Designers and creatives enthusiastically welcomed the return of in-person design fairs in New York City with a double header at the Javits Centre.
Under the banner of NYCxDESIGN’s Annual Design Festival, this year’s ICFF (the International Contemporary Furnishings Fair) and WantedDesign Manhattan (a trade event for studios and emerging designers) were collectively hosted at the Javits Centre for the first time to encourage cross-pollination across both fairs.
Although conceivably smaller this year thanks to ongoing Covid protocols, the scope, breadth and quality of design was never in question. Established brands presented new products, and emerging designers were championed for innovative and increasingly sustainable design.
Of particular interest this year was an exposé of “the next generation of designers” – a live Emerging Designer showcase, presented as part of the Launch Pad 2021, and moderated by the host and producer of the Clever podcast, Amy Devers, who told Effect that nurturing new talent is more important than ever in the wake of the pandemic: “Creative thinking is the key to adaptability, navigating uncertainty and developing solutions and applications to address complex challenges… I think it is more urgent than ever to champion creative education for all ages.”
We seems to stand at an inflexion point, and it translates into an increased focus on the materials and processes used in making the objects that surround us.Jean-Jacques L’Hénaff, LIXIL Global Design for the Americas
Jean-Jacques L’Hénaff, leader of LIXIL Global Design for the Americas – and panellist on the Emerging Designer showcase – noted the twin impact of the pandemic and the environment in emerging design. He told Effect: “We look at our homes in a different way and care for the space we live – and now work in – more. The pandemic also happened to coincide with dramatic events in our environment as the impact of climate change is becoming all too real.”
He added: “We seems to stand at an inflexion point, and it translates into an increased focus on the materials and processes used in making the objects that surround us.”
Here’s our roundup of some of the emerging talents at WantedDesign that stood out for their brazen originality and dedication to process:
Canadian studio Anony Studio, led by Christian Lo, presented four new products, with Wisp – a suspension light – taking center stage. “Inverting the idea of a suspended chandelier, Wisp’s shade catches light instead of projecting it,” explains Lo. The majesty of the piece lies in the almost invisibility of a single cable which runs from the light to the ceiling, suspending a slender shade, seemingly in mid-air. By touching the light, one can adjust brightness while sliding it controls diffusion.
New Yorker Bjarke Ballisager presented Node, a highly flexible modular lighting system that allows for additional modules to be added horizontally or vertically; and Together and Apart – a modular, multi-purpose and elegant furniture system formed by the varying compositions of stair-like wedges that can be combined to form seats, tables and desks available in oak, ash and high density cork.
Brent Warr Collection
Atlanta-based furniture designer and artist Brent Warr presented a recently launched series of furniture pieces and objects inspired by the juxtaposition of structural forms seen in Italian aqueducts and the whimsical shapes found in modular children’s toys. Subtle in scale and form, the beauty in each piece lies in the layering of a complex combination of layers upon layers of plaster and paint over wooden structures.
Hali Barthel Studios
A veritable drawcard design graduate, Hali Barthel’s booth was her oversized Quill chair. A labor of love for Barthel and her team, the piece is made out of braided industrial tubing, carbon fiber and 3-D printed thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), and was inspired by the desire to elevate these ordinary industrial materials. Created as an exploration into the space between recyclable materials and the unexpected, the chair showcases both her technical skills and her tongue-in-cheek approach to design. The equally compelling Meadow Divider was fashioned from billboard, vinyl, grommets, braided tubing and textured aluminium, elevating these conventional materials to the realm of elevated design.
Furniture and lighting design practice INDO- was founded by Urvi Sharma and Manan Narang, and their exquisite handcrafted wall-sconces are steeped in the tradition of Indian craftsmanship. The duo profess to believe strongly in the power of hand-made goods, and in the convergence of traditional craft with contemporary furniture – perfectly realized in their Mooda wall lights, which blend the Indian technique of stitching together sticks of cane or bamboo together with classic lines and a contemporary finish and silhouette.
South Korean designer Jaeyeon Park presented a series of chairs inspired by the song La Ballade de Jim by Paradis and original music by Alain Souchon. The playful – yet robust – neon and gold designs conceal an internal steel structure which has been covered with epoxy clay, then spray-painted and coated with clear resin.
Mary Ratcliffe Studio
Mary Ratcliffe designs with longevity firmly in mind. The pieces on show underscored the Toronto-based designer’s attention to detail and a focus on reincarnation and repurposing raw materials. “Our devotion to craft is illuminated not only in how our pieces are constructed, but the time we take to massage each surface until it becomes its true self,” she explains. The team also endeavor to use proprietary finishes and colors, rendering each piece unique. The designer’s Barrow table accompanied a number of equally elegant furniture pieces at the booth.
Hailing from a secluded region of East-Bolton in southern Quebec, Canada, Simon Johns takes his inspiration from the raw, elemental shapes of his natural surroundings and their connection to the processes inherent in making. His work, wherein “the unaltered physical traits of primary materials are harnessed to evoke the emotions one feels in their presence,” is produced using a variety of materials which are manipulated to great – and poetic – effect. The winner of the show’s Editors Award for New Designer 2021, Johns’ booth was a crowd-pleaser, with much attention drawn to his Dry Bar, a wall-mounted sculptural bar made of carved solid ash. The piece, which references the textures of crumbling cliffs, has two wood surfaces and an adjustable smoked glass shelf designed for the storage of bottles and glassware. The back of the interior is covered in a matte black leather.
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