The New Clarity: RISD MFA Furniture Show 2013



Last week, a vacant industrial loft was magically transformed into an elegant gallery space for the evening, as the Rhode Island School of Design’s Department of Furniture Design celebrated its graduating Masters Candidates in a show titled, ‘The New Clarity.’

The show opened its doors in downtown Providence to members of RISD and the local community who came out to show their support. ‘The New Clarity’ exhibited the Masters’ theses of seven graduate students, featuring work by Adrianne Ho’o Hee, Elish Warlop, F Taylor Colantonio, Chen Liu, Carley Eisenberg, Simon Lowe, and Marco Gallegos, this year’s graduating Masters’ candidates of the department.

RISD2013-TheNewClarity-FTaylorColantonio-Woven.jpgWoven vessels by F Taylor Colantonio

The title of the exhibition drew its name from “Letters to a Young Poet” by Rainer Maria Rilke:

…Everything is gestation and then birthing. To let each impression and each embryo of a feeling come to completion, entirely in itself, in the dark, in the unsayable, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own understanding, and with deep humility and patience to wait for the hour when a new clarity is born: this alone is what it means to live as an artist: in understanding as in creating.”

Each designer took a fresh approach to that understanding, re-envisioning what furniture could be and giving a glimpse of what that development looked like on the path to their final work.

RISD2013-TheNewClarity-ElishWarlop-Divider.jpgBent-wood room divider by Elish Warlop

Pieces ranged from the bent-wood room divider above to a chair to facilitate sex with multiple partners simultaneously–running the gamut of what comes to mind (and doesn’t) when one thinks of ‘furniture design.’ The diverse array of work explored not only a new understanding, but varying motifs of tradition, from daily traditions of the everyday to ornate, woven tapestries re-imagined in plastic.

One of the most memorable pieces from the evening was the latter, the work of Colantonio, which looked at commodities of the past, seeped in ancient tradition, and adapted them utilizing contemporary tools and technologies.

RISD2013-TheNewClarity-FTaylorColantonio-PersianRug.jpgPlastic Persian carpet by F Taylor Colantonio

“Most of my work deals with historical ‘types’ of objects, at least as a point of departure,” said Colantonio. “I’m interested in taking a thing like a Persian carpet, and all the baggage that comes with it, and abstracting it beyond the qualities we would normally associate with a Persian carpet. I wanted to create a kind of a ghost of the source object, something that is both familiar and entirely strange. In many of the pieces, this is done with a shift in material, often as a result of exploiting a manufacturing method in a new way.”

RISD2013-TheNewClarity-FTaylorColantonio.jpgF Taylor Colantonio

RISD2013-TheNewClarity-FTaylorColantonio-Patterns.jpgPatterns on patterns on patterns by F Taylor Colantonio

RISD2013-TheNewClarity-MarcoGallegos-BeerBag.jpgThe Beer Bag, by Marco Gallegos

The aptly titled “Beer Bag” was part of Gallegos’ “Rethinking the Familiar” Collection, which looked to further the relationship and value people place on everyday objects. With the capacity to carry a six-pack of beer, the bag fits snugly onto one’s bike. Beer holders included.

RISD2013-TheNewClarity-MarcoGallegos-LiluTable.jpgThe Lilu Table, by Marco Gallegos

The Lilu Table is also the work of Gallegos, who sought to create a self-supporting structure, where each part provides vital support to the rest–working together as a system. The power-coated steel legs fit into the top, locking them all together in a secure fit.

The breadth of the work left little to be desired in terms of heterogeneity, leaving the future work of each designer just as varied and unpredictable as the collection produced. We’ll be eager to see what divergent paths they take after graduation this June!

DSC_0291.JPGThe Graduate Furniture class, photo by Anelise Schroeder

More photos from the opening night after the jump.



