An updated version of an iconic watch, this watch from Uniform Wares is nothing short of utilitarian. Everything about this piece is understated. The stainless steel case tacitly attests to the durability of modern manufacturing, while the Italian calfskin band captures the esoteric character behind the watches of yesteryear. In a subtle fashion, it stands in opposition to the disease of consolidation that plagues contemporary product design. It is what it is – and I appreciate that. In all actuality, watches have become obsolete in the wake of smartphones. So in that sense, this piece is a token of stubborn nostalgia for those of us who prefer not to put all our eggs in one electronic basket.
The allure of architecture lies not only in the pragmatic need for commercial or living space. Rather, it is a process indelibly intertwined with the unique needs and tastes of each user. On the most fundamental of levels, architecture is an expression of both individual and collective identity. It allows for us to live and work in a particular manner, while simultaneously defining how we interact with (and within) the space.
This association between architecture and selfhood underlies much of Do-Ho Suh’s work. However, with strong ties to two disparate cultures, the artist’s investigation of identity becomes much more involved. Constantly travelling between South Korea and the United States, Suh conflates his dual identity through his “Home Within Home” sculpture, wherein he combines architectural details of his family home in Seoul with those of his residence in Rhode Island.
Standing before the piece, the viewer is confronted by a beautiful, but ultimately sterile structure. There are no traces of adornment or individuality within the space. Though this absence of character may serve as an invitation to the viewer to project his or her own experiences onto the work, it is plausible that the restraint behind “Home Within Home” offers more than an interactive game of dollhouse. Rather, drawing on architecture’s indelible link to individuality, Suh’s sculpture is metaphorical construct of conflicting identities.
This striking combination of distinct selfhoods begs the question as to whether such a fusion is compatible, grotesque, or both. While there is a harmony within the piece, the merger is nonetheless charged with a certain baggage. In order to form a single entity, both homes underwent a process of modification, distortion, and amputation. In that sense, “Home Within Home” embodies a Frankenstein of mangled cultures, which subsequently spirals into paradox. The structure can not exist outside of its antecedents, and thus is created by the perverted union of inherently combative identities. It is a chimera of oneness, simultaneously symbolizing a malformed binary of two cultures and an incomplete entity of selfhood. Yet this self-contradiction is not unique to the dual citizen. None of us can exist independently of our experiences, our heritage, nor our culture. Playing off of this commonality, Suh highlights the asymptotic, false-sense of oneness in which many of us indulge. Our inability to exist impervious to our unique backgrounds is the very insufficiency that prevents us from embodying a complete being. Depending on one’s perspective, perhaps this knowledge of our inherent shortcoming is liberating— a permission slip to meld past and future influences without fear of imperfection. For others, “Home Within Home” may offer a poignant realization of futility – an idea which is as illuminating as it is depressing.
Check out the gallery and feel free to throw your thoughts into the mix via the “leave a reply” link below.
Having only launched in 2010, Metsa has nonetheless established a profound legacy when it comes to quality in craftsmanship. Based in Toronto, they capitalize on the best of local and international vendors to procure materials which enables them for example to combine 100% organic Japanese cotton with hand cut porcelain buttons made by the designer’s mother.
Yet in addition to sourcing eco-friendly materials, Metsa also relies on natural dyes to color their garments. They bypass the factory district on the way to the designers lake house where they hand stain each piece using organic dyes such as pomegranate, root madder, and indigo. In using these pigments, they achieve much more depth in terms of color and gradation than is possible with synthetic alternatives. As a final step in the dyeing process, each piece is washed by hand in the lake outside the cottage. The unique mineral content in the water alters the hue of the entire batch, thus producing a line of shirts, trousers, and accessories that are not only unique within the fashion world, but in and of themselves. Cheers to Mesta for bringing the clothing industry back to where it should be.
This piece from Phigvel Makers & Co. is a great study concerning the potential of scrap materials. Picking up the remnants left from their boot production, the team churned out a limited run of horsehide key holders for Hickoree Hard Goods. To keep everything straight, they embossed “Home” and “Ignition” on one side of the piece, with “Door” and “Office” on the reverse. For the final touches, the case is fastened together by custom set screws and embellished with a gold painted Phigvel brand. They’re pretty deluxe -especially considering that the materials were saved from the bin. Take a gander at the details of both colorways in the gallery.
