Offsite, Sight Unseen's annual design event in New York, has pivoted to become a digital-only experience this year, with some specially commissioned renders adding a hyper-real touch
Design show Offsite, usually a hot ticket during New York’s annual design festival in May, has had to pivot in the face of a pandemic. “At the beginning of lockdown, we, like most people, naively thought we might be through the worst by May, and that the fair could provide a much needed place to gather. By late March it was pretty clear that wasn’t going to happen,” says Jill Singer, co-founder of online design platform Sight Unseen, which runs the show. Instead Offsite is now entirely online, with scores of products from cutting-edge designers to explore. Commentary from the designers themselves and an accompanying programme of events such as Instagram Live talks make the show more than a static viewing experience, and some products have also been brought to life in renders by acclaimed digital artists such as Charlotte Taylor and Victor Roussel, giving them a hyper-real backdrop that wouldn’t be possible at the show.
There are other advantages of going digital too, says Singer: “We were able to include many more of our international friends, who often don’t have the capacity to ship large work to America. And it will live on the site indefinitely so it’s a much more inclusive affair. No one needs to worry about FOMO.” With so many international design fairs cancelled so far this year, Singer says she and co-founder Monica Khemsurov felt that they had a responsibility to offer a sales avenue. “It’s hard when you’re one voice trying to draw attention to yourself on the internet, so the advantage of doing a virtual fair like ours is that we could be a more powerful advocate for our designers, drawing attention them on so many different levels.”
LA-based ceramicist Bari Ziperstein’s work, made under the name BZIPPY, is defined by its scale. At up the 55cm tall, her Giant Tube series (pictured here in renders by Charlotte Taylor and Victor Roussel) not only “pushes the limits of what we can fit in our kiln” according to Ziperstein, but gives them a hefty presence. “The new collection asks how ceramic objects may be observed as the subject of a scene, rather than an accent,” she adds. Additional glaze colours such as Chrome Green and Almost Teal bring a lustrous depth to these architecturally scaled vessels.
Estudio Persona was founded in LA based by designer Emiliana Gonzalez and artist Jessie Young. For its Connection collection, the duo have played around with simple shapes, repeating, stacking and interlocking them to create something new – influenced by the orderly minimalism of artist Carl Andre. Look closely and the letters of the alphabet start to emerge as a further theme: the H chair is so-named because of the shape of its back, while the Block lounge chair looks like a capital I when viewed from above. The slender Bow lamp, like a signature traced in the air, was influenced by Austrian artist Florian Pumhösl’s study of Georgian letters.
Joris Poggioli’s Eden Paradiso collection was designed for an imaginary villa belonging to an equally imaginary owner, a stylish 60-year-old intellectual and collector – and the persuasive renders of Studio Photonic have brought that space to life for the show. Poggioli, an interior and furniture designer based in Paris, has populated this virtual home with products from this collection, as well as forthcoming designs such as the Rose sofa, which takes the form of several long, horizontally stacked cylinders, and the Orfeo desk (pictured), made from chunky, interlocking shapes in glossy walnut.
In Common With
US lighting studio In Common With was founded by Nicholas Ozemba and Felicia Hung in 2018, and uses carefully designed systems to create whole families of products: “Everything is a building block that we can put together in a thousand different ways,” says Hung. It has collaborated with ceramicist Danny Kaplan in its latest Terra Series, which includes the Seneca Orb table lamp, which has a torch-like base topped by a glass globe, and its counterpart, the bowl-shaped Augustus table lamp. “We both loved each other’s work and wanted to highlight each other’s strengths,” says Hung of the collaboration. “Everything we make, we make with other people.”
If there is a stylistic theme emerging at the show, it is that of simple interconnected shapes, especially those that are joined with no additional fixings: it’s an expression of form follows function, but maybe it’s a nod to cutting down on waste, too. For example, Ian Cochran’s resin furniture is only held together using simple notched joints, its colourful palette giving it a playful look. Cochrane has been working on his Plump series since 2018, and this console table, the latest arrival in the collection, has the same luminosity and chunky appeal.
Designer Arati Rao founded New York-based rug company Tantuvi (which means ‘weaver’ in Sanskrit) in 2010; its hand-woven rugs are made by cooperatives in North India, preserving past traditions but also offering a stable future for the makers. Its new Travertine collection, depicted here in renders by Charlotte Taylor and Victor Roussel, reference Rajasthan’s ancient rock formations and their naturally occurring layers of colour and texture. “We only work in natural fibres, and for this collection we have incoroporated recycled silks,” says Rao. “The silk rugs have a fuller texture than the cotton flat weaves, with a beautiful lustre.”
Brett Miller of Jackrabbit Studio admits to “an obsession with roundness, and an aversion to straight lines”. The Hudon Valley-based designer says of his latest collection that “each piece was more or less an experiment,” which includes a dining chair with two fat cylindrical legs, where, in this case, the experiment was to do something different to the expected four legs. A similar formation turns up in the Pillar sofa (pictured), which blends cylindrical plaster legs with a black walnut plinth. “I wanted to incorporate architectural elements and monolithic forms, and try to have as few parts as possible to make something that’s substantial but at the same time elegant and understated,” says Miller about the sofa.