I thought it would be fun to highlight some favorites from the RISD show, which recently took place down in Providence, RI. When my friend Jason from Rag + Bone Bindery offered to write about his findings, I was happy to welcome him aboard. Since I also attended the show, I’ll comment on my faves in a separate report, which you’ll find below, directly beneath this post. Take it away, Jason!
Sure, Holly! As most of you can imagine, the RISD alum was as creative as always. I find the show inspiring and leave wanting to make stuff. How can you go wrong with art and craft from design school students and graduates? The annual show took place this year in the new Rhode Island Convention Center in a room that was essentially a big concrete space, made festive with banners, lights and holiday music. The Rag + Bone booth was situated on a corner this year so we had steady traffic and a nice view of two aisles.
The RISD Holiday Sale is a good show to discover new designers. Current students are invited to set up a table to offer their fresh new wares, selling alongside RISD alum, many who have already been in business for several years. There seemed to be more textile arts this year as well as digital prints, and a little less traditional craft such as pottery or glass. This is a trend we see in the handmade industry which seems to be moving away from traditional made-by-hands crafts towards more design driven products – cards, funky bags, t-shirts, prints, etc. For example, we attend the New York International Gift Fair twice a year and noticed that they’ve relocated their Handmade vendors into the General Gift sections. We’re all for the change and like this new direction.
Although we saw less traditional craft, what we did see was updated with a more designed, contemporary look.
For example, the wonderful folks at Altamira Lighting introduced a new line of screen printed textiles. Bold patterns in sophisticated (but not stuffy) color palettes. A big change from their line of lamps.
Other artists that caught our eye: Elise Moran creates natural, organic silver metalwork, necklaces, rings and such which have a contemporary feel and solid craftsmanship. Elise makes her work by hand in her Portsmouth, New Hampshire studio.
Anna Galloway Highsmith creates “Whimsical and obsessive terracotta pottery” in her Rhode Island studio. We just love this work. She’s shown at the RISD show before but we must have been stuck in our booth because we wouldn’t have forgotten the earthy colors and superbly crafted funky pots and cups. Check out the website gallery for more images.
We bought a print from Illustrator and funny guy Joe Quinones – a robot taking a bath. The print has a quirky color palette and composition. We thought our daughter, who has an anthropological interest in robots, would like the idea of one engaging in an everyday, human activity. With a rubber duckie. Here’s Joe with his Robot.
Former Rag & Bone bookbinder Greg Poulin creates whimsical, formal portraits of everyday food items such as cheese doodles, Peeps, marshmallow spread and popcorn. We miss Greg’s lightning-fast bookbinding skills and are glad to see him doing so well. If you’re looking for a colorful painting for your kitchen, visit his website. (I have to have the Sock Monkey painting… Did you guys see it? Look closely below. – holly)
We first saw the work of Heather Wells at the Craftland show, also in Providence, and purchased one of her paper star kits. She was very helpful and gave us a hands-on lesson on how to make the stars (I think we’ve got it!). And don’t you love the cocktail umbrella Happy Hour light shade? New this year were Cheers Spheres holiday ornaments. They even light up inside!
Jenine Bressner wasn’t actually showing at the RISD show, but when she walked by with this one-of-a-kind necklace, we just had to ask, “Did you make that?” She did, and has a website you can visit. I can only imagine how much time it would take to make one of these. They’re stunning!
Keri works at Rag + Bone during the day and creates playful,sightless bunnies at night. What we love about these little guys is that they are so minimal yet retain their “bunny-ness”. No eyes, no nose, no whiskers, but the ears and the shape say, “I’m still a bunny!” Contact keriberryproductions[at]hotmail[dot]com for more information.
Laura Kramer was showing these unique chalkboard glass vases – smooth on the inside, chalkboard like texture on the outside. We have a few of her glasses, the spiral colored ones which are so thin and light in person, but which have not broken or chipped even after daily use and a dishwasher – and our five year old daughter. Her work is sophisticated and technical – but you still want to use it. Laura also lives on a house boat – how cool is that?
Meryn Hall creates little dolls, playthings for kids and kid-like adults. Birds, monsters and creatures from our imaginations. Soft and cuddly, the kind of creatures you want to name and make up stories about. (Hey, Meryn is married to Rag + Bone Journal Maker Will Schmidt.) Contact dirteespatula[at]hotmail[at]com for more information.
Thanks again, Jason!
