A Case for Styrofoam – Anna Badur’s Unique Take On Mundane Materials

anna-badur-styrofoam

Styrofoam is the kind of material that most people instinctively dislike. Some people I’ve talked to even go so far as to say they hate it. But looking beyond the grimaced faces of environmentalists, coffee connoisseurs, and misophonics, there is an inherently disconcerting aura about the material. At least that’s the case for the Styrofoam that you and I interact with…

anna-badur-styrofoam-1 anna-badur-styrofoam-detail-1

For designer Anna Badur Styrofoam is an unopened treasure chest of possibility. Rather than taking it for face value, Badur has explored the different aesthetic and physical characteristics of the material – viewing it as a blank canvas for new practical and artistic applications.

anna-badur-styrofoam-lantern-3

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Badur’s pursuit of Styrofoam is nothing short of brilliant. Not only is it an integral (albeit overlooked) aspect of daily life, but it is also a fairly unique material in and of itself. Physically, Styrofoam is lightweight and has a low thermal conductivity.  Aesthetically, it is far more complex than I expected.

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Hunter + Gatherer: Copper

At least in the states, a penny is worth less than the copper used to make it. But the true value of copper lies in its warmth and character. I also like that you can keep it fresh with proper maintenance or enjoy the rich turquoise patina that develops over time. The following are some of my favorite copper pieces – the majority of which are handcrafted. Enjoy!

HG-Copper

Clockwise from top left: Garden tools by PKS Bronze; Wall light by Bodie & Fou; Beating bowl by Mauviel; Cufflinks by Alice Made This; Terrarium via William Sonoma; London scented Candle by Tom Dixon; Bicycle by Van Heesch Design; Tie bar by Joinery; Handwoven Necklace by Maripossa

Most Popular Post #3: Look To Norway’s “Best Before” Exhibit at Paris Design Week

Although participants in this year’s Paris Design Week were scattered about the entire city, a healthy selection exhibited their work at the multi-level creative hub known as Les Docks. Overlooking the Seine, the space was teeming with designers from different traditions, aesthetics, and cultures. But despite the throngs of participants bustling throughout the space, I was immediately drawn to a quiet, but cohesive exhibition by the design conglomerate Look To Norway.

Exhibition at Les Docks - Information Packet by Pati Passero

Exhibition at Les Docks – Information Packet by Pati Passero

Founded by Strek CollectiveLook To Norway consists of twelve Norwegian designers who united to investigate various notions of consumption. Their most recent exhibition at entitled “Best Before” derives an obvious inspiration from the food industry – specifically the ideas of consumerism and expiration. What does it mean for something to expire? Is it no longer fit for consumption, or is it simply outmoded? Is an object’s purpose inherently tied to its use, or is there latent potential in what we discard?

My favorite aspect about Look To Norway (aside from their chosen topic) is the diversity by which the designers respond to these issues. While every piece adheres to an unwaveringly minimalist aesthetic, they are nonetheless separate – even disparate – in terms of their persuasions.

Ship O Hoy - Jørgen Willumsen

Ship O Hoy – Jørgen Willumsen

Perhaps the most candid piece in the exhibition is Jørgen Willumsen’s “Ship O Hoy,” which is a small collection of lamps made from recovered buoys. In transforming litter into a utilitarian object, he undermines popular notions of expiration by re-investing meaning into a discarded material. Rather than conceding death, Willumsen evokes a dramatic functional transformation that illicits a second thought about our conception of life. Are the sentient and inanimate all that (dis)similar?

Kull (mold) - Wærnes

Kull (mold) – Wærnes

Kull - Fredrik Wærnes

Kull – Fredrik Wærnes

 On the more conceptual side of the spectrum, Fredrik Wærnes confronts ideas of consumption through a clever material exploration surrounding coal. Viewing it as an outdated energy source, he set out to use the material to produce a functional, everyday object. The result was a calculatedly ironic series of coal-composite candleholders. In juxtaposing coal and the flame it supports, Wærnes highlights a dubious relationship between the competing potentials of such a versatile material.

