 120 are currently in production) and worldwide distribution. But despite their success and growth, the production has always remained in Berlin Mitte.

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A laser cutter is the heart of the frames production. All of the arms and hinges, without exception, are produced with this technology.

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Most spectacle frames, apart from the designs made from acetate, are laser-cut from sheets metal. But not all of them meet the company's quality standards, as the scrap container in the picture above shows. They will all be recycled into new sheets of aluminum, so nothing is wasted.

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The cut-out frames are being put through a metal roller to give them the right bend for a suitable fit.

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After bending, the frames are being put in a steel press to angle the nose rests and the side bits in order to prepare for the assembly of the hinges.

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Freshly laser-cut hinge parts and spectacle arms

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Posted by Anki Delfmann  |  10 Sep 2013  |  Comments (0)

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Visiting Jörg Mennickheim in his studio is like stepping out of the city and into the jungle. The flat-roofed building—a former park café—is tucked away in the trees of the Klettenbergpark in south Cologne, and I am greeted with freshly brewed coffee and a selection of snacks from a local bakery. Jörg is a product and retail designer, brand consultant and design lecturer and has been working from this studio with various collaborators since 2003.

Upon entering the studio, the surroundings change from leafy and laidback to clean and industrious, with concept sketches, mood boards and design magazines lining the walls, a conference room full of neatly sorted material samples, and a well-equipped workshop.

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The Vitra chair miniatures dotted around the shelves hint at his work for the Vitra Design Museum, one of the institutions where Jörg leads workshops and lectures. "I like to take the students out of their comfort zone" is how he describes the approach to his teaching work, the student groups include craftsmen, design students and architects alike.

A long pinboard shows inspirations for a retail design project he is currently working on - a fashion brand that went from wanting just new shop interiors to deciding to change the whole brand strategy over the course of the project.

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Posted by Glen Jackson Taylor  |  12 Jul 2013  |  Comments (0)

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Frustrated with the lack of decent keyboard stands on the market, Mikael Jorgensen began sketching ideas for a stylish lightweight touring stand some ten years ago—as lead pianist and keyboardist for the band Wilco, he'd spent the better much of that time on the road—but with no background in design or fabrication, he didn't really know how to proceed. He had given up hope until years later, when friend and producer Allen Farmelo, who showed him a mixing console that collapses for traveling, designed and built by François Chambard of UM Project. After an introduction from Farmelo, Jorgensen met with Chambard at his Greenpoint studio and immediately connected with his design sensibility and craftsmanship.

The stand breaks down to fit perfectly into a standard keyboard case for touring and can easily be configured to function as a desk for laptops; executed in Chambard's signature style with a matching bench, the UMJ-1 looks like nothing else on the market. I stopped by UM Project's studio to get a hands-on demo before the distinctive stand's debut at Wilco's Solid Sound Festival at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Chambard enthusiastically assembled the unit before my eyes, explaining the thought process behind it, as the storage room next door was being set up for the photo shoot.

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Posted by shaggy  |  14 Feb 2013  |  Comments (0)

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This image passed through our inbox today, it's from a new book on the "Great Houses of New York" Sorry for the small size but a quick google search turns up nothing larger! A few more details about what surely must have been one of the great studio spaces NY has ever seen are available here and here and here. For another larger pic of the space click on through.


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Posted by James Self  |  15 Jan 2013  |  Comments (4)

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Seoul, like so many other great cities of East Asia, bustles and buzzes with life, a modern and dynamic metropolis. At night neon signs and giant digital displays battle for attention, advertise everything from the ubiquitous internet cafes (per capital South Korea is the most 'online' nation in the world) to the all night eateries, saunas and singing rooms. Like Japan and China, Korea and the Koreans are a nation of early adopters. Technology exists to be embraced. The latest digital products, software, systems and means of communication are all readily accepted by a culture which now not only adopts technological innovation but is a world player at its leading edge.

It is against this background that I exit the subway system at Seoul's hip, creative district of Jamwondong before ducking off a busy main highway south of Seoul's Han river. I've travelled on a bullet train from Ulsan's National Institute of Science and technology (UNIST), having recently made the move from the leafy suburbs of South London to start a new life at UNIST's School of Design and Human Engineering.

