Though they loved the shiny newness of the International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), French-born New Yorkers Claire Pijoulat and Odile Hainaut desired a more “curatorial and engaging” parallel platform for design. “We wanted to grow the design week in New York with the local design community and build an event that reflects the city,” Pijoulat says. Thus was the genesis in 2011 for WantedDesign. The event coincides with ICFF during NYCxDesign, the Big Apple’s annual design celebration, which took place this year from May 9 to May 20.
If ICFF is all about the latest and greatest, WantedDesign is the forum for considered craft. Even its location contrasts the expanses of glass, metal, and white-colored canvas that is the modern Javits Convention Center. Designers display their work in a long, makeshift gallery in the brick-clad 1891 Terminal Stores building in the Chelsea neighborhood. The warm setting mirrors the response from the design community: This year’s show had 75 participants and about 10,000 visitors.
“The work is in between what can get reallycrazy at Sight Unseen [another off-shoot of ICFF] and really commercial at Javits,” says Morgan Walsh, curator of the “Chicagoland” exhibition at Wanted. Though some established players, such as Design Within Reach, Ligne Roset, and Cappellini, participated this year, emerging designers also had a presence.
“New this year are the various partnerships with international organizations that not only help to grow our audience, but also allow us to promote American design abroad,” Hainaut says. Much of that emerging talent came together as collectives, representing hometowns that included Chicago, Portland, and Seattle, and even home countries, such as Australia, Guatemala, Mexico, Poland, and Puerto Rico. If WantedDesign 2014 had one takeaway, it may be summarized best by Henry Ford: “If everyone moves forward together, then success takes care of itself.”
Though Chicago is home to many designers, they tend to work in isolation, says Morgan Walsh, assistant director of exhibitions at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago (SAIC). For the second annual design-community-building “Chicagoland” exhibition at WantedDesign, Walsh—acting as curator and organizer—focused on encouraging manufacturers and designers to work together.
The manufacturers’ input during design conception proved invaluable. “The designers are able to work with the materials from the beginning,” Walsh says. “They can see what the limitations are and how to work within them.” The Windy City has put its full support behind this idea. Manufacturers West Supply and Manifold provided support for the exhibition and its eight designers, while the city itself gave the group a grant. Walsh says that “the support was huge financially, but also because they see the value in supporting designers the same way that they support artists in the city—and driving local business.”
Ice Cast Bronze Tables, Steven Haulenbeek
How cold is Chicago? So cold that designer and SAIC alum Steven Haulenbeek freezes ice blocks outdoors before carving negative spaces in them to make wax molds for his striated Ice Cast Bronze Tables (above), one at 18” high and 13" diameter, the other 22” high and 11" diameter. The black patina finish is then hand rubbed to expose the natural bronze. Working with Chicago manufacturer West Supply helped to teach him that bronze shrinks 3 percent when cast, so he adjusted the table molds accordingly.
Boolean Lamp, Chilab
Chilab is a sub-collective within the Chicagoland collective, with five designers coming together to create an encore to last year’s Unfolding Chair, a cast-bronze chair in the shape of a folding chair, permanently opened. This year, the design think tank reinterpreted the classic clip lamp into the mold-blown glass pendant Boolean Lamp (above). The result: Another everyday object becomes a showstopper. The pendant can hang from any length and takes a 25W standard, e12, or candelabra lamp. West Supply helped Chilab with the glass blowing, a fickle process that took the product through multiple iterations.
Lander, Parsons & Charlesworth
Even the Brits know that Chicago is where it’s at. After accepting a faculty position at SAIC, Tim Parsons, along with his wife, Jessica Charlesworth, moved there in 2010. They now also design products as Parsons & Charlesworth for Chitown, including the flat-pack occasional table Lander (above). Made in collaboration with manufacturing workshop Midwest Metal, the tabletop and metal legs were crafted sans welding, thanks to a sheet-metal bending process. It comes powdercoated in white, light green, or powder blue.
Editors note: This article has been updated to clarify the name of Chilab's Boolean Lamp and that Parsons & Charlesworth worked with Midwest Metal for the fabrication of its Lander table.