Breaking from both antecedent and archetype, this peacoat from Maison Martin Margiela offers minimal – yet stunning – updates in terms of design. Perhaps the most notable feature of this jacket is the inclusion of four side pockets, whose lines complement the already streamlined profile. With hidden buttons down the front, the details remain understated. (Leave it to Margiela to successfully walk the tightrope between functionality and aesthetics.) To pull everything together, the beige corduroy contrast inside the cuffs and underneath the collar give a certain body to the piece, without compromising subtlety.
Jan & Bess of Épice launched their first line of hand loomed scarves in 1999, developing an almost immediate following thereafter. Drawn together by their shared interest in Indian textiles and recent graduation from the Copenhagen School of Design, the duo began working with artisans throughout India to develop exclusive fabrics to their specifications. Complementing a decidedly contemporary aesthetic, their scarves depend on generations of traditional craftsmanship to pull each piece together.
Drawing from a bit of pop culture, the scarf from their Spring/Summer 2012 line is adorned with typography from Danish rock posters and merchandise. While that may only appeal to a niche market, the palette is universal. Because it’s available at several men’s boutiques, I dare to go out on a limb and suggest that any man who buys this should just gift it to a special girl. It’s definitely beautiful, but she’ll look better in it.
Long ago – in a time before studios and editing software – there were musicians who relied on nothing more than their fingers and some good ol’fashioned knowhow. In that respect, the Martin D28 Clarence White is a tribute to an almost forgotten tradition of pure tonality. It is a throwback to the blank canvas of music-making, where looks were understated and sound was the sole priority. There are no inlays, no embellishments, and certainly no electronics. Featuring both an effortless profile and an incredible depth of tone, this guitar leaves no room for bells and whistles to interfere with your music. It’s as straightforward as it gets.
As a brand, Visvim has steadily gained a phenomenal reputation through its marriage of quality and design. Therein, what is particularly striking about the label is its ongoing interest in harboring the best (and often most obscure) methods of production. Transversing the globe in search of the right materials, creative director Hiroki Nakamura partners with small, segregated outfits of traditional craftspeople to supply specific components of his lines. Recently, he has sourced hand woven ramie fabric from individual artisans in Fukushima prefecture, integrated all natural dyes from an indigo master in Tokushima, and relied on vegetable tanned equine leather from a family-owned tannery in Chicago – all within the last year.
Suffice it to say, Nakamura has relied on the same M.O. to capture the legacy of his brand in this 152-page assemblage. For this piece, he teamed up with Japanese bookbinders to create a limited run of hand made books to outline the visual story of Visvim. “Dissertation on Self-Verification” is a collection of images which either inspired or captured choice pieces throughout the last decade. Invoking a tradition dating back to the 7th Century CE, the outside cover is lined with washi paper made from locally harvested kozo bark. With a final contemporary touch, the book includes several interviews with Nakamura as well as two original DVDs which delve deep into the creative world behind his label.
Yet while it is an interesting case study of a particular brand’s evolution, the real allure of the book lies in the attention paid to the creative process itself. Any interview can offer insight into the trials and tribulations of a designer turned entrepreneur, but there is no replacement for interacting directly with the visionary spirit. Sometimes, it pays more to see something blossom. Even if you aren’t familiar with the brand, it’s worth taking a look through the gallery.
Of the existing accounts of Yasuaki Onishi‘s portfolio, few have investigated his work beyond commending the artists’ ability to manipulate space. However, there is a strong link which runs throughout his entire body of work – namely the interaction between the ideas and implications surrounding kinetics.
Formally, Onishi’s work not only manipulates, but depends on movement in order to convey the meaning behind each piece. In the two-dimensional realm, his long-exposure photography in his Shaved & Rolled series softens otherwise violent and immediate jolts of fire. Similarly in his sculptural installations, Onishi’s works rise and fall – respiring as if to possess their own sentience.
Yet while elements of movement are prominent throughout his portfolio, the most striking example of Onishi’s interest in motion lies in his Reverse Volume series. In relying solely on plastic sheeting, string, and black glue, the artist crafts monumental installations of imposing presence from materials which lack any substantial mass of their own. Although appearing firm, the mountainous incarnations gently bulge, crumple, and collapse in the natural drafts within the exhibition space. Thus breaking from the use of fans in his other works, the oscillation in Reverse Volume is calculated but not provoked.