Although these two pieces are successful in their own ways, they are nonetheless a small sample of an incredibly diverse exhibition. What’s innovative about “Best Before” in particular is the opportunity it gives to the designers to ask and answer their ownquestions. The result is a series of works which is as appealing as it is thought-provoking:

Make Up – Joachim Rasmussen

Look To Norway - Rasmussen

This simple mirror by Joachim Rasmussen was made in response to the idea of deterioration. Although the mirror will inevitably undergo a natural process of aluminum oxidation, the patina can be easily removed. For people however, the process of aging is irreversible. Rasmussen capitalizes on this schism between the user and the object, investigating the value we place on the untarnished versus the aged.

Balance - Caroline Olsson & Anneli Fjærli

Look-To-Norway - Olsson & Fjærli

A joint project by Caroline Olsson and Anneli Fjærli, this poignantly-titled “Balance” lamp calls into question the price of progress. Cranes are a certain symbol of prosperity, but  they also carry a more negative association tied to blind consumption of materials, resources, and spaces. The goal of this piece is to entice the user to ponder these relationships between growth and destruction.

Drops - Marianne Andersen

Look To Norway - Andersen

In a more craft-driven approach, Marianne Andersen harks back to the time before ‘throw-away culture’ when objects were not only made to last, but were made to be used. These lanterns are all hand blown – each with it’s own idiosyncrasies. Her work demonstrates the vast differences between mass production and handwork; homogeneity versus character, profit margin versus value, and tradition versus technology.

Eclipse Mirror – Nicolai Gulliksen

Look To Norway - Gulliksen

Both literal and metaphysical reflection play major roles in the entire exhibition. Likewise, this mirror by Nicolai Gulliksen operates on two levels. While the first use is obvious and intuitive, the piece features a light source on the backside to create a nice atmosphere around the object. Because it is very easy to move, the user can interact directly the mirror or reposition it in the room, allowing it to create it’s own reflections and shadows.

Waxandstone – Victoria Martinsen & Sara Polmar

Look To Norway - Martinsen & Polmar

One of the central issues of expiration is the idea of life-span. Victoria Martinsen and Sara Polmar interpreted this through a combination of dissimilar materials. While candles are understood to have a short shelf-life, stone is viewed as almost indestructible. Yet in carefully determining the visual relationship between the two materials, Martinsen and Polmar seem interested rather in their similarities. Are the differences in life-spans enough to view these objects as opposites?

Circuit Breaker – Stian Ruud

Look To Norway - Ruud (graphite)

Look To Norway - Ruud (magnets)

This experimental series of light switches from Stian Ruud investigates different ways of breaking a circuit. Only two are pictured, but he has developed five varying methods using combinations of alloys, plastic, and electronics. By changing or slowing the user’s interaction with the switch, Ruud allows us to contemplate not only our relationship with our immediate surroundings, but also the use of our resources.

Miroir – Martin Solem

Look To Norway - Solem

For his submission, Martin Solem derived inspiration from the 3-sided mirrors of yesteryear. He relied on modern materials and aesthetics to streamline the object without sacrificing its usability. His work suggests that a good way to move forward is to look backwards. In making an outdated object relevant to contemporary society, he gives the mirror a new – albeit different – life.

Look To Norway - Passero

 If you would like to learn more about “Best Before,” try to get your hands on the information packet designed by Pati Passero. It’s gorgeous. In the meantime, be sure to visit the Look To Norway website. You can also find more information about the designers via the links to personal websites strewn throughout the post above. It’s also worth taking a moment to connect with Look To Norway and Strek Collective on Facebook for news concerning upcoming works and exhibitions.

The Handcrafted Furnishings of BDDW

Credenza Mid

There is a certain sense of pride and personality that emanates from a well-furnished interior. To me, this relationship between a room and its contents is a particularly intriguing idea – one that forms the basis of my appreciation for the small furniture company BDDW. Perhaps better described as an artisanal conglomerate, BDDW is a creative outlet that has become synonymous with innovative design, heirloom quality, and informed craftsmanship.

Hand Fitting Butterfly Key Joints

One of the more stimulating aspects of BDDW is their conscious choice of materials and production methods. Their furniture is predominantly made from select domestic hardwoods like black walnut, oxidized maple, and distressed oak. In an effort to craft visually and structurally timeless pieces, they rely on traditional joints throughout their collection. The butterfly joints above are particularly striking examples of the marriage between stability and design.

