Over the course of Azure’s 30 years, the magazine has spotted many a rising talent. Here are five big names – Studio Job, Nendo, Front, Raw Edges and Formafantasma – that we first brought attention to in Identikit, our regular feature on emerging designers.
1 Studio Job (July/August 2004)
When Azure featured Studio Job in Identikit more than a decade ago, founder Job Smeets explained, “We run our studio like a design studio, but in the end we work like artists.” So it was no surprise when he and partner Nynke Tynagel established Studio Job Gallery in the firm’s home town of Antwerp, in 2009. The exhibition space launched with a show of their own work, entitled “the Birth,” which included many of the exquisitely crafted limited-edition and one-off pieces the firm had become known for.
Often working in cast bronze or delicate, laser-cut patterns, they regularly borrow inspiration from architecture, such as with last year’s Landmark series of sculptures that reinterpret the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and the Taj Mahal as furnishings treated to their trademark neo-Gothic spin. Last month, during Milan Design Week, Studio Job continued to combine traditional elements with contemporary with the launch of Industry Furniture – an ornate cast-iron garden set, with a skull motif worked into the decorative pattern – for Italian brand Seletti. The prolific pair also showed new carpets for Nodus and a white wall lamp made from paper.
2 Front (November/December 2005)
In 2002, Sofia Lagerkvist, Charlotte von der Lancken, Anna Lindgren and Katja Sävström – third-year students from Sweden’s Konstfact University College of Arts, Crafts and Design – began spending their evenings and weekends collaborating on side projects, such as the imaginative Design By Animals (“everyday objects designed by rats, dogs, snakes and beetles”). A year later, the quartet travelled to Milan to participate in Salone Satellite and continue to be a fixture at the fairgrounds to this day.
Since our coverage of Front 10 years ago, they have downsized (Sävström is no longer part of the group), but their output continues to grow. Moroso, Thonet, Established & Sons and Porro are among the brands that regularly collaborate with the trio, and whimsical new products – such as the Melt pendant for Tom Dixon and the WaterDream collection by Axor Hansgrohe – are now part of the eclectic rotation.
3 Nendo (May 2006)
When we interviewed Oki Sato in 2006, three years after he founded Nendo, the studio already had a handful of intriguing designs under its belt – including three houses, a few interiors, and playful product designs, often using optical illusions to create unexpected effects. Even so, few could imagine that the Japanese studio would go on to produce dozens of works that show the same high-concept playfulness as its early work, but with a prolificness and consistency that makes Nendo the envy of designers everywhere.
Last month, during Milan Design Week, Nendo opened an exhibit of its work from the previous 12 months, which included nine furnishings and lamps for Glas Italia, two for Moroso, and one each for Foscarini, Louis Poulsen, Kokuyo and Industry+. The collections for Glas Italia epitomize Nendo’s range and delicate sensibility, incorporating techniques including the layering of perforated or coloured glass, frosted or scratched tinted glass, and the combining of curved sections into modular waves. And as interior designers, Nendo is in demand worldwide, having completed concepts for Camper, Starbucks, Beige, Puma and Issey Miyake, among many others.
4 Raw Edges (June 2009)
The London studio first reached our radar in 2009, when writer Terri Peters interviewed founders Yael Mar and Shay Alkalay after the launch of Stack, a five-metre-tall chest of drawers that looks like a vertical pile of misaligned boxes. The piece, created for Established & Sons, grabbed the kind of media attention young designers fantasize about, and appeared on best-of-Milan lists worldwide. While it wasn’t their first piece of furniture, the tower of drawers was a tipping point, proof of the duo’s ability to theatrically reinvent the ordinary.
Since then, Raw Edges has crafted a number of eye-grabbing projects, including Islands, which utterly reinvented Caesarstone slabs to create a concept kitchen with open shelves and bin-like holes filed with clay pots for storing fresh fruit and loaves of bread. Make Yourself Comfortable, an installation by Raw Edges at Chatsworth House in the UK, is just as visually stunning and all-consuming. Wooden stools rise like mushrooms from matching plywood flooring stained in a colourful pattern of squares, transforming the gilded museum room into something that seems as though alive and growing. Deconstructing and rethinking the familiar are what define many of Raw Edges’ best designs. Six years after we first featured their work, Raw Edges still surprises us.
5 Formafantasma (October 2011)
We first encountered Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin at Spazio Rossana Orlandi during Milan Design Week in 2010. There, the duo known as Formafantasma were showing Autarchy, a collection of vases made of flour, agricultural waste and limestone that looked good enough to eat. In Italian, to say someone is “un pezzo di pane” or “buono come il pane” – a piece of bread, or good like bread – is testifying to his or her virtue. And there’s none more worthy of that compliment than Formafantasma.
By the time Josephine Minutillo interviewed them, a year later, for Identikit, the duo was working on several other boundary-pushing conceptual projects. Guided by their exploration into the potential uses of natural materials, their projects have included the Botanica series of vessels made with animal and plant resins, created in collaboration with the Plart Foundation; and De Naturum Fossilium, which gathered rocks and other debris in the aftermath of Mount Etna’s 2013 eruption and transformed them into design objects. Many of the duo’s works have been incorporated into the permanent collections of design museums, including New York’s MoMA.