As a viewer, one is left to ponder Onishi’s paradox of mass and anti-mass. How does he reconcile the tacit respiration and ghost-like drifting of his installation? What does it mean to allow the slightest breeze to coerce a formation reminiscent of looming mountainscapes? A possible reading hinges on interpreting the piece as a fundamentally kinetic presence. Because of the choice in materials, the installation can not physically (or conceivably) remain static. Rather, it is manipulated by the surrounding atmosphere, just as a seaside cliff crumbles into the assailing waves below. In creating such formidable structures from delicate materials, the artist suggests that there is no such thing as the immovable. The precarious and impressionable existence of Onishi’s installation in the exhibition space characterizes our world as a whole. Playing on the inherently ephemeral nature of installation art, Reverse Volume symbolizes inevitable change in our environment. It reminds us that what we hold as permanent amounts to nothing more than a cursory moment between growth and siege – a humbling notion still fresh in the minds of his audience following the natural disaster last year in Fukushima Prefecture.
If you are interested (and reasonably local), his work will open to the public on the 13th of April in the Rice University Installation Gallery in Houston and will be up until the 24th of June. Onishi will give a gallery talk at 6:00P on opening night with a volley at noon on the 14th. Admission is free so there’s no reason to miss out. Also, check out the gallery below for some high resolution images courtesy of the curator.
It takes a very special experience to cause one to redefine what is possible. If the legacy of The Mars Volta can be summed up in a word, it would epiphany. Throughout their career they have continually pushed the limits of musicality- making room for the most jarring dissonance, confusing time signatures, and all around strange ambiances.
In particular, “Bedlam in Goliath” is a wonderful achievement for their ability to transverse from the sedate to the bacchic several times throughout a single album. The diversity extends into the lyrics as well, which oscillate back and forth between surrealist landscapes to biblical allusions. Perhaps the best single representative of their work as a whole is the final track entitled “Conjugal Burns.” From a slightly mysterious introduction, the song ignites into an elevated tempo which finally culminates into a crescendo of unrelenting frenzy which incidentally makes little to no musical or rhetorical sense. In short, they masterfully intertwine both tightly calculated knowhow and explosively emotive power into their songwriting. At times, their work may be hard to follow but if you stick with it, The Mars Volta is sure to lead you someplace wonderful.
Check out the “Conjugal Burns” below and stay tuned for their new album (“Noctourniquet”) which debuts March 27th.
The team at Bellroy have continually pushed the envelope in finding more efficient means of carrying through their line of leather wallets. They even started a blog devoted to reviewing different approaches to storing credit cards, computers, & the like. Aside from their passion, what’s special about Bellroy is their ability to meld the benefits of solid craftsmanship with a conscious effort to minimize bulk in your pocket. While all their wallets are carefully considered and designed, the Slim Sleeve reigns as the most accommodating and versatile piece in their line.
Measuring in at less than 4 x 3 inches, it can nonetheless store 15+ cards without strain. For quick and easy access, there are two main card compartments for your most frequently used cards while the rest can be accessed via a pull tab which draws them out from behind the main pockets. The vertical orientation of the pockets minimizes the lateral bulk that occurs with other bi-folds. It can also accommodate your bills provided you fold them in half. Finally, crafted from vegetable tanned bovine leather, it is sure to wear in to the unique use and abuse of its owner. All in all, it’s the quintessential in customizable carrying.
This small batch Kentucky Bourbon from Noah’s Mill out of Nelson County is the real deal. It comes complete with a lot of recent accolades, not the least of which is a gold medal at the fifth annual San Francisco World Spirits Competition. It’s a bit more butch than I tend to seek out, but every now and then the occasion arises for some heavier muse juice. I suggest keeping it in the studio.
I swore to never pursue another Hermès product again, but this is just too perfect. As one might have guessed noticing the embroidered diploma/A+ paper/tax return hidden on the underside, it’s dubbed the “celebration tie.” Broadly speaking, the solid black tie is a necessity in any man’s wardrobe. And while most of us won’t need it for fancy events, sooner or later someone close will kick the bucket. Perhaps it’s just my twisted sense of humor… but having a party scene clandestinely tucked against your chest at a wake is a stroke of genius.
The images from this proposal are nothing short of phenomenal. As for the proposal itself, it gets pretty hairy for those of us who passed geometry by the skin of our teeth, but the architect sums it up pretty well on his site:
“This design proposal for two vacation homes for two brothers and their families on one plot of land in upstate New York represents an examination of a curious part to whole relationship. The mathematical principle of “dissection” states that any two regular polygons with equal areas can be divided into sets of similar shapes; “minimal dissection” is the pursuit of the fewest number of subdivisions in each polygon. This scheme appropriates this principle as a solution to (1) general similarities in the programmatic requirements, and (2) distinctions in the desired relationships to the site, voiced by the two brothers for each of their homes.”