Captain’s Mirror – wooden frame, leather strip, and machined bronze hanging puck

 In addition to their solid wood furniture, they also work in a variety of other materials. BDDW also dabbles in custom-cast bronze, blown glass, hand-thrown ceramics, and woven rugs. In fact, BDDW has a stable of visiting artists that includes woodworkers Aaron Scaturro and Kieran Kinsella, lighting designer Lindsey Adelman, and ceramicist Natalie Page. This constant influx of creative minds continually broadens the scope of BDDW’s already extensive collection.

Tall Storage Chest & Wooden Side Tables

Be sure to check out the many images from their online portfolio in the gallery below. You can also find more information about BDDW by visiting their website.

 

Loyal Dean’s “Daringly Organic” Handmade Skateboards

Loyal Dean is a small company based in Los Angeles that crafts some of the most visually arresting and functionally superior skateboards on the market. Drawing on several decades of woodworking and riding experience, the team produces one of a kind all-wooden skate decks in a variety of shapes from downhill bombers to small cruisers.

Bottle Nose Detail (image courtesy of Hiddengarments.cn)

Every board is both designed and crafted exclusively in the US – but in a very special way. Around 40% of Loyal Dean’s lumber is reclaimed and thus carries a great deal of character along with it.

Longboard 3/4 View & Side Profile (image courtesy of awsm.com)

The variety in age, color, and grain plays a major role in how Loyal Dean designs and constructs their boards. Though there are limitations in terms of available shapes, each board is constructed with a unique combination of wood species, grain directions, and overall pattern. That means that each deck is truly one-of-a-kind.

Yet their unique lamination style is not purely aesthetic; the patterned top surface design is complemented by a second ply of a parallel wood grain underneath that allows for flexibility without sacrificing structural integrity.

Unique Lamination (image courtesy of manoftheworld.com)

Parallel Grain Underside (image courtesy of manoftheworld.com)

Keeping with the design-forward nature of these skateboards, the decks are most often adorned with opaque grip tape to showcase the custom lamination. Yet it might be interesting to see whether one could add a personal touch by custom-cutting black grip tape. Who knows? But at the end of the day, it’s just important to enjoy the ride!

Be sure to check out the Loyal Dean website for more information concerning their boards, process, and overall oeuvre. You can also stay up to date with new releases and events by following their Facebook page.

Studio Visit: Workhorse Press in Houston, TX

Printmaking has been an interest of mine since I began lithography at university. There is something very honest about the process regardless of which method you encounter. In my studies, I learned that the most important factor to consider when pairing a printing method with an image is to understand the unique visual characteristics of each practice. So when it became time to print up some business cards for Procured, the choice was obvious.

Given my interest in supporting small local artisans, I was thrilled to find out about Workhorse Press in a nearby area of Houston, TX. It is a small outfit of printers and designers who specialize in custom letterpress – encompassing everything from personalized stationery to cork coasters. For those who don’t know, letterpress is a printing process by which ink is applied to the paper by literally pressing into it – leaving an indentation where there is color. The practice has steadily declined since printing technology has ‘improved’ (a business term meaning more cost efficient), but the characteristics of letterpress are unparalleled.

A recent poster for Brazos Book Store’s “Banned Books Week” event printed up on their cylinder press

Suffice it to say, the nature of my work prompted a natural collaboration with Workhorse Press that recently culminated several boxes full of beautiful, handcrafted business cards. During the process, head printer John Earles of the winsomely titled Department of Obsolete Technologies was kind enough to show me around the studio as he worked on my order. I thought it would be a great opportunity to take a look at the entire process, which is outlined below.

The Workhorse Studio Space

One of the aspects I like most about Workhorse is the marriage of antiquated and contemporary technologies. My cards were printed on two separate platen presses that date back to 1898 and the early 1920’s respectively. These presses traditionally used movable wooden type which had to be arranged letter by letter – a process that is both time and labor intensive.

The two platen presses

Assorted Movable Type

While Workhorse is one of the few presses left in America to still utilize this method, my cards were actually crafted using straightforward digital technology. Once the images were finalized in InDesign, the digital file was mapped onto two magnesium plates which are later coated with ink and pressed into the cards one at a time.

