I remember pulling my grandfather’s long-neglected guitar out from behind the couch in their living room when I was still in elementary school. It was my first interaction with a musical instrument, and what surprised me most was not sounds it made as I naïvely fumbled with such an oversized and cumbersome discovery, but the wonderful scent of French laquer and antiqued wood that wafted out when I first opened the hard case.
I still think of music in those terms—an odd mixture of the senses.
I had initially struggled to pinpoint what it was about the music by Danish singer/songwriter Agnes Obel that resonated with me in such a profound and personal way. My first taste of her music stemmed from her performance at this year’s South by Southwest music Festival in Austin. But in the weeks since I discovered her work, I’ve steadily realized that Obel’s music hinges on that sort of multi-sensory experience. It is not just sound; it is expression, interaction, and a shining example of what music can be.
I may be a little close to the industry at this point, but you can find understated, utilitarian menswear virtually anywhere. Even if we narrow the scope to focus only on brands that produce their collections here in the states, there are still lots of options available. From there, choosing specific labels boils down to subtle nuances in aesthetics and materials – or at least that’s what I thought.
It turns out that menswear label Todd Shelton has amassed a great deal of success based on these two points, but has garnered even more attention thanks to their unique emphasis on sizing. In short, the label coined a DIY fit evaluation program that works directly with their customers to produce custom-fitting garments without the hassle and price point of bespoke clothiers.
Take the Todd Shelton jean for example. Not only can you choose from wide range of selvedge denim fabrics, but you can also determine specific measurements for the waist, knee opening, bottom opening, and the inseam. And this is just the beginning.
I’ve been struggling with how to adequately introduce Houston, TX. In all fairness, it is a huge city to whittle down to a single paragraph, page, or even a full-on paperback book…
Houston from space
But that is the beauty of Houston. It is unfathomable. Having lived there for a number of years, I can say with honesty that there is something there for everybody, from the most underground of underground music scenes to the highest manifestations of high art. It is America’s most ethnically diverse city – yes, even more so than New York City and Los Angeles – and is set to overtake Chicago as the third largest city in the states. It is home to old money, new upstarts, bull riders, hip-hop legends, farmers, tattoo artists, fashion figures, social activists, country singers, and – alas – even politicians. And that’s not even scratching the surface.
Cy Twombly Gallery – The Menil Collection
As you can imagine, it’s impossible to pull together a comprehensive guide to Houston that appeals to everyone’s sense of what the city has to offer. So what follows is a tailored list of what made Houston a home to me. Call it an indulgence or call it insight, but everything on here is worth experiencing if you ever find yourself in The Bayou City:
I will go out on a limb to say that Hugo’s is my absolute favorite restaurant in Houston – if not the entire country. Not many people understand the difference between authentic Mexican and Tex-Mex (or that there is a difference at all), but one visit to Hugo’s will change that. In short, the restaurant is based exclusively on upscale, yet traditional Mexican dishes from Chapulines (pan-sautéed grasshoppers) to Cochinta Pibil (slow-roasted baby pig cooked banana leaf). If you have the opportunity, I recommend visiting during Sunday brunch, where you can sample the gamut of what Hugo’s has to offer. Make a B-line for their subtly spiced house-made hot chocolate, and then take some home in disc form. 1600 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006 - (713) 524 7744
When was the last time you experienced something undeniably authentic? It’s not something that most people think about on a daily basis. Then again, it shouldn’t be something people think about on a daily basis. It should be a given.
I’d apologize for my soapbox but have three points to make instead. Firstly, I’m not sorry. This is how I feel – and I’ll wager many of you do as well. Secondly, I’m optimistic that this is changing. There are so many talented and dedicated people out there working hard to infuse meaning back into what they do. Thirdly, I could think of no other word than authenticity to introduce the work of Juniper Ridge – a tiny conglomerate of nature enthusiasts who make up the world’s only wild fragrance company.
When I first learned about Juniper Ridge and what they do, I was honestly surprised. It had never occurred to me that perfume and fragrance companies wouldn’t handle the entire process from collecting materials to distilling to bottling. How else would it work? It seems that the only way to produce the best product possible is to have a hand in all of it.
In a nutshell, this is their platform. It all starts with harvesting wild plants, bark, moss, mushrooms, and other organic materials in their natural environment. The fifteen employee/members of Juniper Ridge travel throughout the West Coast, spanning different ecological areas from piney forests to the Mojave Desert.