I must admit, I’d do some nasty things to spend a weekend in one of these homes – just so long as I didn’t have to pay the heating bill for those gigantic windows.
It’s refreshing to see designers work with what is in front of them rather than contemplating what they can add to a garment. Perhaps the best examples of this are found in knitwear, as the materials accommodate a wide variety of textures and hidden contrasts without having to include extraneous variations in color. Here are my top two:
1) Rag & Bone Contrast Knit
Aside from some hidden details in the underside of the cuffs, this piece from New York’s Rag & Bone sports blocks of contrast knitting to achieve the horizontal stripes. Elegant in its simplicity, this is essentially the Marcus Aurelius of designer sweaters. So far it’s the best find from my friends at Mortar (who were kind enough to supply their own image).
2) SNS Herning Fisherman Knit
The fisherman knit has always been a favorite because of the unique patterning that (usually) stretches across the chest and biceps. In terms of a design element, something that straddles the fence between continuity with contrast is a simple enough to recognize, but difficult to wrap your brain around. Lucky for us, SNS Herning has long since perfected their own versions of the fisherman sweater. Keeping true to their traditions, they rely almost exclusively on manipulations within the material to produce several variations a year – each in a given color.
I vote we all return to winter.
Having just finished the third iteration in their series of one-piece leather shoes, the duo at Schuh-Bertl recently sent over some pictures of their latest work. It’s called the One Piece Oxford with Footbed (“One Piece Oxford mit Fußbett”) and – as the name suggests – it features a custom leather insert for added comfort. Visually, it combines the best qualities of their Bavarian Oxford and their traditional Derby Shoe, creating a hybrid look on the upside of traditional. As always, they feature the Bertl standard Goodyear welt construction, hand molded leather shoelaces, and an immaculate attention to detail.
A big part of the creative process is looking at the masterpieces of others. The most recent release from the Deftones is just that. Having grown up listening to them evolve, there is no doubt that they reached a pinnacle in their career as musicians with “Diamond Eyes”. Sadly, loss played in as a major source of motivation for the band after their bassist, Chi Cheng, was left in a coma after a automobile accident. The band, having previously recorded an album, pulled it before it’s release date, returned to the studio, and put out a collection of songs that were reportedly more genuine and meaningful for the band following Chi’s hospitalization. Though their genre relies heavily on angst as a creative force, I think it was the power of love that propelled the Deftones into their most mature, and emotive release yet.
Everyone knows the devil is in the details. Naturally, I prefer to take a more optimistic stance on that subject. In designing something, I find that details offer opportunities to truly shine through your work. After years of exposure to different artisans and products, I’m happy to report that I’m not alone. The leather goods from Barrett Alley are among the most carefully composed pieces I’ve seen to date. To start, he sources materials from the best suppliers throughout the world – and even throughout time. Often he will include hard to find antique textiles in his work, bringing together different times and traditions of craftsmanship.
For his Devilish Deerskin No. 4 wallet, he relied on a hunter-harvested deerskin which was naturally bark-tanned in Texas. As if the materials weren’t unique enough, the inside is lined with a Meiji period horse blanket which was hand-woven and dyed with pure indigo. Finally relying on waxed linen thread for added durability, everything is cut, stitched, and finished by hand. How bout them details?
UK based designer Neil Conley derives a great deal of his inspiration from history and politics. Having witnessed the extensive damage caused by the 2011 BP Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, he released a set of modified snow globes to commemorate the carelessness behind the spill. A far cry from an idyllic snowy landscape, Conley’s globes offer a poignant reminder of the damage done to our ecosystem. If I was sure they didn’t already have some on their desk, I’d send a couple over to our buddies at BP.
It was long before “Exit Through the Gift Shop” when art became driven by commercial incentive and speculation. Yet while monetary concerns may take away from the true value of art, the almost-stagnant nature of artistic production carries a very powerful benefit: when you find something new and exciting, it means that much more. The new power of art lies in that juxtaposition. For Christiane Löhr, I think that goes without saying. Her work is incredibly delicate, but has a force behind each piece that nonetheless commands your attention. For me, it’s a throwback to artwork that doesn’t assault you as a viewer.