The two procured plates – coated with a red “dragon’s blood” resist to prevent any etching that can occur

The plates are then locked in place within what’s called a “chase” (or a metal frame) and held into place by metal or wooden furniture. Once everything is set up, the chase is placed into the press and the printing begins.

Chase, Furniture, & Plate

When printing, there is an overwhelming plentitude of choices concerning inks and papers. Workhorse uses two different types of inks depending on the situation. The first is a soy-based ink that is completely biodegradable and toxin free. The other is rubber-based which is mixed with magnesium carbonate to give the text a uniform and matte finish. Either way, virtually every color they use has to be mixed by hand.

Color Mixing – Adding Magnesium Carbonate to Rubber-based Ink

Workhorse also stocks an abundance of different papers. They have a particularly strong working relationship with OK Paper Company who maintains their only stockpile of 220 lb cotton stock paper in Houston specifically for Workhorse Press. It is a butch, 100% cotton paper that most machines can’t quite handle, so it’s become a sort of signature.

Because they are a custom printmaker, the possibilities are virtually endless in terms of what you can make. But all things considered, it was important to me to keep things simple. An afternoon later we had the final product:

Procured Design Business Card

If you are ever in the Houston area, you should definitely stop in and visit their shop – and if not, at least check out their website. Workhorse shares their space with Spindletop Graphic Design, so there is always something interesting in the works whether it’s letterpressed posters or the latest mockups of local magazines. If you’re lucky, you might even get to leaf through some of their past work with a glass of homemade ginger ale in hand.

Look To Norway – “Best Before” Exhibition

Although participants in this year’s Paris Design Week were scattered about the entire city, a healthy selection exhibited their work at the multi-level creative hub known as Les Docks. Overlooking the Seine, the space was teeming with designers from different traditions, aesthetics, and cultures. But despite the throngs of participants bustling throughout the space, I was immediately drawn to a quiet, but cohesive exhibition by the design conglomerate Look To Norway.

Exhibition at Les Docks – Information Packet by Pati Passero

Founded by Strek Collective, Look To Norway consists of twelve Norwegian designers who united to investigate various notions of consumption. Their most recent exhibition at entitled “Best Before” derives an obvious inspiration from the food industry – specifically the ideas of consumerism and expiration. What does it mean for something to expire? Is it no longer fit for consumption, or is it simply outmoded? Is an object’s purpose inherently tied to its use, or is there latent potential in what we discard?

My favorite aspect about Look To Norway (aside from their chosen topic) is the diversity by which the designers respond to these issues. While every piece adheres to an unwaveringly minimalist aesthetic, they are nonetheless separate – even disparate – in terms of their persuasions.

Ship O Hoy – Jørgen Willumsen

Perhaps the most candid piece in the exhibition is Jørgen Willumsen’s “Ship O Hoy,” which is a small collection of lamps made from recovered buoys. In transforming litter into a utilitarian object, he undermines popular notions of expiration by re-investing meaning into a discarded material. Rather than conceding death, Willumsen evokes a dramatic functional transformation that illicits a second thought about our conception of life. Are the sentient and inanimate all that (dis)similar?

Kull (mold) – Wærnes

Kull – Fredrik Wærnes

 On the more conceptual side of the spectrum, Fredrik Wærnes confronts ideas of consumption through a clever material exploration surrounding coal. Viewing it as an outdated energy source, he set out to use the material to produce a functional, everyday object. The result was a calculatedly ironic series of coal-composite candleholders. In juxtaposing coal and the flame it supports, Wærnes highlights a dubious relationship between the competing potentials of such a versatile material.

Although these two pieces are successful in their own ways, they are nonetheless a small sample of an incredibly diverse exhibition. What’s innovative about “Best Before” in particular is the opportunity it gives to the designers to ask and answer their own questions. The result is a series of works which is as appealing as it is thought-provoking:

Make Up – Joachim Rasmussen

This simple mirror by Joachim Rasmussen was made in response to the idea of deterioration. Although the mirror will inevitably undergo a natural process of aluminum oxidation, the patina can be easily removed. For people however, the process of aging is irreversible. Rasmussen capitalizes on this schism between the user and the object, investigating the value we place on the untarnished versus the aged.