(images from jason thompson)
Wow, Jason did a really great job writing about the RISD sale, didn’t he? I read his review and wondered, “Did we even attend the same show?”. I mean, we walked away with a completely different list of faves and funny thing is, I didn’t notice his picks while I was at the sale but now that I’ve seen them, I really wish I’d spent more time browsing. I guess this shows that two people can write about exactly the same show and take away completely different things from it. We had zero overlap, which is pretty funny. Anyway, here’s a list of some of my faves…
Cucumber Lab, the studio of Ben Blanc and Andrew Reed, showed up with their rings and roosters on display. It would have been great to see some of their furniture, like their chrome table with the wooden flowers from last years’ collection. Oh well. It was still fun to catch a glimpse of their roosters and bling rings. Check out their complete portfolio online.
I love the art of Milisa M. Galazzi, a collection of found objects that may otherwise be dubbed mundane, are created into works of art. (I lingered at this booth for a long time.) Milisa feels that the skills of mothers and wives, sewing, quilting, knitting, etc. are often considered as mere domestic chores, perhaps crafts, but never works of art. Milisa tries to elevate conventional women’s work to that of fine art. (High five!) I appreciated the simplicity of her format – a simple square centered in a frame, and inside, a stitch or two, a button, perhaps a small quilting block… I appreciated the balance of her spontaneous compositions.
Figs + Ginger has simple, yet striking jewelry that is either forged, sewn, or soldered by hand. I really liked their birdie rings. Cute. The necklaces could be easily worn with a white tee and jeans for a casual look, or paired with a black dress for an evening look. I love jewelry that is not only affordable, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. It can perform double duty, making it a sought-after choice for taking your look from office to evening.
Then, there’s Asya Palatova of Gleena and her handmade ceramics, which gets high scores from me. Sculptural, fluid tableware that would almost steal center stage from your cooking. Pretty vases, too. Botanicals, shells, lots of natural curiosities in blue, cream, pale orange. I liked the translucent porcelain votives, personalized for a wedding date or any special day. How sweet.
Amie Louise Plante creates contemporary art jewelry that, in person, is to die for. I love the botanical theme, the organic shapes are stunning. Unfortunately, her website does no justice to her creations (sorry Amie!), and I have no snapshots to prove how amazingly intricate and gorgeous her work is, but take it from me, it’s as unique as it is beautiful and affordable. Many necklaces that I fell in love with priced at around $100 USD. I’m sure you can contact her via her website for high res photos or information on where her creations are sold.
Nam Kim’s booth was packed with eager shoppers, and for good reason, her stylish totes would stop any passerby. “Where did you get THAT bag?”, would be a question you’d need to answer often if you hopped around town in a Nam Kim. These were seriously so cool, very urban, and the fanny packs and clutches rocked. I love handbags, but I’ve nearly had it with the handmade handbag craze that is sweeping fairs and shows all over, but these didn’t feel like anything I’d ever seen and that was what made her bags so refreshing.
Oh, and if you can’t get enough of handbags and would like another suggestion, try Orange Bags. They were at the show and had a great look, too. Especially the diaper/baby bags. For the locals, you can find Orange Bags at the darling Magpie in Somerville. Here’s a snapshot of their bags at the RISD Works store in Providence. (I didn’t snap it though, it’s from Orange.)
A few illustrators at the show caught my eye, one is the author and illustrator of several children’s books, and Charlottesville, Virginia native, Anna Alter. In addition to writing and illustrating, the now Boston-based Anna teaches art classes to kids, visits schools to give lectures, and her original paintings are frequently shown in various venues in the region. Here’s Anna in her studio.
Another talent, Grace Lin, had her prints and books on display. Radiant with Chinese colors and patterns, the punchy colors and playful drawings really appealed to me because they were so bright and the stories spoke of traditional Chinese culture through modern, universal language and illustrations. Beautiful. Visit her website for more information.
And finally, here’s a great find from PIPS, who creates these great ceramic vessels using their favorite photographs. I loved the colors, each had a beautiful interior of aqua, orange, yellow, and some had these perky yellow rims, too. I loved touching them, some where smooth, others a bit grainy, and no two were alike. That was the best part. They don’t show these on their website (rats!), so I snapped a few images from my own home for you to see (click on it to enlarge). At $20 each, they were also inexpensive – and would make great gifts, too!
In closing, I have to mention that my friend, Peggy Lo from Figments, had a booth that I wish I could talk about but sadly, I didn’t bring my camera so I couldn’t snap a photo (I’m sorry, Peggy!). I wanted to mention her though since I loved her handmade birds and things at the booth… After the show, I popped over to her store on Westminster to shop for gifts and hung out with Vikki. If you’re ever in Providence, don’t miss Figments. I’ve written about it a few times here already on decor8, but there’s nothing like actually visiting this special store.