My final destination is Seoul's young, ambitious and rapidly expanding design consultancy SWBK. Founded in 2008, the firm offers an extensive range of design services from IT-based product design to brand consultancy, service design and their Matter & Matter range of fine furniture. SWBK's global design awards speak for themselves (Red Dot, IF, IDEA, GOOD Design...). They have an ambitious, skilled and highly motivated team, whose knowledge and expertise are sought by a growing list of national and international clients.

Their work also extends to the direction of design and cultural exhibitions. One such expo recently organized by SWBK, is the Sulwha Cultural Exhibition in Seoul. It showcases the work of some of Korea's most celebrated craftsmen, artists and designers; from master Bang Chun Woong's display of Korean Ethnic Earthenware (onggi) to Media Artist Yang Min Ha's virtual, interactive installation reinterpreting the process of making onggi through manipulation of digital content via physical, embodied interaction.

In a way SWBK's Sulwha Exhibition is an apt reflection of Korean society more generally. Traditions of the past live cheek by jowl with a modern tech-savvy culture, creating a hybrid mix of embedded traditions within an emergent, dynamic digital culture.

I pick my way towards the SWBK studios and am greeted at the door by co-founder, Sukwoo Lee. Having worked as an industrial designer for Samsung and then at Teague in the United States, Sukwoo returned to his native Korea in 2008 to co-found his consultancy with fellow designer Bongkyu Song.

I've come on a mission: to find out if, within this tech-driven culture, design firms have decided it's time to finally kiss goodbye to dated, low-tech analogue design tools like hand sketching and model making in favour of a fully digital industrial design process.

We sit down to talk and Sukwoo starts by pulling out one of his sketchbooks...

He then produces a tiny handcrafted scale model of his latest chair design and sets it to rest on a page of thumbnail or thinking sketches of the same design.

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"I quite like this kind of sketch' Sukwoo explains as we leaf though his work, 'I feel like I'm freer with this kind of quickly made sketch on paper...just hand drawing. From these sketches we often move to these sketch models," he explains.

At this point Sukwoo scuttles off across the studio to return armed with a large plank of balsa wood. "When I touch this wood," he continues, "and I even smell this, it feels much freer than digital work." Sukwoo speaks of an emergent design language that is explored and considered through the use of sketches and scale models. Like the master craftsmen of his Sulwha Cultural Exhibition, there is something honest in the way he describes his expression of form through hand sketching and hand making. From the start, the impression is that these analog processes are integral to SWBK's working culture and design process; to their ability to explore and develop design intentions?

We move on.

"After this," Sukwoo explains, indicating a wall filled with sketches, illustrations and 3D digital models "we start to sketch a little more of the aspects of the form."

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At this point Sukwoo describes how CAD tools (Illustrator and Rhino) are employed to test the potential of the concept. "The CAD model is quite rough" he explains, "but gives the team a better idea of proportion and curvature."

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Posted by Ray  |  20 Nov 2012  |  Comments (0)

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Chen Yaoguang is the principal and founder of Hangzhou-based architecture studio Dianshang Building Decoration Design Co. Ltd., DBDD for short. Over the past two decades, Chen has established himself as Hangzhou's premier interior architecture practice, garnering plenty of Chinese-language design press as well as exposure in the mainstream media. (His next challenge is to make a name in the West.)

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In fact, China's swift ascent to economic superpower status is readily reflected in his success—the studio has grown to some 30 employees—and continued demand for his work is perhaps the surest sign of the nation's trickle-down prosperity. Indeed, he has built an impressive list of projects and clients, from corporate headquarters to cultural venues, from high-end hotels to ritzy residences for China's burgeoning nouveau riche.

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And as is often the case with rapidly-acquired wealth, it seems that money can't buy taste: newly munificent Chinese tend to err on the side of overstated opulence as opposed to the understated aesthetic of, say, the Japanese or the Scandinavians. Yet DBDD's extensive portfolio proves that prosperity need not be too ostentatious: the interiors are thoughtfully-designed and vastly superior to the gaudy Gilded Age-inclination of conventional Chinese luxury.

