Graphic, Experimental Design at Sight Unseen's OFFSITE

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Sight Unseen, the online design magazine with a cult-like following, is bringing a carefully curated selection of design to its first annual OFFSITE fair. Filling out 17,000 square feet of a landmarked building in New York's Soho neighborhood, the exhibitors at OFFSITE span geographies, mediums, and levels of experience—there's papier-mâché plants, marble tables, patterned stools, and everything in between from artists just starting out, and those already celebrated in the independent design world.

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Woven tray by Field Experiments

"Field Experiments is [made up of] three friends who went to a farming community in Bali and did all these experiments with wood carving, weaving, and painting with local craftspeople," Sight Unseen co-founder Jill Singer says. "They made all these beautiful assemblage objects."

The thread that ties it all together is the curatorial eye of Sight Unseen founders Jill Singer and Monica Khemsurov, whose preference for bright colors, organic materials, and graphic shapes runs across the showcase. Dwell chatted with Singer about how the duo finds fresh talent and the furniture trends that we should expect to see more of.

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Coffee table by AMMA

"Their furniture is a really cool mix of things like rock salt, cement, and coffee," says Singer. "They use all these materials that aren’t usually used for furniture to create these really organic, beautiful, sculptural pieces."

What are your methods for finding new talents?

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Paper maiche plant by CHIAOZZA

"They’ve gotten kind of famous in the past couple years because they make these adorable triangle mirrors that are really hip," says Singer. "They also make these paper maiche plants which range from crazy simple to crazy, elaborate."

We scour the blogs, and we try to be on the be on the ground when new product is launching as much as possible. We found a young Brooklyn duo, Bower, at the American Design Club booth at the Gift Fair. They’re one of the most promising studios in Brooklyn—they [produced] so much so fast, and it’s really beautiful work with interesting ideas behind it.

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Sculpture by Chris Wolston

"He went to Colombia for a year on a Fulbright," Singer says. "He then created all this really beautiful, tactile terracotta furniture and ceramics."

We try to see as much work as possible in person. We also have the luck that a lot of people really like our site, so a lot of people come to us now. We try to approach people who haven’t shown before. That’s the nice thing about our event—it’s a relatively low-barriers entry, financially, for the younger kids.

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Patterned shirt by Print All Over Me

Print All Over me is "like a really high-end café press," Singer says. "You upload any kind of pattern you want and they print it onto clothing blanks, like cute shift dresses and blankets, not just baseball caps. We’re doing their first ever furniture collaboration. We paired furniture designers and illustrators, so it will be a chair by Fort Standard with a printed leather seat by Damien Correll."

Have there been any up-and-comer predictions you’ve had in the past that have become very successful?

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Table light by Rosie Li

Sight Unseen founders Jill Singer and Monica Khemsurov first exhibited Li in 2011 at Noho Design District.

Our biggest success was in 2011 [at Noho Design District]; we selected four RISD students to show with us. One of them was Misha Kahn, whose work has now been picked up by Johnson Trading Company. And one of the other ones was Rosie Li, who’s showing with us this year, and has a light with Roll & Hill. We've shown Ladies & Gentlemen for the past three years, and their popularity has really exploded the past few years. We’ve given them totally free reign to do whatever they wanted to do, and that got them a lot of notice.

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Wallpaper by Calico Wallpaper

"Calico Wallpaper is launching their second line and they’re going to be doing a photo booth with us where their wallpaper is used," says Singer. "We’re gathering vintage objects and you can assemble and prop-style your own still life, and take a photo of it."

What interior and furniture trends have you noticed for 2014?

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Forward/Slash light by Ladies & Gentlemen

"We’ve shown Ladies & Gentlemen for the past three years and their popularity has really exploded," says Singer. Their Forward/Slash light is inspired by a sundial; the shadow it casts changes over the course of the day.

There are definitely mini trends, like different applications of stone. Marble and brass are still really going strong. A lot of our stuff tends to be really graphic—crazy, graphic lines are tempered by restrained materials.

A lot of it is materials experimentation, too. We’re working with Grey Area, and they’re launching these modular dining tables where they sell you the base and you can buy as many tabletops as you want—tops by Chen Chen and Kai Williams, Snarkitecture, etc. For the Chen Williams one, the whole tabletop is a grand experiment they’ve been doing in resin, with little things encased in resin. That [type of material experimentation] is what a lot of the young, emerging designers are doing, and I think that’s going to grow and grow and grow.

Click through the slideshow to see some of Singer's favorites from OFFSITE, and visit the fair from May 16-20, 2014, at 200 Lafayette Street.


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