Not too long ago, husband and wife team Adam and Danise Nance decided to launch Busk & Bask – a small design studio in the Mojave Desert of southern Nevada. And while it’s not the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of modern architecture, geometric forms, and handcrafted leather goods, it happens that these three tenets form the basis of a promising young accessories label.
To clarify, Busk & Bask is interested in functionality. Their collection of carry goods features an interesting array of pieces from all-leather briefcases to key fobs, but is devoid of frivolous components, nuances, and embellishments. In this sense, their work poses an interesting paradox. In other words, it is progressively reductive.
“It’s called nesting.”
Admittedly, I didn’t know what to do with that at first. I quickly learned that this word… this ‘nesting’… is a clever moniker for the likes of decorative pillows and maybe-not-so-functional throw blankets. But to be fair, it also encompasses other, more permanent interior installations that I personally find much more exciting.
It was only a couple years ago that I realized my affinity for handmade furnishings. Since then, I’ve passed many an afternoon researching different designers and makers for the day when we actually have the money to procure more permanent pieces.
And so, I have set my sights on independent lighting design studio Allied Maker. Having evolved from the artful woodworking studio of Ryden Rizzo, Allied Maker now utilizes a variety of materials and crafting techniques to craft their stunning range of handmade lighting fixtures.
Still from Travis’s “Moving” music video
I have distinct memories of sitting in my elementary school classroom, following along as our teacher conducted class using an overhead projector. Looking back, those were the first clues that I was a visually oriented person. I’ll admit that my interest in that technology was not so much the lesson plan, but a fleeting and beautiful moment that most probably ignored. There was something special about a transparency sheet that was marked with dry erase pens of all different colors. When we concluded the point at hand, or it became to cluttered on screen, there was a flash of liquid cleaner, and the colors would bleed into one another in unthinkable textures and patterns before being wiped away with a paper towel.
That was the beauty of projection: the accidental.
Still from Enra’s “Pleiades” performative dance & projection
Of course, this was two decades ago. Now classrooms are equipped with $5,000 SMART Boards or highly interactive digital projectors. The technology has totally changed. Yet there is a new kind of beauty that I have found in recent weeks, pertaining specifically to this sort of bittersweet progress – especially concerning the new possibilities that it unleashes in the creative community.
As such, I’ve compiled three compelling outlets that center on projection as an artistic medium, each in it’s own way:
Artists Left to Right: Laura Lark, Hilary Wilder, Margaret Smithers-Crump, & Paul Kittelson
For those of who you haven’t been to Texas during the ‘colder’ months, winters in Houston are rather dispassionate. It’s not warm enough to make it a destination for those who live up north, but not cold enough to warrant an escape either. It is, for all intensive purposes, drab and unremarkable.
Charles Wiese “Alcove” 2011: Digital media on German etching paper 2/3
Perhaps this is why I was so intrigued by the most recent show at Devin Borden Gallery, which ran from early December to Jan 10th. Entitled “Winter Garden,” the group exhibit celebrates the ironically unseasonable allure of winter colors, textures, and atmospheres – associations that remain somewhat alien to native Houstonians. It figures that it was a cold, overcast day when I finally had the opportunity to see the show, lending a subtle and thematic ambiance to the entire experience.
Since discovering Artifact Bag Co. late last year, I have quietly championed their work to friends and family in need of beautiful, yet solid carry goods. The label has a diverse collection from vibrantly colored personal effects bags to full on briefcases and totes – all hand crafted from high quality, domestically produced canvas and bridle leathers.
Perhaps it appeals to the sensibilities and circumstance of a fellow maker such as myself, but I am particularly inspired by the story behind the label. Several years ago, Artifact Bag Co. founder Chris Hughes lost his job to the recession, landing in a cubicle working a menial position for little pay. Yet in early 2010, he found a vintage commercial sewing machine on Craig’s List and began making bags, aprons, etc. Initially working in his basement, he left his job before the year was out to run Artifact Bag Co. full time.
It’s arbitrary when you think about it, but as the New Year approaches, most of us can’t help but to look back to the last twelve months in review. After all, it’s nice to know where you came from to see where you’re going. Twenty-thirteen was a big year for Procured Design, so it’s especially rewarding to ruminate on our new friends, inspirations, and developments. In light of that, it seemed appropriate to gather together the most popular posts of each month.
