Thursday, August 13, 2009

Uh Oh

Another designer I found this year to be doing some incredibly clever things was Brooklyn's Jason Miller. His work has the most amazing sense of humor, but it's also extremely intelligent on a number of levels. Stylistically, it's along the lines of designers I noticed over the past few years celebrating forgotten and often discarded icons of pop culture, like John Paul Plauche's reDO chair. But Miller has gone even further. His work is all about damage, decay, overuse/misuse, and mistakes, and he ends up making a brilliantly poignant statement about Consumerism.

First off, here's a mirror that looks like it's broken and taped back together using Scotch tape, appropriately called "ScotchMagic":
Click for larger.
It's actually all made out of glass, what looks like tape is just frosted glass. I decided to start with that one because that's Miller, himself, admiring his reflection.

In a similar vein, here are some "Beautifully Broken" vases:

They're ordinary glass vases, broken and glued back together again using an epoxy of a different color, to highlight the cracks. I'm assuming this is something like a puzzle trying to piece them back together again. These would all obviously be one-of-a-kind, as well.

These are "Whatever Flowerpots":

They're made of terra cotta, but in the shape of temporary, improvisational things people use to hold plants, like a two-liter plastic soda bottle with the top cut off.

One of my favorite pieces of his is the "Duct Tape Chair":

They're upholstered with normal fabric, and the "duct tape" is actually strips of leather stitched on. It kind of reminds me of a bunch of great images a friend recently emailed me from There, I Fixed It. Also, by the way, I really think someone should make tape with ducks on it and wire that has "Bob" printed on it. Those mispeelings are big pet peeves of mine, but I think it'd be funny.

Here's the "Dusty Table":
Miller's position is that your table is just going to get dusty anyway, so may as well celebrate that. What appears to be dust is part of the finish.

This might really drive a neat-freak with OCD absolutely insane, but that's the most beautiful thing about this. It's the kind of thing that elicits an almost emotional reaction. There's something very deeply psychological about this; it creates a frustrating impasse with one's desire to run for a rag and the Lemon Pledge that can't ever be resolved. It also begs an interesting question about our ingrained reactions to dust, dirt, and grime, although I'm not sure what the answer is. Going further, he's used a quality that might never be generally thought of as connoting Beauty, that is, "dirtiness" and used it as an aesthetic gesture. Then there's the "forgotten" connotations of a piece of furniture left unattended to gather dust--and would a beautiful, prized piece of furniture be left so unattended? It creates this very sharp contrast with how that very quality makes it beg for attention, especially if located smack in the middle of an otherwise relatively clean kitchen, for instance (not mine). It's truly brilliant.

Here's the "Messy Couch":

"My couch always looks like this. Why fight it?" Miller's website says. All the cushions are either too big or too small, and all of them different from the rest. Here it's a bit more obviously intentional, but someone still might have that desire to flip the cushions around to their "correct" position so they'd line up. Presumably the attempt would be unsuccessful, unsatisfying, and somewhat funny to watch as they get angrier and angrier.

I think my top favorite has to be the "Mismatch Chair":
I'm just going to quote Miller here, because he explains it so perfectly.
Notes for the upholsterer:
It shouldn't take 7 yards of fabric to cover this chair. It's not that big.
I bought 3 yards. Please make it work.
I don't care if the pattern lines up. It's not important.
If you run out, finish it with some remnants.

Awesome. This is really doing so many things. It's almost Deconstructivism, first of all, which I love. It focuses your attention on the upholstery process, itself, on the ways that furniture is manufactured, and does so by celebrating errors. Secondly, it's a study in the conservation of resources. One is compelled to ask, what does happen to all the remnants from normally wasteful upholstery work? Is this yet more tons of fodder for our overtaxed landfills?

But Miller could have done this with a fabric that had no pattern, and only other upholsterers would likely have noticed that the weave was not matching up. "We conserved fabric on this chair" would be great, but how boring! He's instead made it the defining statement of the piece. This is exactly how we need to start thinking about design. On a grander scale, we need to start thinking of the visual characteristics that result from smart, sustainable design as being the very characteristics that make the pieces distinctly "beautiful."

©2009, Ryan Witte

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