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Indeed, Chen's studio—a two-story office space, plus a couple courtyard-house-style archive beyond the terrace—is a veritable trove of uncanny curios from all over the world (he took the design team to Bali last year for 'research'), scatterbrained yet somehow coherent. The East-meets-West pastiche of ancient artifacts, Old World wonders and miscellaneous mementos collectively expresses an understandable instinct towards extravagance that is met with a healthy degree of restraint in his body of work, which is well-documented on his website [NB: the site was down as of press time].

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Posted by Tobias Berblinger  |  12 Sep 2012  |  Comments (0)

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As the Portland Mini Maker Faire fast approaches, (September 15th-16 at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry), we at Hand-Eye Supply and other makers through out the Pacific NW are quite busy getting our booths prepared for the greatest show (and tell) on Earth. To give you a sneak peek of what you might expect to see at Portland's Mini Maker Faire we talked with presenters Rosemary Robinson and Britt Howard about Portland Garment Factory, their innovative company that is reinventing local manufacturing.

Portland Garment Factory is an independent, female-owned manufacturing company, established in Portland, Oregon in 2008. PGF takes pride in manufacturing quality apparel in the United States using traditional craftsmanship and sustainable business practices. PGF offers new and established brands high quality construction, pattern drafting, size grading, low minimum line production, materials sourcing, technical design and product design consultation.

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Origins

PGF was started by Britt Howard after she received endless compliments about the baby clothes she designed for her daughter, Piper. After a serious inquiry from a New York boutique owner, Britt took the idea of taking the line into production seriously. She searched for a place that would make and grade patterns, work through samples and do full-scale production for independent designers. The search results were unimpressive.

Overseas factories have insane minimums, long lead times and impossible communication barriers. PGF was quickly conceived and instantly welcomed by the fashion community in Portland. Nine months down the road, Rosemary Robinson came in as a potential client starting a womenswear collection. A recent transplant from San Francisco, Rosemary was exploring the possibilities of venturing into a design and retail business in Portland. Her experience working for independent designer, Lemon Twist, gave her the drive to create a start up womenswear apparel line manufactured in the United States.

PGF_Images_EASmith_05.jpgPhoto by Ethan Allen Smith at WeMake Discovery Workshop

PGF_Images_EASmith_06.jpgPhoto by Ethan Allen Smith at WeMake Discovery Workshop

In a matter of two years, PGF transitioned from the original 300 square foot studio to a 1000 square foot retail/work space to now occupying the current 5000 square foot warehouse. In its infancy the owners cut and sewed everything themselves (while holding down night/weekend waitress gigs) and now PGF employs 12 people, has an extensive internship program and an in-house line of womenswear, aptly named HouseLine.

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Posted by Dave Seliger  |  19 Jul 2012  |  Comments (0)

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Now that Dave has traveled from coast to coast, he's headed back East, with several stops in the top half of the country. Portland was a blast, but now it's Mountain Time: the first stops on the way back are Denver and Boise. Keep up-to-date with all of the adventures on Route 77 by following @DaveSeliger on Twitter!

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Day 25

After surviving the craziest thunderstorm I have ever driven through, I finally arrived in Denver, CO to visit Maura Gramzinski and Mark Veljkovich at Red Camper, a hand-made bag company with an interesting twist. "I was the child of two major hippies who traveled a lot when I was a kid in a red camper," said Gramzinski. When Gramzinski's grandparents passed away some time ago, the one-time photographer inherited her grandparents' 35mm slide collection from their numerous journeys around the world. A creative impulse led to a handbag made from the slides Gramzinski and her family had deemed not worth keeping. This handbag, with a little prodding from an industrial designer boyfriend, led to conversations with a waterbed company that resulted in a proprietary process for sealing slides inside plastic sheets that could be sewn together into a bag.