Enjoy the spread and have a wonderful New Year!
As we’re nearing the final opportunities to grab gifts for you and yours before Christmas, I wanted to put together a last-minute gift guide. To be honest, I’ve been grappling with this for some time now and should have had something out at least a week ago. What it boils down to was my dissatisfaction with the standard gift-guide archetype, which is to say a single image with nicely arranged products and matching descriptions. The problem with this is that there are so many wonderful things out there that aren’t photographed well or that aren’t conducive to that format. So in light of aesthetics and in want of something different, we’re switching things up a bit.
It’s not necessarily anything new, but I decided to debut the Procured Design last-minute holiday gift guide via Twitter. Starting now, we will put out a new product every hour for a full day using #PDgiftguide. Just a heads up, the guide is good for him, her, the kids, the in-laws, or anybody really. There is also a wide range of price points, covering everything from stocking stuffers to serious indulgences.
Be sure to follow Procured Design on Twitter so you can pay special attention to our 24 hour gift guide!
Admittedly I don’t know much about contemporary artist Allison Schulnik. Furthermore, I’m not that familiar with Grizzly Bear. Yet all ignorance aside, I am a huge proponent of their collaborative work in “Forest”. In short, it is an incredibly engaging music video shot exclusively in claymation.
As both director and sculptor, Allison Schulnick draws on her ongoing character studies, which is to say the creation of highly tactile oil paintings and clay sculptures of anthropomorphic beings. What’s amazing about this work in particular is the seamlessness surrounding the stop animation – a process which is both meticulous and incredibly time-consuming. Schulnick handles the clay so well throughout the video, that it seems oddly sentient beyond that of depicting distinct personalities and carrying a narrative. Instead, her extreme sensitivity towards the material allows her to stream through various color and contours as she folds characters in on themselves, only to remold the clay into something else entirely. Often times, the concept of creation is inherently bound in a binary with destruction. However in “Forest,” there is a consistent flow of creation and re-creation that – I find – speaks to a more positivistic approach to creativity itself.
Kiriko is a small unisex accessories label based in Portland, Oregon that uses traditional and vintage Japanese textiles to craft their continually changing collection of unique scarves, ties, pocket squares, and other miscellany. As such, much of their work is devoted to and inspired by time-honored production methods of traditional Japanese textile weaving, whether it’s kasuri, boro, sashiko, or any other number of conventional styles.
Products aside, what’s beautiful about the label is that it propagates a broad aesthetic, conceptual, and consumer interest in these heritage fabrics – even despite their commercial decline over the last half century. Although the traditional production methods behind these heritage fabrics may no longer be profitable for textile manufacturers, the pieces themselves are in no way outmoded. In fact, if Kiriko’s growth as a brand is any indication, vintage Japanese fabrics are regaining relevance amongst contemporary consumers connoisseurs.
Wanting to know more about the label, I was lucky enough to catch Dawn Yanagihara (Kiriko’s co-founder and creative director) amidst the holiday rush to discuss the label and why creativity is a constant pursuit:
“Litton” Shirt Detail
There is something inherently honest and personal about luxury menswear label Mamnick. The story begins with Thom Barnett, founder and designer behind the brand who channeled his lifelong interest in manufacturing and ongoing appreciation for his surroundings in Sheffield, England into a line of garments and personal accessories. Now, Mamnick is an amalgamation of complementing sensibilities, from a distinct British utilitarianism to a complex aesthetic appeal that oscillates between classic staples and innovative new designs.
Thom Barnett – Mamnick’s Founder & Designer
Given the breadth and the scope of Mamnick’s current collection, I reached out to Thom to ask him a bit about his work to learn more about his creative process and what he believes to be the core values behind the label:
“We don’t believe in having a sustainability program,” explains Mariano deGuzman, co-founder of heritage-inspired outdoor apparel label Appalatch. Somehow this wasn’t at all surprising. From the first glance at their line of domestically produced garments and accessories, it’s immediately apparent that there is more to the brand than buzzword marketing.
My inaugural interaction with Appalatch took place at this year’s Northern Grade pop-up market in Chicago just over a month ago. Since then, I’ve continually revisited and reexamined their work to get a holistic understanding of what they do and why I’m so energized by it. It’s relatively simple: in every facet, the label both exudes and epitomizes the tenets of sustainable fashion.
