It was really something else to see the difference the economy made on the ICFF this year. It really was a kindler, gentler trade show than in years past. It's especially amusing in light of the booth representative critiques I wrote last year. There was practically no attitude at all this year, everyone was remarkably nice and helpful. There were still the low-key approaches of allowing me to freely browse without interference, but quite a few reps were nearly stumbling all over one another to attend to my needs and talk up their product.
I was also shocked to discover how much smaller it was. The whole southwestern corner of the main exhibition space was virtually empty of exhibitors. The auxiliary exhibition space to the south, hall 1D, was very sparsely devoted to designs from Japan occupying only the very center of the large room in a little cluster and a small bit of its perimeter. It made ICFF 2009 much more easy to manage without Design Overload, but it was a bit hard to take in much the same way as my reactions to the downscaling of BKLYN DESIGNS. Hall 1D is normally stuffed full of smaller booths for up-and-comers and craft artisans. Those smaller designers and companies are often my favorites, the ones doing far more interesting work than the big multi-million-dollar corporations, and much more deserving of mention here. Clearly, they just couldn't afford it this year.
Nonetheless, I'm happy. I'm happy because I truly believe that it's starting to happen. It seems like lately, everyone I talk to has something Green on their lips. Not only that, but they talk about it with an air of pride and accomplishment and--dare I say, one of the few cases I feel its justified--a slight tone of self-righteousness. Perhaps I'm kidding myself, and it's only because I live in a city like New York where we're maybe more surrounded, confronted by progressive thought than in some other parts of the world, but I'm hopeful that's not the case. I think we really are, collectively, embracing this direction for our future. I think we're realizing this is the way it has to be, and not only that, but also that we're starting to really enjoy the possibilities and the satisfaction of doing it. Truly, it feels better.
So on that note, I'd like to start my posts from the ICFF with a designer from Spain who I've written about in the magazine, whose work has always impressed me, and who presented one of the most extraordinary pieces at the whole show this year: Nani Marquina. Coincidentally, the Cooper-Hewitt included one of her pieces in their Felt show, which I was excited to see.
This rug was right out in front of her generously-sized booth, "Global Warming":
It's beautiful, poignant, disturbing, and most of all, a responsible statement about where we stand. Anyone who's watched a nature show any time recently recognizes what this is, and many of us can't help but be filled with a sense of anger and sadness about the fate handed to these poor creatures by human recklessness.
I have the utmost admiration for Marquina for doing this, and I'm so glad to have seen it.
She's also unveiled a new line with less baggage attached to it, but also very cool. This is her "Folk" line:
It's easy to see it here in smaller images, but it's interesting that in a full size rug, seeing it fairly close up, it wasn't immediately obvious that this is a traditional folk rug pattern blown up to huge proportions. I sort of did a double-take and was like, "oh, wow!" It's sort of Pop in its own way, but such a great idea. It makes these patterns, which recreated regular size would be something from a tacky bargain housewares catalogue, into an amazing graphic element. The folk quality of it isn't lost in the translation to something far more cool, however, and these still have that kind of warmth and comfort of something familiar. Unlike a lot of things I talk about here that I love and think are ridiculously awesome, this is something I would totally put on my own living room floor.
©2009, Ryan Witte