Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Urbancase is a Seattle based furniture design & build firm, founded in 2002 by metal worker and sculptor, Darin Montgomery. Catherine Grisez, Try Jones and Rachel Illingworth round out the partnership that combines artistic experience and design sensibility. Known for innovative techniques and a creative use of materials including wood, metal, ink and resin, Urbancase hand builds each piece in their Seattle workshop.

The design philosophy is to create objects that contribute to a simpler, pared back lifestyle focusing on basic aesthetic elements and functionality. Informed decisions are made about the materials and methods used in an attempt to minimize negative impact on the environment. Each partner brings a unique skill and craft to the table and each have a great sense of pride in creating something fun, functional, good looking and green.

Trey Jones graduated with a BFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design in the furniture design program. Since then,  he has been a part of multiple design and art exhibitions including ICFF and Artopia. In 2006 he moved to Seattle and started a furniture design studio.

Rachel Illingworth grew up in Tasmania where she received a BFA from the University of Tasmania. She makes her home in Seattle as an internationally exhibited printmaker. Her work is part of numerous private and public collections. She has a show scheduled for September 2010 at Seattle Art Museum.

Catherine Grisez received her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design from the jewelery and light metals program with an emphasis in holloware. Her holloware sculpture and music boxes have been exhibited nationally and featured in numerous publications. Her work is well recognized for it's level of excellence, craftsmanship, and attention to detail. she recently introduced new sculpture in her show titled "lick" at William Traver Gallery in Seattle, Wa.

Last but not least, founding partner, Darin Montgomery (just sounds like a an old Hollywood moviestar), a third generation craftsman and started the company with the idea of creating furniture and products for small living spaces. Urbancase's products have been featured in the NY Times, Dwell Magazine, Icon magazine and Seattle Homes and Lifestyles among other publications. Aside from furniture, Darin designs interactive urns called the "urn-a-matic". His work has been exhibited nationally and was recently featured in the NY Times and LA Times.
Their 2010 collection was introduced at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair in in NYC in May. They have also added a number of new retail locations. For more information about Urbancase or where to buy their product, please visit


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The wonderful world of Sanna Annukka

Sanna Annukka is a half Finnish, half English illustrator & printmaker with a refreshing love of nature and folklore. Having spent her childhood summers in the nightless Lapland wilderness, the forests, lakes and wildlife of the region have formed and infused her work.

In 2006 Sanna's work was spotted by the British group Keane, which led to a remarkable collaboration on their second million selling album "Under the Iron Sea". Since this first commercial application, her talent has been in constant demand. She now divides her time between commissioned work and her ever-expanding range of self styled products.

Carefully wrapping a present in paper by Sanna Annuka makes whatever treasure you're passing along the gift that keeps on giving. The recipient might be more interested in the packaging than what's inside. Sanna's prints are are so great, that you could actually just frame them and put them straight up on the wall!

Annukka has created a series of expressive designs full of meaning,
telling stories from the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala. The
Kanteleen kutsu fabric depicts forest animals that have, enchanted, gathered to hear the joyful tunes played on the kantele, a plucked string instrument, by Väinämöinen, the main character of the Kalevala. Väinämöinen had made his instrument from the jawbone of a giant pike. The Sampo, a wealth grinding magic mill, is featured in the impressive Taikamylly fabric. The Ihmemaa art print, sold by the repeat, shows the landscape of Kaleva, the Land of Heroes, and Lake Alue, in whose depths a whitefish has swallowed fire fallen from the heavens.

Aside from wrapping paper, Annukka also designs wooden pieces, kitchen accessories, prints / lithographs, and commissioned pieces for numerous vendors, such as Marimekko and Marks & Spencer.
To find out more about Annukka or where to purchase her work,
please visit


Friday, June 25, 2010

The art of the silhouette - Mike Miller

Inspired by the graphic potential of found objects and photographs, Mike Miller is an artist and antiques dealer who sells a variety of "cultural relics". These "relics" include everything from a 1940's neon coffee shop sign to a pair of freestanding mannequin legs, which are slightly chipped.  In addition to running his Reading Pennsylvania antiques business called "Lo and Behold", Miller is a photo collage artist who brought the silhouette back into style. Miller cuts out vintage photographs of individuals and groups and then reverses the images to create his signature graphic silhouettes.