DSC07607_edit.jpgRed Camper's Maura Gramzinski and Mark Veljkovich

DSC07591.JPGThe prototype bag

Gramzinski finds slides at auctions and estate sales or even bought by the pound on eBay. And, no, Gramzinski is no longer using her grandparents' slides, as she is quick to point out. However, since her slide handbag project has gained fame on the Internet, Gramzinski receives packages of slides in the mail, with some requests for the slides to be included in the bags. "I want the collection of slides to tell a story," said Gramzinski, whether a fictional one or one actually from someone's past. In a strange way, this makes me think of Instagram, if not the physical versions of memories that Instagram is helping to replace.

Beyond the inclusion of slides, the most idiosyncratic part of Red Camper's product lines are the naked ladies. "My grandfather was a jokester," said Gramzinski, "and in every slideshow there would be at least five naked ladies sporadically placed throughout to make sure we were paying attention." Gramzinski had duplicates made of eight of her grandfather's naked lady slide collection in order to include one in each of her handbags. "It's about having a sense of humor and curiosity," said Gramzinski. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find film developers to make the duplicated slides since many consider it pornography.

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Although handbags made from slides was certainly the idea that prompted the creation of Red Camper, it is only the beginning of the studio's product offerings. Laptop bags, made out of vintage car upholstery, came next, continuing the thread of road trip nostalgia and story, while greeting cards highlighting "awesome slides that might be overlooked" serve as a gateway product for Red Camper. Yet there is a worry that Gramzinski and Veljkovich will be "pegged as the slide people."

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Red Camper has a larger mission beyond simply making products, though. "The idea of going somewhere and bringing home a souvenir has turned into buying something cheap and Chinese," said Gramzinski. She has a point. Why go visit a state on the other side of America just to buy a bunch of trinkets that were not even made in this country? I have made it a point to not buy many souvenirs on this road trip, because souvenirs take up precious space in my car (although I am very thankful for all the swag from the firms I've visited.) Of the few things I have bought so far, one of my favorites is a vintage tie with a felt monster sewn onto it by a local artist in Tucson, AZ. So, in Gramzinski's version of my souvenir experience, "Why not a hand-tooled belt from Tennessee and then you would be able to tell the story of that creator and have it mean something?"

Gramzinski described the future of Red Camper as a series of partnerships with local artisans and craftspeople to create products that are "representative of a certain region" within the US in order to "connect something you bought with where you bought it" and to tell that story. "I want it to head to the point where Red Camper covers the segment of American travel and souvenirs," said Gramzinski, "but nothing cheesy." The idea is certainly one I welcome.

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Posted by Perrin Drumm  |  26 Jun 2012  |  Comments (0)

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I first came across David Geckeler's work at BER-JFK, DMY's Noho Design District exhibition for New York Design Week. "Fragment," his three-legged metal chair, stood out with its shiny mint green, powder coated finish and the unusual jagged edges and cast notch marks under the seat. I saw "Fragment" again at DMY, where Geckeler showed it as part of the student show for the University of Arts in Berlin. Two days later I found myself looking at prototypes of that chair and others in his sunny Neukolln studio, where we talked about the philosophy behind Fragment as well as his other designs.

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Origins

One of the reasons David is able to make a living as a full-time designer right out of school is because he took a much more conscientious and aggressive approach to his education than most students do. After studying for a year and half at the University of Applied Science in Potsdam, he spent a semester at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen before returning to Berlin to finish his degree in industrial design at the University of Arts in Berlin.

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While his scattered university track record might seem like a less focused approach than simply staying at one place for four years, David purposefully moved from school to school to get a broader perspective. "It wasn't that I didn't like one school," he explained. "It was more that I wanted to try out different schools and different philosophies of teaching." And while he doesn't play favorites it's clear that his semester in Copenhagen was pivotal to his development as a designer. "For me it was really important, this Danish traditional design thinking and what they're doing there nowadays. It's different from Germany. The whole Danish society is so into design. They have a feeling for it."

After his semester in Copenhagen, David decided it was time to head back to Berlin to start up his own design studio to get a few projects underway before graduation. His first product was the "Nord" chair, or Nerd, in English. Though the chair looks more sleek and refined than geeky to me, David explained that "the detail of how the shells stack together is a bit nerdy to [him]." The unique way the backrest fits into the seat is a result of a class assignment from his Copenhagen days. He had eight weeks to design and manufacture a working prototype, and by creating two basic molded plywood forms that fit together without any extra parts he dramatically simplified the process. The Nord chair was awarded a prize by Becker KG, a German manufacturer specializing in molded plywood. The visibility from the award attracted the attention of several design companies, including the Danish brand Muuto, which will launch the Nord chair for contract and commercial buyers this October. David said he worked with Muuto for a full year developing the design, and that "it was important that a Danish brand make this chair because [he] designed it there."

