Date Archives January 2013

NODE – Beautifully Illustrated Fair-Trade Rugs

rug production sanna

chrishaughton-owl detail

NODE might just be one of my favorite design projects of the last few years. Set up by the Irish illustrator Chris Haughton and the Nepal-based entrepreneur Akshay Sthapit, the project aims to connect international designers and illustrators with crafts-people in the developing world. Based on a belief that ‘trade not aid’ is the best solution to the poverty trap, NODE has started to make a series of fair-trade rugs with crafts-people at the Kumbeshwar Technical School in Kathmandu, Nepal.

At the moment they’re working on a collection for London’s Design Museum that features 18 hand-made rugs by 18 artists. They’ve got a fantastic array of talent involved including Sanna Annukka (above), Chris Haughton (also above), Geoff McFetridge, Jon Klassen, and many more. Launching on the 5th of March, the rugs will be for sale at theDesign Museum’s shop as well as online as part of Fair Trade Fortnight.

rug production wool

It’s a wonderful project and one that becomes even more special when you find out a bit more about the Kumbeshwar Technical School. Here, employees receive a fair wage and their work also supports an adult literacy and skills training program with 6,000 graduates, a school with 260 children and an orphanage with 25 children. In the video above you can get a great insight into how the rugs are crafted but you should also read a bit more about Kumbeshwar on their website here.

It’s wonderful to see a project like this and particularly one which raises awareness with designers of the possibilities in fair trade. If you’re in London during Fair Trade Fortnight make sure to try and head along to the Design Museum and maybe even pick up a rug! More details and even times can be found online here.

‘In Pieces’ – Hyper-photographic realism and LEGO mix to amazing effect

"In Pieces" by Dean West & Nathan Sawaya 1

"In Pieces" by Dean West & Nathan Sawaya 2

"In Pieces" by Dean West & Nathan Sawaya 3

In Pieces is the name of a fantastic multi-media collaboration between the photographer Dean West and the LEGO-sculptor Nathan Sawaya. The series explores the idea that identity exists today predominantly as a cultural creation and something which has been heavily commercialized and manipulated.

West and Sawaya’s images play with the artifice of modern photography, creating hyper-real images that include amazing LEGO sculptures hidden within each picture. Attempting to discover Sawaya’s sculptures is where the fun begins, and once they reveal themselves they highlight exactly how manipulated and artificial photographs can be.

Sawaya’s sculptures are beautifully rendered and their pixelated-forms emphasize the fabricated nature of modern photography. It’s a wonderful series and a great idea. You can view the full series of photographs online at Dean West’s webiste here.

"In Pieces" by Dean West & Nathan Sawaya - details

The Desktop Wallpaper Project featuring Ryan Hamrick

Ryan Hamrick Wallpaper - iPhone, iPad, Desktop

Ryan Hamrick

This week’s wallpaper Pittsburgh based designer and illustrator Ryan Hamrick is giving us a beautiful, script based wallpaper to light up our desktops. Ryan sent me a link to his work, I think specifically his Dribbble account, and I was immediately taken by all the fantastic type/calligraphy he’d done. For his wallpaper he chose to use a quote from one of his favorite songs for inspiration.

I decided to letter a quote from what’s probably my favorite song of 2012 from my favorite album of 2012. Geographer’s Kites from the album Myth.

The awesome background texture, which I thought looked like tree bark, was done in Illustrator, borrowed from the colors of the album. Overall I’m totally in love with this wallpaper. I can’t believe the details in this piece, I feel like if I tried something like this it would take me weeks. A huge thanks to Ryan for contributing such a stunning wallpaper.

be sure to check back every Wednesday for a new wallpaper.

The Best Music Of 2012 (To Me)

The Best Music Of 2012 (To Me)

Every year, at some point in January, I make a long list of what music I thought was great in the previous year. This list is usually scrawled out as a Facebook note or onto defunct personal blogs but–for 2012–Bobby asked if the list could be shared on The Fox Is Black. Why not?! Thus, a very long list of what I thought of music in 2012 and a few items to look out for in 2013.

One thing to keep in mind before reading is that the items shared are from a personal point of view that electronic music is the only music to be listened to. Moreover, I have been on the hunt for the Best Dance Album Of All Time since I was born and have yet to find what I think is a suitable filler for that title. If things lack vocals or rely on sounding like robots in various forms of stress, I apologize. If anything, hopefully you find an artist/song/album or two that is new to you. With that, enjoy.

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Introducing AJOTO Pens

Ajoto pen packaging

Ajoto pen pieces

Ajoto pen mandala

AJOTO isn’t your typical design studio. Although they’ve made a solemn vow to create “beautiful tools for everyday journeys”, they’re currently only selling one product—but all that is about to change. Founded in London by designers Chris Holden and Tim Higgins, the new company aims to develop products that are elegant, affordable, and appealing to those who are creatively curious. Their first product is, simply, a pen; however, one can argue that simplicity is often complex.