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Lucida Dreams Come True: Kickstart a 21st-Century Version of a 19th-Century Optical Drawing Aid

PabloGarcia_GolanLevin-Neolucida-1.jpgLooks cool…

When I used to work for an artist who specialized in photorealistic portraiture, I remember watching the assistants use a projector to draft the preliminary pencilwork for his medium-to-large scale (30”×40”+) paintings. Since we were working with digital compositions, it was a simple matter of lining up the image with the canvas or archival paper, then painstakingly tracing the photograph and background onto it.


Now that software has democratized and simplified the tools of creating images, I imagine this is a common practice in artists’ studios. But what about drawing from real life? Most everyone has seen or at least heard of camera obscura, but it turns out there’s a somewhat more, um, obscure tool that draftsmen of yore had at their disposal.


Pablo Garcia and Golan Levin (Art Professors at SAIC and CMU, respectively) note that “long before Google Glass… there was the Camera Lucida.” The device is a “prism on a stick,” a portable lens-like device that is affixed to a drawing surface, allowing the user to accurately reproduce an image before them by hand.

We have designed the NeoLucida: the first portable camera lucida to be manufactured in nearly a century—and the lowest-cost commercial camera lucida ever designed. We want to make this remarkable device widely available to students, artists, architects, and anyone who loves to draw from life. But to be clear: our NeoLucida is not just a product, but a provocation. In manufacturing a camera lucida for the 21st century, our aim is to stimulate interest in media archaeology—the tightly interconnected history of visual culture and imaging technologies.


According to the well-illustrated history page on the Neolucida website, the device was invented by Sir William Hyde Wollaston in 1807, though the Wikipedia article suggests that it was actually developed by Johannes Kepler, whose dioptrice dates back to 1611, nearly two centuries prior.

PabloGarcia_GolanLevin-Neolucida-egs.jpgSelections from Pablo Garcia’s personal collection of vintage camera lucidas



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More Vizzy Videos: ‘The Art of Making’ by Deep Green Sea


Maybe I shouldn’t have been so blown away by the so-called “must-see video” that I posted yesterday: commenter Peanut pointed us to a manufacturing video with a similar visualization treatment by a Greek film production company called Deep Green Sea. It turns out that “Alma Flamenca” is but one episode of an ongoing series of videos called “The Art of Making,” which are essentially poetic (and well-executed) takes on the tried-and-true how-it’s-made vid.



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Morpholio 2.0 App Launches with New Tools for Presentation, Collaboration and Critique


It’s been just over seven months to the day since the Morpholio Project debuted their Trace app to much acclaim. By January of this year, they had added several new tools for designers beyond the original audience of architects, and now, just a few months later, they’re pleased to announce a suite of new tools that constitute a major release. “The App Store’s number one portfolio app re-imagines the portfolio as a design utility, moving it into the fast, flexible, at-your-fingertips device era. The project seeks to advance the ways that creatives access, share, discuss, and get feedback on their work from a global community of users.”



By combining production and presentation software with web-enabled tools for sharing and critique, the app offers a fully-integrated platform for production and collaboration. To hear Morpholio’s Anna Kenoff tell it, “Aside from making design production easier, we wanted to know if better tools could make it smarter by integrating the wisdom of crowds and capitalizing on the power of the touchscreen to capture feedback.”

To achieve this, Morpholio had to become very sophisticated about all the ways that designers communicate—not just through language, but most importantly through their eyes and hands. Over the past year, the team of architects and programmers has collaborated with experts from various disciplines to build a robust design-centric workspace that could be used by anyone—from fashion designers to photographers, architects and automotive designers, even tattoo artists. It builds on research into human-computer-interaction to deliver innovations like a tool for image analytics called “EyeTime” and virtual “Crits” where collaborators can share images, and comment on each other’s work via notes or sketches. Human behavior data-mining is essential to offering these forms of powerful feedback, letting you know how your followers are interacting with your work.