Hope you enjoyed the He Says/She Says RISD show review. See you tomorrow!
Let’s pause for a moment to meet Snowden Flood in her London studios. Snowden is a talented British Designer that I first learned about via Jess, a London friend who attended the Hidden Art at 100% East show this past Autumn. Snowden recently launched a line of affordable home accessories consisting of plates, cups, pillows, and ceramics. I think that learning about her process, a bit about her personal life and challenges, and where she draws inspiration from may motivate you in any endeavors you may be currently pursuing. I hope you enjoy our chat, and if you have any questions for her, you may post them in the comments section below. You may also refer to her professional bio on her website, too. Enjoy!
decor8: Hi Snowden, so nice to have a chance to meet up with you. I know your bio on your website is pretty extensive, but can you give us a quick summary?
snowden: Sure, Holly. I was born in Texas and moved to London at 9 months old. I’ve lived in the UK my whole life until I was offered a scholarship to do my masters in Sculpture at Parsons in New York. I stayed in NY for 9 years as an artist and working for a very high-end architect developing products and designing for his clients. I moved back to Europe in 2000 and carried on working for that client (Peter Marino Architects) and designing for other private clients. I don’t have any formal design training though… Learned everything ‘on the job’ or self-taught.
decor8: Interesting beginnings… Can you now tell us about your product line and why you decided to design accessories?
snowden: Well they started in different ways… Unexpectedly (and rather devastatingly), I became a single parent to my 3 week old baby so I had a lot of time alone in my house wondering what had just happened to me and adjusting to ‘Plan B’! In the evenings when my little boy was sleeping, I threw myself into working creatively. Any time I wasn’t looking after him I worked on my products.
decor8: I’m sorry to hear that. Since your accessories each have their own story to, maybe you can start with the leather and suede cushions that you offer.
snowden: Yes, the leather and suede cushions started with me messing around cutting out patterns and bonding to other colours of cloth and leather. I decided on laser cutting after spending 14 hours cutting a design by hand one night! I experimented with bonding and adhesives for two years, so that has been a long project.
decor8: And the embroderies?
snowden: The embroideries happened because I was developing some designs for a private client in the Middle East based upon Moroccan embroideries. This client mostly likes brown and I’m not really a fan of that colour! I was working with an embroiderer I know well and had them recolour and resize the designs I’d done for the clients, it looked so great I sent them some more things. I wanted to see what the imagery I’d been using for the laser cut designs looked like as an embroidery. Again, it’s been a long development!
decor8: And how did this lead to where you are today?
snowden: What happened was that when I did the first few cut leather panels, I showed them to some industry (interiors and design) pros and realised that the designs I’d created could be developed as a collection (rather than just cushions) and would create a strong brand identity – so that’s how I started to think about things like ceramics too even though I’ve had no experience as a ceramicist. I am currently developing wallpapers, notebooks and rugs to augment this range.
decor8: That’s great. Shows the value in seeking out advice from the right people, doesn’t it? So, you mentioned that you’re not a ceramicist, but I’m sure you have many personal skills. Would you like to tell us about those?
snowden: I am a strange mixture of extremely practical and rather hands-off. For instance, I am currently doing an embroidery for a baby shower gift, but I would not want to be embroidering my own range – I don’t think I’m a good enough embroiderer to sell the work. I like making things but when it comes to business, I’m a real perfectionist so I wouldn’t think work produced by my hand is good enough. Anyway, my skills? I can weld, do carpentry, sew, make clothes, print, I’m a good cook and like gardening. To be honest, if it’s remotely creative I like doing it. That’s what I realised when I gave up being a fine artist… That I was just as happy cooking a meal!
snowden: Well as I mentioned, I showed my work to some industry professionals. One lady develops work for Barneys and buys for them and as a straight talking New Yorker I knew she wouldn’t mince her words. Being British and a perfectionist, I kind of introduced it as “it’s rubbish but let me know what you think”… She, and the others disagreed and the feedback was 100% positive so I was encouraged to think about my work in a more positive light. I understood then that what I was doing could be expanded to include other items as well.
decor8: After exiting that meeting (doing the happy dance, I’m sure), what would you count as your next success?
snowden: For me it’s still very early days actually. Although I’ve been designing for clients for years, my product range has only even existed since the end of September 2006. I suppose my first success was being chosen to exhibit with other Hidden Art designers on their stand at 100% East because that really exposed the work (1 week after being ‘born’) to a huge audience, thankfully it went very well. Also I have just been nominated for an award by the Hidden Art organisation – whether I win or not, that is jolly nice!