As of late, big companies have been bringing in independent artists to do special guest collections. Target and West Elm, just to name a few. Once these giants proved that it was a viable idea - affordable designer collections for the mainstream, I am always being pleasantly surprised when opening magazines, catalogs and print ads. You never know who will pop up next! This month's surprise came from West Elm, as they have taken on a brand new collection of artwork and pillows from Mike Miller.

Simple, classic and affordable are just a few words that come to mind when viewing the latest collection. These pieces would look great in any home or office.

To find out more about Mike Miller or the other the designers featured by West Elm, please visit

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The wit & unique design of COMPANY

COMPANY is Finnish based design duo, established by Aamu Songand Johan Olin in 2000. Covering a wide spectrum of art and design COMPANY designs clothes, shoes and various functional articles, as well as spaces, public furniture and interiors. COMPANY works in various fields of design with mixed subject and method in product, graphic and environmental design.
The duo was commissioned to create artwork for a residential building
in Toukoranta, a new housing area in Helsinki, Finland. Their project
kaide-taide (art-handling) bends the railings of the eight storey building
into new shapes, providing places to sit and lean on as well as opening
up new views from the stairwell. Railings are painted in a different tone
of grey at each floor, creating a gradient; the 1st floor being dark grey to the 8th floor being white.

Another one of their projects is Reddress, designed by Song.
It is one of the most unique combinations of art/design/music.
Reddress consists of the singer’s costume, stage and seating for the audience. In an effort to bridge the distance between performer and viewer, Song developed a 3 meter high dress with a flowing skirt 20 meters in diameter that carves out a three-dimensional performance space. Comprised of laminated layers of wool, felt, foam, and velour held together by 12 kilometers of thread. the folds of the dress become a large blanket that provides seats for 238 viewers.
 During the performance, the bodice of the dress rotates so the singer becomes visible to all members of the audience. Song handmade the dress with the of a technical designer, Tuomo Järvimäki, and a professional dressmaker, Sari Manner, during a production process that took four months.
In addition, COMPANY make a wide range of items from furniture, toys, clothing, accessories, shoes - you name it. All of their designs show wit, ergonomic design and functionality and just plain fun!

To find out more about COMPANY and the wide range or projects and products they carry, please visit

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

We wouldn't want to upset the wee kiddies, would we? Timorous Beasties

Paul Simmons and Alistair McAuley founded design studio called Timorous Beasties in Glasgow in 1990. Known for their surreal and provocative textiles and wallpapers, McAuley and Simmons, met while studying textile design at Glasgow School of Art.While winning awards is nice, Timorous Beasties have the

By depicting uncompromisingly contemporary images on traditional textiles and wallpapers, Timorous Beasties has defined an iconoclastic style of design once described as “William Morris on acid.”  McAuley and Simmons also execute special commissions, such as fabrics for Philip Treacy’s hats and for the interiors of the Arches Theatre in Glasgow and 50 Piccadilly,
a London casino.

Timorous Beasties are experimental in approach to both hand-printing and machine production. These changes are reflected in an evolving aesthetic: from early wayward interpretations of naturalistic images of insects, plants and fish; to a searingly contemporary graphic style which, as Glasgow Toile illustrates, explores social and political issues. Their Glasgow studio has
the facilities for small scale production of fabrics and wallpapers and
many of their designs which are featured in the studio collections
are produced there.