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A Different Kind of 3D-Printed Music, by Rickard Dahlstrand


Earlier this year, we had took a look (and listen) at Amanda Ghassaei’s 3D-printed 33’s. I suppose it’s no coincidence that the muffled but recognizable playback obliquely evoked the soothing sounds of “a printer or scanner arm moving back and forth across a two- or three-dimensional stage.” Swedish art hacker Rickard Dahlstrand apparently arrived at a similar conclusion, but he’s upped the ante by actually programming a 3D-printer to chirp out ditties, “using a Lulzbot 3D-printer to visualize different classical musical pieces.” On the occasion of the recent Art Hack Day in Stockholm, he took the opportunity to “explore the alternative uses of 3D-printers to create unique art by ‘printing’ classical pieces of music while at the same time acting as an instrument and performing the music itself.”

In short, the step motors—which control the movement of the stage and print head—generate pitched tone based on their speed, such that it is possible to predict discreet tones by varying their speed. “Microphones on the motors pick up the sound and amplify it.” I imagine Dahlstrand determined the correlation between the output in space (XY coordinates) and as sound in order to transpose the tunes as CAD files; the current repertoire includes Beethoven, Rossini, Mozart, Strauss, Bizet and Williams (John, that is).



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Sam Pearce’s Loopwheel: Tangential Suspension for Bikes


Six years ago, industrial designer Sam Pearce was sitting in an airport when “I saw a mother pushing her child in a buggy,” he writes. “The front wheel hit a slight kerb [sic] and the child jolted forward because of the impact. It happened several times in the time I was waiting there.” He then did what many ID’ers do, which is to find the nearest piece of paper and sketch out a potential solution. What he drew in his notebook was this:


A simple idea for a wheel with built-in suspension.

Two years later, while off-road cycling, he remembered the sketch and began thinking if a suspension system like that could be built into a bike wheel. Now, many years of tinkering later, what Pearce has come up with is this:


It’s called the Loopwheel, and its system of “tangential suspension”—essentially leaf springs folded back in on themselves—are not only workable, but they provide a gentler ride over sharp obstacles due to physics:


For now, Pearce is focusing on developing Loopwheels for smaller bikes, because the design “[allows] suspension where suspension can’t normally fit,” as with a folding bike design.


Last month Pearce debuted his creation at the UK’s Bespoked Bicycle show. Response was tremendous, and he’s now seeking Kickstarter funding to get the Loopwheel into proper production; up until now he’s been making them as one-offs in his shop.



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Sensory Overload: Tokyo City Symphony Projection Mapping + Music App

TOKYOCITYSYMPHONY-Future.jpgTokyo is futuristic, but maybe not this futuristic… yet.

I spent a little time in and around Roppongi neighborhood during my first trip to Tokyo last June, but (as is the case with most work-related travel), I didn’t have much time to explore the city on my own. Given the diverse texture of the city and the overflowing stimuli of a new and different urban setting, it didn’t occur to me that Roppongi Hills is a relatively new construction, some $4 billion and three years in the making. Centered on the 54-story, Kohn Pedersen Fox-design Mori Tower—named after the developer behind the entire project—the 27-acre megaplex opened its doors in April 2003… which means that this week marks its tenth anniversary.


To commemorate the milestone, Mori Building Co., Ltd., has commissioned Creative Director Tsubasa Oyagi to create a digital experience, the very first project for his new boutique SIX. Working with a team of media production all-stars, Oyagi created “TOKYO CITY SYMPHONY,” an interactive web app that combines projection mapping with a simple music composition engine to create user-generated ditties with brilliant visuals.

“TOKYO CITY SYMPHONY” is an interactive website, in which users can experience playing with 3D projection mapping on a 1:1000 miniature model of the city of Tokyo. The handcrafted model is an exact replica of the cityscape of Tokyo in every detail.



Three visual motifs are projected onto the city in sync with music: “FUTURE CITY,” conjuring futuristic images; “ROCK CITY” that playfully transforms Roppongi Hills into colorful musical instruments and monsters; and “EDO CITY,” or “Traditional Tokyo,” which portrays beautiful Japanese images. Users could play a complex, yet exquisitely beautiful harmony on the city by pressing the keys on the computer keyboard. Each key plays a different beat along with various visual motifs, creating over one hundred different sound and visual combinations. Each user is assigned a symphony score of eight seconds, of which could be shared via Facebook, twitter, and Google+. The numerous symphony scores submitted by the users are put together online to create an infinite symphony.