decor8: With so much good, there’s always some bad. What difficulties have you encountered?
snowden: Plenty! The biggest one is juggling being a single parent with the need to make money and having enough time to build up my company. I basically work any time I can. The other big obstacle I’ve encountered is that my products are still more expensive than I want them to be. I’m not trying to compete with Target or Woolworth’s but neither do I want someone to have to have a 2nd mortgage to buy my things. This is more a problem for the US where much of the interest has come from: adding in shipping and duties plus weak currency makes my things quite pricey. I’m trying to address that but it’s proving a real slog! Mostly I am my own worst enemy because I am immensely impatient. I expected within a week of launching to have my products in every design store in the world… Sadly it all takes much longer!
decor8: Pricing seems to present issues for many designers, even well-established ones. Tell me, how large is your company?
snowden: It’s just me! I live for the day when I am able to hand all the paperwork and accountancy bits over to someone else as I hate that part of it.
decor8: I’m sure someone makes your products for you then, so where are they manufactured and with what materials?
snowden: The ceramics are manufactured in Stoke on Trent in the UK, an area known as ‘the potteries’. As you probably know, it’s where Wedgewood and Royal Doulton are made too. The plates are bone china and the mugs are porcelain. The laser cut cushions are mostly lamb leather and suede and are made by me in my studio, though I do send them out for laser cutting. And the embroideries are made in India by a small family firm. I send them the layouts as drawn out panels and they return them embroidered. They are made into cushions here.
snowden: Hmm, not intentionally. I am drawn to strong graphic imagery though that’s for sure – always have been, looking through old portfolios from art college in the early 90’s I found lots of sillhouettes and paper cutouts, not disimilar to what I’m doing now!
decor8: What are the main characteristics of your work? your work method?
snowden: So far all my work shares a visual language in terms of colour and being boldly graphic – despite the different media. I am quite tactile and like texture also, maybe its being a former sculptor, so the cushions all reflect that. The other thing I like is taking something that is very familiar and giving it a little twist somehow, that shows throughout my work, be it the art I used to make or the work I do now.
decor8: How does your work reflect your personality?
snowden: In it’s liking for the overlooked and slightly offbeat. Being quirky and a bit ‘in your face’ but with a sense of humour! Definitely my colour sense. I have so many brightly patterned items of clothing, I sometimes find it difficult to get dressed in the morning!
decor8: What projects do you have in mind for the future?
snowden: I want to produce rugs, wallpapers and lighting. Basically I won’t be content until my ‘brand’ is dominating the world of interiors accessories! Right now, I am just resolving a few issues on the line of embroideries and have the new samples back – five iconic buildings designs, each in three colourways in beautiful colours… Nobody has seen them yet but I’m excited about them (see two photos shown.)
decor8: Ah, world domination… Good goal! Where do you find your inspiration?
snowden: Everywhere really. I am a complete book worm (don’t have a TV) and have tons of art and design books. Being a former artist, I still see lots of contemporary art shows which gets my brain ticking over. I love clothes and fashion and look at the fashion world particularly for colours. I’m a bit of a visual junkie, I am always flicking through magazines and books or staring around at things and people. Friends worry that my staring will oneday cause someone to start a fight with us! I am also inspired by people, like my friend Lianne of Mrs Me (who I see you have discovered recently yourself Holly) – she makes beautiful and extremely elegant work. Also, The V + A and the Tate Modern, two places I go to a lot. I like to sit in the members bar at the Tate and stare at the river and the skyline. The V + A is always inspiring because of it’s range – from a light intallation by a member of Massive Attack to a 16th century bed, you can’t ask for more than that can you?! I’ve been inspired by blogs actually lately. I have to admit that I’d never seen a blog before this summer, but being able to access such a wealth of global thought and images on the best design, art or whatever, is invaluable. So, I’m a bit of a blog junkie now!
decor8: Your day at Tate Modern sounds like the perfect way to spend a Saturday in London. You know, I almost forgot to ask you something that is constantly on my mind, especially lately. Is there anything you think is lacking in the design world that you’d enjoy seeing more of? Is there anything that you’re seeing way too much of – you know, that it’s driving you insane?
snowden: What I loved about being at 100% east was how much of the work was conceptual and not in production. At the bigger trade shows, like Maison et Objet, 100% Design or Decorex, this part of it has made way for the commercial aspects and that’s a shame. As a designer it’s great to be able to go and bandy ideas around and get a feel for trends. I like going to the end of year student shows for the same reason. On the negative side, if I see another stags head with antlers, butterflies or a chandelier silhouette I think I may scream!