Then again, perhaps what I find so amazing about Appalatch is that their model actually works…
Chicago-based eyewear label Drift began by making handmade wooden frames from laminated cross sections of retired skateboards. Of course you would never know it. There is an incredible elegance to their glasses: an almost vehement non-rustic appeal that embodies the best of what recovered hardwoods have to offer, without the shabby-chic quasi-lazy characteristic of other such ventures.
Taking this interest to the next level, Drift recently released Delta Blues – a small collection of glasses and shades handcrafted from an even more unlikely source: 100 year old pieces of Cypress lost at the bottom of the Mississippi River.
What began as a material investigation became something distinctly more intimate. After a series of hurdles, the team enlisted the help of a local named Byron, a construction worker turned swamp logger who they discovered on Craigslist (his motto: “why pay more when you can pay me?”). It turned out the investment was well worthwhile. He unearthed a beautiful piece of sunken Cypress that had marinated in the delta soil for around 100 years. Capitalizing on the rich striations of olive greens, deep purples, and honeycombs, this recovered grain is the focal point of the entire collection.
Anyone interested in high-quality menswear is undoubtedly familiar with Taylor Stitch. Having long since graduated from their origins as a custom shirt-maker, the label has greatly expanded their work to incorporate everything from field jackets to chinos. They have even thrown some phenomenal collaborations into the mix as well.
Most recently, Taylor Stitch debuted their first ever women’s collection comprised of indigo tanks, tees, sweatshirts, and pique dresses. In light of their continual growth, I caught up with Taylor Stitch co-founder Michael Maher to find out more about what drives the label and what we might expect in the future:
Many of you may recall that there is a lot going on behind the scenes to improve both the scope and experience of Procured Design. It has become increasingly obvious over the last several months that in order to move forward with those developments, we need to scale back. As such, starting this week, Procured Design will publish new content exclusively on Sundays.
As the acting administrator of the site, it’s a bittersweet call to make. On the one hand, it’s very difficult to shift the focus from our daily features. Conversely, it’s a very exciting time for Procured Design to grow in ways I could have only imagined when it launched almost two years ago. Our mission is still the central focus – namely to share the work of contemporary makers with insightful commentary. That of course is the heart of what we do.
I very much appreciate your continued support while Procured Design undergoes its necessary growing pains and look forward to sharing the vision with you in the future! Until then, be sure to check back every week and be sure to stay in the loop via Facebook & Twitter. You can also sign up for email updates to the right!
If you are interested in learning more about where Procured Design is headed – or want to help us get there – feel free to get in touch. We’re always looking for patrons and participants!
All the best and speak soon,
When I first arrived in Texas, I had a very vague idea of Dia de los Muertos. In childhood, my peers explained it to me as a “Mexican Halloween,” which sounded reasonable enough at the time. It might actually be a fitting analogy, save for the fact that Halloween now has more to do with candy and skimpy outfits than interacting with lost loved ones.
Dia de los Muertos celebration in a candle lit graveyard
Nonetheless, people worldwide are getting ready to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, I thought it appropriate to share a bit about the holiday and the artistry surrounding it.
Nendo – “Quivering” Bowls
Japanese firm Nendo expresses a unique and subtle sensibility throughout their work – namely a minimal approach to conceptual and product design, with just a hint of surprise mixed in for good measure. What I particularly admire aside from their pared down aesthetic is that their projects always have something around the corner.
Nendo’s “Quivering” Bowl
Nendo’s portfolio is as varied as it is extensive, working between graphics to full blown interiors. My most recent obsession however is a small line of bowls designed for the “Kama: Sex & Design” exhibit at last year’s Triennale Design Museum in Milan. As you may intuit, the show investigates the relationship between sexuality and design – ultimately asking people to reexamine the common taboo associated with such a union. Suffice it to say, Nendo’s contribution deals directly with the issue of sensuality and seduction, yet all in their own understated style.
Nendo “quivering” bowl – time lapse photo
The designers submitted a series of extremely thin vessels that upon first glance seem like fine handmade ceramics. Of course the bowl itself is an inherently feminine object with close associations to the womb, to sustenance, and even birth. Yet there is more at play here. These bowls are actually made from silicon – an incredibly malleable material that is incredibly tactful and unexpectedly seductive. Borrowing from Nendo’s official site, they explain, “[w]e wanted to express eros through a design that evokes desire – a design that viewers simply can’t bear not to touch.”