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Posted by Perrin Drumm  |  17 May 2012  |  Comments (0)

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TOKEN's founder's Emrys Berkower and Will Kavesh have a massive workshop on the ground floor of an old factory on the water in Red Hook, Brooklyn where they're set up to work with glass, metal and wood. They can draw up plans for a chair, for example, and walk into the next room to build it. In other words, it's a furniture maker's dream. A few weeks ago they were nice enough to set some time aside from their busy preparations for ICFF to talk about how they grew their studio, what they're working on now and what makes a good 'hangover chair.' Scroll through all the photos below to see a sneak peek of the new pieces they'll be exhibiting this weekend.

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Origins
After Will and Emrys met at Alfred University in the mid 90s, they moved to New York where Emrys settled into the glass blowing community and Will began building furniture for Rogan. When Will needed some help he'd call up Emrys, and the two worked like this, collaborating on lighting and furniture projects until they decided to strike out on their own. They continue to handle Rogan's Objects line, but after doing custom design-build jobs, beginning with their first gig converting an NYU classroom, they needed their own space and so they made the move out to a spacious studio in Red Hook.

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Even though custom jobs for clients took up most of their time, their goal was always to start their own line of furniture. "After two years of prototyping we finally just said, we're not going to do it unless we just start making it ourselves and building it," said Emrys. That was in 2009, when they officially began the TOKENnyc product line.

They still take on design-build jobs because, as Emrys explained, "Those custom projects are challenging and inform your own work because you're problem solving and coming up with different production or manufacturing systems to build something."
"It's like still being in school, in a way," Will added.

Ethos
Will and Emrys describe their designs as promoting purposeful and considered living. "It's about living with objects that have a real task in mind," said Will. "TOKEN would never design a really super fluffy down chair or couch that you want to be inside of when you're recovering from a hangover - we would never design something like that."
"Although," Emrys is quick to add, "there's a place in the world for that. But that's not what we want to promote. We would promote something that's more active and engaged."

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Take, for example, the TOKEN Lounge Chair. "If you sit in that chair it's definitely a relaxed pose," said Emrys. "It's definitely a comfortable chair, but you don't want to curl up and watch a movie in that chair. You feel a relaxed engagement. You might want to read a book and not fall asleep reading it." That very purposeful aesthetic is evident in all aspects of their work, right down to the joints, which Will describes using the the industry term "work holding, a structural solution that would be used while making something, but we've adopted that vocabulary."

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Posted by Perrin Drumm  |   9 May 2012  |  Comments (1)

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When I stumbled across Analog Modern, Peter Buley's line of rustic yet minimal furniture at the Architectural Digest Home Design show earlier this year, I was an instant fan. As the reclaimed wood trend grows ever stronger, it becomes increasingly difficult to find a unique voice in the mass of raw, unfinished beams and repurposed metal fittings, but by narrowing his focus on smaller, one-of-a-kind projects and relying on his years of experience as a craftsman, he's established himself as a leader of the pack.

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Origins
Peter wasn't always exclusively a furniture maker. After he graduated from the School for International Training (SIT) he spent three years in Asia doing humanitarian aid. He went back to complete his Master's program in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. When the two years were nearly complete, however, he and his classmates had to be evacuated due to conflict that erupted around a disagreement over how tsunami aid was being distributed.

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Back in the States, Peter worked with a nonprofit that builds wheel-chair accessible tree houses. He continued to hop back and forth from the US to Asia, but ultimately settled in Brooklyn because it "seemed like a really good place to be a furniture maker. I was starting to gravitate towards smaller things. I knew I really liked the detail of furniture and that precision." He made the move in 2009, but after relaying the cutest meet-story ever he then admitted that moving to New York was only in part because of work but also because his wife was living there. (The condensed version of their story: Peter saw a boarding pass lying on the ground in an airport and handed it to the nearest person, a woman who thought she had lost it during her layover from a thirteen-hour flight from Korea. The two ended up getting seated next to each other on the plane and the rest is history. Awwww.)