decor8: Ha! I know what you mean! Now let’s talk about your work studio. How is it laid out and where is it situated?
snowden: I work from home which I have grown to love because I can care for my son, dash off a few emails, kind of at the same time. I bought my home in September, and I’ve been so busy that I haven’t done a thing here yet. It’s kind of an ugly little boxy redbrick house built in 1973 and previously owned by an old lady so it is not yet indicative of my taste… All the art and personal belongings are still in boxes I’m afraid, awaiting decorating to be done!. It has a beautiful light in this house though, so once the building work starts, it will be very gorgeous indeed. So, my studio, like the rest of my house, is not entirely reflecting my own personality yet. However, my working practice is spread over two floors. Downstairs I have my little office. It was the old ‘utility room’ so it is still very unglamourous, it has a cement floor with white painted brick walls. It has stuff everywhere – magazines, pictures, drawings, pantone sheets, embroideries that have gone wrong, you name it! On one side it faces onto a little garden which is great to stare into when I am feeling a bit uninspired. There’s a big old tree out the back which I like too. Upstairs is a little room with all my work in stock and my work table. I do all the cutting and bonding here along with any layouts I need to do for the embroiderers. Also any packing for orders would be done there. Again, it’s a bit of a mess design wise, it’s not something I’ve been able to turn my attention to yet – being rather time impoverished!
decor8: When you have a moment to actually breathe (!), what do you do for fun?
snowden: I like playing with my small boy. He is 3 now which is a great and a very creative age. Being with small children is knackering but often quite inspiring because they constantly challenge your preconceptions about how things ‘should’ be done or ‘should’ look. We play lots of muddy football, pretend to be foxes in the woods in our local park (his current favourite game) and do lots of art and cooking together. In my own time I like reading, riding my bike, swimming and going to galleries and markets. I adore film and I’m a bit sad that I don’t get to go to the cinema very much any more.
decor8: Being raised in Europe, I’m sure you have quite a few vacations to talk about. Out of all the places you’ve visited, where would you live if money were no obstacle? Why?
snowden: Barcelona, Spain. It has everything, sea, mountains and Spanish people plus it’s a great and exciting place to be. One problem though, you have to speak catalan – which sounds like a cat being strangled.
decor8: Yikes! And to wrap things up, what are 10 things that you can’t live without?
snowden: Sorry, I’m probably super dull and poker faced on this one. If you’d asked me ‘things i love’ I’ll tell you millions, but ‘things i can’t live without’? Going through tough times a few years back, I know now that the only thing that really means anything is my son and my friends, all the rest is nice but – when the chips are down – totally meaningless!
decor8: So true! It’s a somewhat shallow question, I know. Oh, and I nearly forgot, but how did you get your fabulous name?
snowden: Thank you! It’s a family name. My mother wanted to call me after her uncle who brought her up – Jim Snowden, but selfishly I was born a girl so she had to use the surname… She is from California though and I don’t think she thought I’d be brought up in a country (UK) where the tallest mountain is by the same name (spelt slightly differently) so I have suffered through many years of mountaineering jokes and innuendo!
A big thanks to Snowden Flood for visiting us today on decor8. Thank you again!
(images from snowden flood.)
Thought I’d give a little love to those on the opposite side of the pond today, especially since most of the decor8 discounts have been more from US-based shops. This deal is unique in that you can contact the store directly via phone, or visit them in London, to place the order. I’m sure you’ve heard of Loop, as they’re quite popular in the UK and, by way of blogging, are gaining popularity here in the states, too. If you’d like to check out a past write-up about Loop, click here.
Loop carries wonderful things for those of you who adore the handmade, either from others, or created by your own hands. At Loop, you can experience both. You can shop for gorgeous yarn and things to design something lovely from scratch, or purchase something from the store that was crafted by a skilled artisian. From ceramics to knitting needles, this charming boutique will cozy up your nest in no time!
What: 15% off all merchandise for decor8 readers.
When: Valid until January 16, 2007 (yes, a 2-day sale!)
How: Since their online shopping cart cannot accept discounts, you’ll have to either email them your order: info(at)loop(dot)gb(dot)com with decor8/loop promotion as the subject, call them at 020 7288 1160, or visit their store in Islington at 41 Cross Street and mention the decor8/loop promotion to the cashier. I know, it’s a little complicated, but when gorgeous things are on sale, there is a way, people! :)
[This sale wraps up the decor8 week of reader discounts. I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any store suggestions for next year, or comments in general, you may either comment below or email me. Next up, a RISD alum show recap from both a male and female perspective, and an interview with Snowden Flood!]
(images from loop)