Made of aluminum or brass in either rollerball or ballpoint black ink, each pen is made with the utmost precision and care with materials that are recyclable. Going a step further, AJOTO also thanks every person and company responsible for an element of production online so the buyer can trace the provenance of the pen they’ve purchased. Designed to last a lifetime (perhaps an ethos for all of the company’s future products?), the look and feel is both modern and classic down to the cork packaging and streamlined, customizable box. I love the pen’s slogan, “Make Your Mark,” which seems apt for AJOTO, the company, too.

Check out the video below and be sure to visit their Kickstarter campaign.

Nudes 2: A Live Drawing Marathon and Exhibition

Nudes 2: A Live Drawing Marathon and Exhibition

Nudes 2: A Live Drawing Marathon and Exhibition

Nudes 2: A Live Drawing Marathon and Exhibition

Mike Perry is back with a second installment of the live drawing event and exhibition “Nudes”. Last year he and Josh Cochran put out an open call for nude models for a marathon drawing session leading up to a one-night exhibition of all the work. This time, the roster of artists has increased to eight, including Deanne Cheuk, Jon Han, Lisa Hanawalt, Santtu Mustonen, Leif Parsons, and Niky Roehreke, along with Perry and Cochran. This is a unique spin on a classic subject familiar to most everyone who has ever taken a figure drawing class in art school, but with a more abstract approach indicative of each artist’s individual approach and aesthetic. I’m excited to see the range of interpretations this lineup is sure to produce. The drawing sessions are this Friday and Saturday, January 25th and 26th, with the exhibition following Saturday night at Kinfolk Studios in Brooklyn, NY. The call for models is still open, so if you’ve ever wanted to be a nude model for a group of amazing artists, now is your chance! Sign-up info can be found here.

Listen To Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s New Album, ‘II’

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Unknown Mortal Orchestra started out as a side project of Mint Chicks’ singer Ruban Nielson, starting with a track called Ffunny Ffrends in 2010. In 2011 UMO released their first self-titled album, though this time Nielson was joined by bassist Jake Portrait and drummer Greg Rogove. Now on February 5 the band releases their second album, aptly titled II, and from what I’ve heard it’s an absolute gem. The easiest way to sum up this album is to call it “psychadelic” or something like that. The album is filled with guitar effects, tripped out vocals and sweeping drum rolls – a synthetic love letter to the 70’s. NPR has a preview of the album, or you can listen to the embed below to see what you think.

Video of Ann Hamilton’s ‘the event of a thread’ by Paul Octavious

Video of Ann Hamilton's 'the event of a thread' by Paul Octavious

Video of Ann Hamilton's 'the event of a thread' by Paul Octavious

In recent memory I can’t think of a place other than The Armory in Manhattan which has had such spectacular art shows so frequently. It seems like they just wrapped up their exhibit with Tom Sachs and yet they’re already blowing minds with their newest exhibit by Ann Hamilton called the event of a thread.

Visual artist Ann Hamilton combines the ephemeral presence of time with the material tactility for which she is best known to create a new large-scale installation for the Wade Thompson Drill Hall. Commissioned by the Armory, the event of a thread references the building’s architecture, as well as the individual encounters and congregational gatherings that have animated its rich social history.

My buddy Paul Octavious visited (with his adorable parents) and was able to take some video footage, creating the awe-inspiring video you see above. This makes me desperately wish I could see this show, it looks absolutely stunning. I love that it’s such an immersive piece, that no matter where you are there’s something to excite and engage you. Los Angeles needs to up it’s ante and start putting on art shows of this caliber.

A Neon Muzeum in Poland

neon museum in Poland

neon museum in Poland

neon museum in Poland

These beautiful neon signs are just part of the work of yesteryear on display at the Neon Muzeum in Warsaw. These days, commercial signage seems dominated by color-changing LEDs or screens that sprawl across acres of building facade. Giant words flash and dissolve in inelegant and often illegible typography. But these old, artful, and hand-wrought signs harken back to a simpler era in a way that only glass tubes of electrified gas can. It’s a warmer feeling for some than for others.

The typefaces here are sharp and they have a satisfying dimension. I tend to think of type as something mostly printed and flat, but these signs have a depth even when they illuminated at night. From the form of the aluminum letters supporting the neon, to the way the the tubes overlap when folded, there are different magnitudes of depth as you move toward and away from the signage. But there is also a history (see “Polish Cold War Neon” review halfway down the page) about neon signage in the cold war era that makes their presence and preservation more compelling; the signs were  “part of international attempts to reconcile socialism and consumerism . . . a radiant ‘You are here.’ ”

‘Hide’ by Kris Menace feat. Miss Kittin – Video Directed by Mathieu Bétard

'Hide' by Kris Menace feat. Miss Kittin - Video Directed by Mathieu Bétard

'Hide' by Kris Menace feat. Miss Kittin - Video Directed by Mathieu Bétard

I think it’s still pretty awesome that some folks are cranking out awesome looking music videos. With the death of Music Televion I would have thought that the medium would have died out, but just like the record, the classics never fade. This video for Kris Menace’s track Hide, which features vocals from Miss Kittin, was animated and directed by Mathieu Bétard. What Bétard has done so well is capture the energy of the music and translated it into two dimensional drawings full of spontaneity. It’s impressive that he was able to create so many different patterns and shapes in a 4 minute song. Definitely one of the best videos of 2013 (all 22 days of it).