Design Ethos
Peter's overarching aesthetic and design goals are in the name of his business itself. Analog Modern is the perfect encapsulation of what he tries to do: take something old and give it a new life by pairing it with something new. The Dovetail bench, for example, takes the shape of a dovetail joint and translates it into a completely modern leg that supports a treated piece of reclaimed wood.

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Posted by Perrin Drumm  |  11 Apr 2012  |  Comments (3)

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I met Katrina Vonnegut (yes, she's related to Kurt) at her textile studio in Bushwick, Brooklyn, a small space in one of those perpetually cold industrial buildings. After we chatted and I ogled her vintage Brother sewing machine (see pictures), we traversed windy streets lined with faceless warehouses and side-stepped rotting animal carcasses (not joking) as 18-wheelers rumbled by on a nature walk, of sorts, that led us deeper into the heart of Bushwick to the woodworking studio where Brian Kraft, her boyfriend and business parter in the newly sprung furniture partnership Vonnegut/Kraft, works.

Origins

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Katrina was Brian's neighbor before she became his girlfriend and business partner in a design studio that marries Katrina's background in furniture design as well as her skills as a textile artist with Brian's experience as a craftsman and builder. Katrina has a degree in furniture design from RISD, where she also studied and worked with textile designer Liz Collins (Watch this Cool Hunting video of her winning first place for her Cradle Chair in the Billes Products International Design Contest in 2008). After she graduated and moved to New York, she worked freelance building sets and making costumes for commercials and music videos. "I had thought I wanted to do that, but it's such a disposable industry. And it's such a fast turnaround you can't control quality as much as you might be able to on a longer project, like a film."

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Oddly enough, Brian majored in literature at NYU. While he was kicking around job ideas post graduation, he began working part-time in a woodworking shop in Bushwick, and it just kind of stuck. Katrina describes him as "a traditional cabinetmaker. I don't know if he would consider himself a designer, but maybe more recently, since we've started to collaborate with one another he would."

Design Ethos

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Though they both worked with furniture for years before teaming up, it's their collaborative effort that enabled a piece like the Maize bed, a design born out of necessity that has since become their most iconic product, fueling a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $6,000 to fund their booth at ICFF. When Katrina and Brian found themselves in need of a new bed, they saw it as an opportunity to design and build something together.

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And it's not the only time new designs have sprung from a personal need. "I've made a few sweaters because I needed one or because I lost my favorite sweater," Katrina says. "I try and recreate a similar pattern but maybe with new colors. I think those are the best things, because you know that they're really genuine."

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Posted by Perrin Drumm  |   4 Apr 2012  |  Comments (0)

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François Chambard's studio, UM Project, is a bright, sunlight workshop located in the industrial end of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The main space is divided between a conference and showroom area upstairs, while downstairs he keeps the most organized, well-kept woodworking shop I've ever seen. Tools and materials are not only assigned their own cubby holes, individual drill bits stand upright in a specially made gridded base as if on display. One of the first pieces François shows me is a project he's working on with a music producer who uses 50-year-old recording equipment in conjunction with brand new engineering for a sound that's a mix of analogue and digital. Listening to François talk about how his powder-coated steel encasement will house this technology mash-up, I realize that not only is he a skilled craftsman, capable of creating work that is elegant and playful at the same time, he's also a total tech geek.

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In fact, he used to call his style technocraft, but that doesn't really do justice to the handmade elements of his work. After looking closely at some of the pieces in his collection, like a massive Corian dining table set off by minimal yet oversized bright orange fixtures, I suggest 'serious play,' a mix of traditional craftsmanship and new technology with serious attention to fun details. "Playful yet serious," he muses. "Yes, yes that's good."

