By Regina Connell.
Let’s just say it now–New York’s annual ICFF show doesn’t exactly have a great reputation as a place for wonderful, interesting work made by more independent designers, makers, and artisans.
It was fascinating, however, to see how the “maker” ethos has been embraced (the kind word) by the ICFF producers: there were at least two full-on workshops on the floor of Javits Center. Jarring, but good, if it’s real. ‘Nuff said.
The most wonderful work, of course, doesn’t require entertainment. It’s about the work, the blend of design and craftsmanship. And there were more than a handful of instances that made our hearts beat a little faster.
(Truth be told, some of the best work was done by companies there courtesy of their governments, which support their design communities. Japan, Spain, Portugal, Canada, the UK, sorry if I missed some … all brought their best to the show. Still, that doesn’t take away from the greatness of the work.)
Here’s a grab bag of our favorite pieces and makers. Keep checking back: you may end up seeing some longer pieces on some.
Tools for Life. Northumbria (UK) University’s Artist in Residence Program showed some of my favorite work at ICFF (so great to see student work of this caliber.) Case in point, Neil Conley, who, among other pieces, designed and made BatchStick, an industrial wax sealing tool. Not sure that it’s a tool for my life, but it’s simply the coolest thing that I must have (when it finally goes into production, which Neil believes it will, based on the response.)
Be Still. These gorgeous chairs from LA-Based John Ford stopped me in my tracks. Since I was stopped, I even sat down, and these babies are as comfortable as they are gorgeous. How often can you say that?
Tradition re-imagined. Emily Johnson’s work (part of the British Bone, Contemporary British Ceramics exhibit), consisted of a series of glowing bone china vessels arranged in a St. George’s cross. Emily, a fifth-generation potter, works with multiple designers to create products to be manufactured by the pottery companies in the Stoke on Trent area of the UK. Stunning.
Czech Mate. SkLO, from Healdsburg, CA works with Czech glassmakers to create gorgeous, chunky, organic, sculptural and thoroughly contemporary glass lights. SkLO’s Paul Parlak works with his wife, Karen Gilbert (talented jewelry maker) to design some really breathtaking (no pun intended) work.
Telling Tales. Wallpaper is not usually my thing, and there was a lot of it. Very busy, but Grow House Grow popped for me. Why? Brooklyn-based Katie Deedy, its owner and designer, solved the mystery for me. It turned out that each lovely, quirky, hand drawn design is based on a story and a real person (most you’ve probably never heard of.) There’s something about a good story (and a good hand) that animates any good design.
Tile me up. The Japanese exhibit focused on sustainable materials that tended to be innovations (or new uses) of traditional materials. Favorite of tile maven JoAnn Locktov (and mine) was Koyo Ibushi, which is a new material based on Japanese traditional ibushi, a fired clay roofing tile used on castles and temples. Made of carbon and soil, the silver color has depth and variability and lovely warmth. The family making it has been involved with making ibushi for generations.
Sweet, sweet light. PA-based David d’Imperio designs sculptural lights that bridge that minimalist-maximalist divide with maximum style and minimum fuss. It’s like perfect jewelry, able to elevate any simple dress (or in this case, room) to a whole new level.
Putting your art into it. LA-based Parvez Taj has found a way to put his edgy art onto reclaimed douglas fir (among other surfaces.) For people who like the idea of taking that reclaimed wood look to the next level, this is the ticket. Seriously cool.