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A Database of 120 Different 3D Printers, With Prices & Stats


You’ve heard of MakerBot, Cubify and Solidoodle. And if someone finds out you’re into ID and asks “Hey, what do one of those 3D printers go for?” you can spit out a ballpark figure, and maybe some basic stats.

But there are tons of other 3D printers available on the consumer market, and plenty of questions you might not have the answers handy to: Which can I most easily buy if I’m in India, the Netherlands, or Taiwan? What are the build envelopes and prices? Which use fused filament fabrication, which go with fused deposition modeling? Are there affordable ones that do stereolithography?

To answer these questions and more, the good folks over at have put together a handy database listing over 100 different types of 3D printers with their relevant stats, countries of origin, current stock availability, and prices (the lowest-priced DIY machine starts at US $189, while the high end of the consumer market goes into five figures). Anyone across the globe who’s looking to get into 3D printing will find it a handy place to start narrowing options.

Here’s something we’re curious about—in a year’s time, do you reckon this list will be longer, or shorter?


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Here’s 52 Issues of a 19th-Century British Craft Magazine, Courtesy of a Brooklyn Tool Company


Want to build a wheeled, revolving bookcase designed in 1890? Yeah you do

Tools for Working Wood is the name of a Brooklyn-based company that sells, well, guess. And in addition to their retail arm, they’ve got a website featuring articles on craft along with some very interesting information for makers—from 1889. The company somehow got their hands on several volumes of Work: An Illustrated Magazine of Practice and Theory for All Workmen, Professional and Amateur, a 19th-Century British magazine aimed at craftspeople. And the team at TWW has decided to scan every issue they’ve got, releasing new updates each Friday and making them freely downloadable.


While the information listed in Work is over 120 years old—TWW goes so far as to include the disclaimer “[some of the articles] describe materials and methods that would not be considered safe or advisable today”—I’ve totally fallen down the rabbit hole. Advertisements for tools of the day, like this crazy-ass hand-powered table saw…


…share space with articles on how to build a workbench that folds into the wall, or breaking news like the then-new production method of metal spinning, or why you should make your own “callipers” rather than buy a set, and an “Our Guide to Good Things” section where they review tools and materials of the day.


One surprise is their letters section, called “Shop: A Corner for Those who Want to Talk It,” whereby craftspeople of every stripe—metalworkers, furniture builders, watchmakers, toolmakers, and even people toying around with these newfangled things called cameras and electricity—sound off with tips, techniques and criticisms. Which brings me to a second surprise: Trolls existed even in the Victorian era. One reader writes in to criticize an article from a previous issue, opening with “I would point out that the description you give of the process is evidently far from correct, nor have I any idea as to what is intended….”


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The Vamp: A Bluetooth Audio Device That Actually Does Something (Besides Streaming Music)

PaulCocksedge-TheVamp-close-photobyMarkCocksedge.jpgPhotos by Mark Cocksedge

I won’t pretend to be an expert in the ever-expanding category of bluetooth audio, but I understand the appeal: After decades of being tethered to all variety of boxy, clunky or otherwise cumbersome hardware, technology has liberated us from those proverbially Gordian tangles of cables, if not the speakers themselves. Although we have more or less consummated the portability of playback devices, speaker cones and circuitry are confined to bulky cabinets, and—cheap computer speakers notwithstanding—require a separate amplifier to translate signals into noise (so to speak).


Which is precisely why I was interested to see that Paul Cocksedge‘s latest project, called the Vamp, not only offers wireless audio but a built-in 4–9-watt single-channel amp as well, all in a lemon-sized, USB-rechargeable device—effectively refurbishing any serviceable old speaker into a quasi-portable jamblaster.


And while I’m generally skeptical about such devices—in my experience, you might get some combination connectivity, audio fidelity, battery life and/or durability, but not all of the above—I have enough random old speakers around the house to make the Vamp a practical home audio solution.


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