From design concept through to production the studio is in control at every stage. The pair recently won the prestigious 'ICFF Editors Award' for the best wallcoverings for the 4th time! The award is among the industry's highest accolades and is judged by a panel of respected U.S. and international editors in the field of contemporary furnishings.

occasional dissatisfied customer. The parents, for example, who bought some Glasgow toile wallpaper for their child's bedroom. From a distance, Glasgow toile looks like one of those sumptuous French toile de jouy designs fromthe 18th century that depicted charming rustic scenes, and decorated upholstery, curtains or walls. Closer inspection revealed that Glasgowtoile was a nightmarish vision of the city, teeming with drug addicts,prostitutes and homeless people, against a backdrop of run-down tower blocksand marauding seagulls. Just the decor to make your kid run screaming fromthe nursery. "They sent it back," says Paul Simmons, one of the co-founders of the Glasgow wallpaper and fabric design company.
"That was all right by us," says the other founder Alistair McAuley.
"We wouldn't want to upset the wee kiddies, would we?"
And then there was a community centre in east London that bought eight rolls of their London toile wallpaper. "This was deemed racist," says Simmons, "because they thought it depicted a black man holding a gun on a white woman."  He continues, "But they should have got their facts straight," says McAuley. "It didn't depict a black man. In fact, the model was Gavin, who, as you can see, is white. But even if he was black, would that have been racist?" He points out that people of all races commit crimes, adding: "The whole point was that the toile depicted the underbelly of things." How was the dispute resolved? "We agreed to put a bunch of flowers over the gun, but we haven't had time yet," says Simmons. "Folk thought it was going to be banned," says McAuley, "so suddenly we had all these calls asking if they could order London toile. It sold more wallpaper."

Such disturbing images are more readily associated with Grayson Perry's pots or the Chapman brothers' terrariums than wallcoverings or fabrics, widely assumed to be there to soothe or comfort a person in the privacy of their own home. "We're in a market where it's really easy to shock," says Simmons. Indeed, given how ubiquitous shock tactics have been in British visual arts for the past two decades, perhaps wallpaper is one of the few remaining media in which an artist might be able to cause genuine upset.

And the pair may enjoy getting such reactions. "I remember a woman coming in for some fabric for her sofa," says McAuley. "She found the toile very soothing. I liked thinking about what it would be like when she realised she was relaxing next to a gunman."

"The imagery in the original French toiles from the 18th century is actually quite shocking," says McAuley. "They have scenes of workers womanising, smoking and drinking. What we've done, in the Glasgow toile, is update the imagery. So a pipe becomes a rollie, an old man sitting on a stool in a rural scene becomes a tramp on a park bench, a glass of wine becomes a can of super lager."

"The time is right for us to try London," says McAuley. "It'll mean that customers down there won't have to order over the internet any more." He suggests that London needs the Beasties: "I hate that high street thing - it's overpriced and you find exactly the same product in New York and Los Angeles. The whole thing with globalisation is terrible. Our aim in moving to Clerkenwell is to provide a corrective to the kind of interior design that people are sick of in London."

When one looks around at all the wallcoverings, the bee wallpapers for instance, one is struck by their disturbing verisimilitude. "What got us going in that direction," says Simmons, "was that there were often butterflies or flowers in wallpapers and fabrics, but they were always soft and romanticised. You wouldn't see the tendrils or scales. They were so abstracted they didn't look like what they were supposed to be. For us, paper and pen is still the starting point. I'm not sure that's the case for many designers or artists coming from art schools now, because the quality of drawing is so poor."

When the pair were textile design students at Glasgow School of Art in the late 1980s, they would draw giant insects on the streets on Saturdays to keep solvent. "We would talk long into the night about what pish current wallpaper design was," says McAuley. "One great thing is that we still feel the same way. We were at a trade fair in Paris yesterday and couldn't believe the shite this one guy was serving up as wallpaper. He'd just plonked his motif on the paper with no sense of how the repeat would work." "Pathetic," agrees Simmons.

But Timorous Beasties aren't interested in performing domestic make-overs for unimaginative clients - let Channel 5's House Doctor do that. "We don't coordinate," says McAuley. "We don't give formulaic answers to everybody's interior design dilemmas." So what do you do? "We supply wallpapers and fabrics that are beautiful. People don't often think that way about wallpaper, but we do. Our wallpapers exist like beautiful pieces of furniture."

To find out more about Timorous Beasties or purchase their product,