This article is part of our latest Design special report, which is about crossing the borders of space, time and media.
Back to the Ether
Sight Unseen’s latest design show takes place where it all began.
Nearly every May since 2010 the online design magazine Sight Unseen has held an exhibition in New York presenting the work of up-and-coming creators. The event has always been scheduled to coincide with the International Contemporary Furniture Fair and thus take advantage of all the retail buyers and interior designers in the city at that time. This year, of course, the coronavirus upended everyone’s plans.
“For us, it was a no-brainer,” said Monica Khemsurov, who co-founded the site with Jill Singer.
To promote sales, the partners set up a digital storefront on 1stdibs where some of the new furniture, lighting and rugs can be bought. And though you can’t meet the designers face-to-face this year you can at least hear them — on audio clips in which the designers talk about their new wares.
They talk to each other, too. In an afternoon series on Instagram Live — 2 p.m. daily the first week of June — exhibitors compare notes. On June 1 catch Kalen Kaminski (of Upstate) and Leah Ring (Another Human) discussing their recent forays into glasswork. The next day Brett Miller (Jack Rabbit Studio) and Christopher Norman ponder contemporary woodworking — a big trend this year. And on June 5 Mike Ruiz-Serra (Serra Studio) and Hannah Bigeleisen share the thrills of experimenting with paper pulp. Sightunseen.com
Ravaged Beauty for Your Home
A new wall covering creates an instant look of disaster.
Shuttered businesses, job losses and relationships under duress — the world may seem to be falling apart as a result of the coronavirus. Turns out there’s a wallpaper for that.
“Erosions” is based on a mural Mr. Arsham and Calico created for a gallery show in 2018. To achieve it, the artist made castings of eroded surfaces; then the company used a scanning process to digitize the works. Gallery goers loved the one-off piece, and now Calico is printing the design on clay-coated paper for use in residences.
While the wall covering appears to depict wreckage, it may have a hopeful message: The faux gouges contain crystals, “which we associate with growth,” said Mr. Arsham, speaking from his weekend house on Long Island where he has hunkered down with his wife and children.
“There’s an ambiguity,” he added. “Are things falling apart or are they growing to some kind of completion?” calicowallpaper.com. $28 a square foot.
Pull Up a Seat, and a Frequency
A prototype chair may have a future in telecommunications.
When the conceptual artist Mary Ellen Carroll carried a low chair with a pole back and outstretched arms to Hudson River Park in New York for a photo shoot recently, a passer-by asked, “Is it a piece of sculpture?”
In fact, her Tower Chair is a provocation — about control of digital air space; it is also the prototype for a design she said she believed could one day be put into production, yielding seats that double as hot spots.
The chair, part of a broader inquiry named Public Utility 2.0, evolved from a commissioned work for a contemporary art exhibition in 2013. With that project, Ms. Carroll — whose art touches on technology and public policy — sought to educate people about the idle radio frequencies of old television channels and how they could be put to use connecting underserved communities.
“It’s public space,” she said, speaking of the invisible but mapped properties, which can host a variety of transmissions. “It should be utilized for the public good.”
Her three-leg chair, fittingly, has a form that evokes telephone towers, which support wiring for remote communications. It is made of solid wood and slicked with rubber paint applied in an auto body shop.
But when the chair is put into production, Ms. Carroll, the founder of MEC, studios, envisions hollow parts that could house wiring for receiving and transmitting signals. Thus equipped, a seat could become a piece of portable infrastructure enabling someone in a Wi-Fi desert to log on while lounging.
Light in the Middle of the Tunnel
Can a lamp help relieve the gloom of the pandemic?
If the lockdown has you bored with your décor, maybe your lamps just aren’t working hard enough. The Space Table Lamp, designed by Ward Wijnant, functions as a fun-house mirror, reflecting and distorting its surroundings — and that’s when it’s off. When the thing is on, it flashes disco lights. Is it a lamp? A piece of kinetic sculpture? “It’s something in between,” said Mr. Wijnant, speaking by phone from his home in the Netherlands.
Stainless-steel clips hold together the arched pieces of plexiglass that make the lamp’s sides. Those silvery panels turn translucent when the light is switched on, revealing the bulbs within.
The Space Table Lamp belongs in that strange universe of objects — like mood rings and lava lamps — whose fascination lies in the way they change based on our interaction with them. In these terrible times, the design is “a release of joy,” Mr. Wijnant said.
It is not, however, a functional lamp that sheds light the way ordinary fixtures do. Don’t expect to read a book by it. $1,569, moooi.com
Getting Into Hot Water
A tabletop collection grows out of a cuppa.
Four years ago, Michael McManus and Matthew Grant were post-college housemates in London when they began kicking around the idea of renting a studio and making something with their hands. Mr. McManus had studied fine art, Mr. Grant had a degree in architecture, and both were intrigued with the possibilities of forms based on the ancient art of origami.
Now they have a collection of vases, coasters and planters that embody the tension between the fragility of folded paper and the solidity of functional objects. Their wares also incorporate a surprising ingredient: the soggy remains of tea bags.
A commitment to making sustainable products led the partners to explore adding food waste to the nontoxic gypsum-based binder they use to cast their designs. They tried crushed eggshells, coffee grounds and fruit peelings before hitting on something in abundance in their country of tea drinkers.
“One of the reasons we settled on tea is that it has an aesthetic quality we like,” Mr. McManus said. “The natural pigments come through.”
Chamomile yields off-white, peppermint blue-green and rooibos ochre.
The partners collect tea bags from cafes, dry the leaves in a dehydrator, then crush them before adding to the binder. The process informed the name of their endeavor: Dust London.
“A lot of what we are experimenting with,” Mr. Grant said, “is taking a material that had been used and breaking it down and finding a way to reuse it and make it beautiful again.”