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Origins

After moving to New York from a small village near Compiègne, about fifty miles north of Paris, François worked in consulting until his early 30s, when he enrolled in RISD's graduate program. "I was sick of doing only conceptual, strategic work and I wanted to do something more hands on, to build things." But RISD wasn't the right fit and he dropped out. "Nothing against RISD. I think it's a great school. It was a wonderful experience, but it wasn't for me. It was too late in my life stage. I was a little impatient, to be honest, but I was also very clear on what I wanted to do."

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Posted by Perrin Drumm  |  21 Mar 2012  |  Comments (0)

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As you peruse the website for MGMT, Sarah Gephart and Alicia Cheng's Brooklyn-based design studio, one thing that's immediately obvious aside from the high quality of their work is their sense of humor. The text describing a series of illustrations they created for GOOD that features anthropomorphized fruit reads, "It's a good day at work when you have to figure out how to put a sweater on a pineapple." Though the opportunity has never come up for me personally, I'd agree.

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Origins
Sarah studied photography and engineering at Oberlin and Alicia majored in English at Barnard. They met at Yale School of Art during the preliminary year program, aka "graphic design boot camp." They made it through, however, and received their MFAs along with MGMT.'s founding partner Ariel Apte Carter, who has since moved to Minneapolis.

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After school everyone went their separate ways—Alicia worked for Cooper-Hewitt and Sarah landed at 2x4 design—but they continued to collaborate on side projects. Soon, however, they grew tired of "working to the bone for other people and realized if we wanted to do good work we might as well do it for ourselves." Starting in 2000, they gradually eased out of their day jobs and by 2003 had transitioned to working full time at MGMT.

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Posted by Perrin Drumm  |   7 Mar 2012  |  Comments (0)

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At first glance it might seem like Jim Garrison is New York's poster boy for modular housing. Amongst the most recent projects his eponymous firm has completed are the Net Zero for the 99% house, a day care center for Lehman College, homes and townhouses throughout New York state and the award-winning Koby Cottage, a guest house in Michigan that was assembled in 48 hours (you can watch a time-lapse video of the installation). All these projects are modular, aka prefabricated, a dirty word for some architects, but Jim doesn't shy away from it. In an industry that seems split over what to make of the rise of modularity, Jim is excited about its many advantages, but readily admits that "modular buildings aren't the solution to everything."

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Prefabricated buildings "only have an advantage in so far as they're made in a factory under conditions that allow you to make a tighter building that doesn't lose as much air to the outside and can be more carefully constructed." But they present just as many problems as they do solutions. For starters, they must be designed to be boxed and shipped in accordance with Federal Highway Administration regulations. This, however, demands that the structures be more robust and able to withstand all the trucking, carting and shipping before they arrive to a site.

I asked Jim whether he found it difficult to work with so many limitations. "I think limitations always make one more creative," he said. "If you can define the problem in a way that gives it boundaries and something to push against and create within it almost always makes you better."

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Posted by Perrin Drumm  |  29 Feb 2012  |  Comments (0)

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Hyperakt's founders Deroy Peraza and Julia Vakser Zeltser describe their design team as a family, and if you visit their cozy, exposed brick studio in Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens it's easy to see why. The designers sit side-by-side along a desk that runs almost the whole length of the space. Music plays, a full bar is displayed prominently in the kitchen and the backyard patio calls to mind summer barbecues and outdoor parties. The mood is easy going yet spirited, and Julia and Deroy seem to be genuinely happy running a practice that prides itself on being the meeting point between social entrepreneurship and design. They practically beam with fulfillment when they talk about the passion they have for the work they do, and after ten years the world is taking notice.

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Origins
Julia and Deroy met at Parsons in September of 1996. "We had very different personalities," Deroy said. "It wasn't an immediate, natural connection, but we do have a lot of similarities in that we're both immigrant kids. I came from Cuba and Julia came from Ukraine. We both had this work ethic. We approached work very seriously and we developed this competitive relationship. She would do something awesome and I would want to outdo her."

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The two continued their friendly rivalry after graduation, bouncing ideas off each other while they worked a series of uninspiring corporate jobs. By September 2001 they'd had enough and decided to join forces. Four days before 9/11 they founded Hyperakt. "Everything was in flux." Deroy said. "It was a good period to try something new because nobody had any work anyway."

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