Balance - Caroline Olsson & Anneli Fjærli

A joint project by Caroline Olsson and Anneli Fjærli, this poignantly-titled “Balance” lamp calls into question the price of progress. Cranes are a certain symbol of prosperity, but  they also carry a more negative association tied to blind consumption of materials, resources, and spaces. The goal of this piece is to entice the user to ponder these relationships between growth and destruction.

Drops - Marianne Andersen

In a more craft-driven approach, Marianne Andersen harks back to the time before ‘throw-away culture’ when objects were not only made to last, but were made to be used. These lanterns are all hand blown – each with it’s own idiosyncrasies. Her work demonstrates the vast differences between mass production and handwork; homogeneity versus character, profit margin versus value, and tradition versus technology.

Eclipse Mirror – Nicolai Gulliksen

Both literal and metaphysical reflection play major roles in the entire exhibition. Likewise, this mirror by Nicolai Gulliksen operates on two levels. While the first use is obvious and intuitive, the piece features a light source on the backside to create a nice atmosphere around the object. Because it is very easy to move, the user can interact directly the mirror or reposition it in the room, allowing it to create it’s own reflections and shadows.

Waxandstone – Victoria Martinsen & Sara Polmar

One of the central issues of expiration is the idea of life-span. Victoria Martinsen and Sara Polmar interpreted this through a combination of dissimilar materials. While candles are understood to have a short shelf-life, stone is viewed as almost indestructible. Yet in carefully determining the visual relationship between the two materials, Martinsen and Polmar seem interested rather in their similarities. Are the differences in life-spans enough to view these objects as opposites?

Circuit Breaker – Stian Ruud

This experimental series of light switches from Stian Ruud investigates different ways of breaking a circuit. Only two are pictured, but he has developed five varying methods using combinations of alloys, plastic, and electronics. By changing or slowing the user’s interaction with the switch, Ruud allows us to contemplate not only our relationship with our immediate surroundings, but also the use of our resources.

Miroir – Martin Solem

For his submission, Martin Solem derived inspiration from the 3-sided mirrors of yesteryear. He relied on modern materials and aesthetics to streamline the object without sacrificing its usability. His work suggests that a good way to move forward is to look backwards. In making an outdated object relevant to contemporary society, he gives the mirror a new – albeit different – life.

 If you would like to learn more about “Best Before,” try to get your hands on the information packet designed by Pati Passero. It’s gorgeous. In the meantime, be sure to visit the Look To Norway website. You can also find more information about the designers via the links to personal websites strewn throughout the post above. It’s also worth taking a moment to connect with Look To Norway and Strek Collective on Facebook for news concerning upcoming works and exhibitions.

 

 

Be Back Soon

I’m off to Paris for two weeks to check out the best of Design Week. Posts will continue as usual, but response times to comments or e-mails will most likely be slower that usual. That said, if you have any restaurant or other recommendations, be sure to send them over!

À bientôt!

CMYK – White Collection

Happy weekend!

Buddy Carr Skateboards

A friend of mine just sent over a link to Buddy Carr Skateboards, which are some of the most well thought out boards available on the market. Each complete is a product of a collaboration between skater/business owner Buddy Carr and New York based graphic designer Antonio Carusone. Currently there are six skateboards in their line – each of which sports a unique aesthetic and functional personality.

 The brands creative drive hinges on the idea of cohesion. Every element within a given skateboard is in harmony with the other components. Though they source trucks from third party brands (i.e. Independent or Bennett), Carr and Carusone employ custom-routed urethane wheels to specifically match the riding style of each board, whether it’s a mini-commuter or a longboard.  Similarly, the grip tape is laser cut in six unique motifs to add some visual appeal to the top. As for the graphics, each deck is screen printed by hand in a limited edition of 100. It makes a good argument for those who consider these boards to be veritable works of art.

 Check out the Buddy Carr website by clicking here, and be sure to scroll through the gallery below for some high-resolution images. Also, feel free to leave your impressions if you’ve had the opportunity to ride on one of the 600 Buddy Carr boards out there!

Keiji Design Knife Box

All-together a beautiful display

This box is simply amazing. Long story short: everything about this box screams hand-made – down to the spread of unique knives. This is where form meets functionality. More images and an interview with the designer over at FEIT’s blog.

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