MAKESHIFT 2012 HIGHLIGHTS
After taking time to reflect on our recent week in New York for MAKESHIFT, I’m already thinking about MAKESHIFT 2013.
Here are some highlights from the conversation at The Standard Talks. We reported the MAKESHIFT events here on the blog throughout the week, and had great press coverage from the New York Times, Style.com, Page Six, and Jezebel. Here’s a recap of our memorable conversation.
From The Standard Talks panel discussion:
Andrew Wagner began with a grand introduction and also referenced Ettore Sottsass’s essay, ‘When I Was a Very Small Boy’.
AW: When we all got together to talk about this [MAKESHIFT], we decided to not call it a conference, even though I just did; we decided we were going to call it a carnival, because it is going to be a pretty weird evening in the best possible sense. It is going to take a lot of interesting twists and turns, but part of why I am here is to try and figure out and wrap up what we are doing here.
I would like to suggest that life is not about compartmentalization. It is about a myriad of experience and emotions that come together to form a vivid life. Our life is not about ‘what we do’, but how we experience the world.
Rosanne Cash opened the panel discussion by singing “Fair and Tender Ladies”, a song that would be crafted by the audience during the conversation. Read more about Rosanne’s participation in MAKESHIFT here.
Cathy Bailey of Heath Ceramics discussed the history of her company and Edith Heath, the founder. She then related her experience with design and making.
CB: At Heath, everything was under one roof. Nothing was outsourced. Everything that the company needed was done and produced there. That is what gave the space its energy and its hum. I think it was simple and it was pure. It didn’t seem backwards. It seemed pure to us and that was exciting.
Another draw to the company was that there was such focus. There was one material that was being focused on since 1947. I found that fascinating and totally inspiring. That is what Heath felt like in 2003 when we bought the company.
This photo (below) reflects back to the Sottsass’s essay that Andrew mentioned. Here is my son and I get to see in him something beautiful. He has ideas, and he gets such satisfaction and confidence in ideas coming out of his hands. There is so much incredible joy and confidence he gets from drawing and making something from clay.
Because we are in this place that is focused on one material – we design our own glazes. We design our own shapes and we put them out there in a larger level.
This is the transparency that you get with glazes over glazes. It is something that gets missed when the ‘designing’ and the ‘making’ get separated.
Natalie and I did a project together to honor the work she was doing. The plates are etched by hand and not that dissimilar from stitching fabric. This woman etches every plate – which mimics Natalie’s work.
The last part of this- back to Edith Heath who was so obsessed with clay – she was a never-ending fountain of new ideas and inspiration. At one point she decided that the space between the plates in the kiln was not being utilized. These spaces were being fired for free. She started using beads and buttons in between the spaces. We started to making them again. For this event we have made beads, and Natalie is going to teach you how to make something.
To follow, I showed the audience to make knotted necklaces and how to finger knit using yarn balls that Alabama Chanin made for the event. I shared thoughts on fashion, making, and design.
NC: Our company is all about making. Design is important, but design is not enough. We make fashion, but we also teach people how to ‘make’ fashion. No one in our studio can keep their hands still.
In your bag you will find balls of rope that have been tied and pulled together. I am going to teach you how to make something like this necklace. All you have to do is keep tying knots. The one I am wearing took about four hours to make. The knotting – everyone can do it – and I am also going to teach you finger knitting. You have a loop on the end of the rope and you pull your fingers through the loop and keep pulling loops and as you make a longer loop, you can go back the other way – this is called finger knitting. It is very similar to crochet, made exactly the same way as what you are doing.
Once, as I was growing my company, I was told by a very wise man that the surest way to success was to “stick to your knitting.” His point was that if you area of expertise is to build buildings, you should, simply, build buildings. If you know how to sew, you should keep sewing. If what you know best is knitting, you should simply stick to your knitting. I was given this piece of advice almost a decade ago and it has served me well. When I am unsure about a business decision or what to do, I simply go back to my knitting.
I hope you all enjoy your knitting tonight.
Then Maria Cornejo discussed how an empty space helped her turn making into fashion.
MC: I had a space and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it. I hated the fashion business, but I wanted to do something. I wanted to make something without any preconceived ideas. In the beginning, the space was a gallery, and I gradually started making things.
When combined, a circle and a triangle make a garment. We first placed a rack near the door of our gallery. If people responded to those garments, we made them the following week. We were always printing t-shirts. We’d get an order for 200, and we printed them all. A lot of t-shirts were all hand-painted and nothing was the same, but it was more about the idea of making something that was more immediate.
Jessamyn Hatcher spoke on “Worn Stories,” a project curated by Emily Spivack about the attachments that we form with our clothing – or things that we make and/or buy. Her work with these stories, and the consequent Human-Textile Wellness Pop-Up Clinic, drills home the point that we have stories that become imbedded in our articles of clothing and that, rather than discard a piece, we can identify those connections and find ways – both emotional and physical to alter any piece for a new place in our lives. In the end, Jessamyn asked the audience members to participate with the process by sharing one of their worn stories.
Read about Jessamyn’s contribution to the MAKESHIFT conversation here.
Rosanne Cash read her own personal worn stories, and then performed the “crafted” version of ‘Fair and Tender Ladies’. We fully recapped Rosanne’s performance here.
Andrew ended the evening by asking the audience to stay, introduce themselves, and to further the conversations on making. It seems that everyone took it to heart and did just that.
We hope everyone in attendance had a fantastic time, left inspired, will continue the conversations in their own communities, and then return next year to further the process.
Let us know what you think…
From Krrb Blog:
Design Week in New York is coming to a close. There were parties a plenty and more than enough furniture to be seen, sat on, and contemplated curiously while people watching to your heart’s content. We were lucky enough to get in on the action by working with Natalie Chanin of Alabama Chanin on the inaugural run of MakeShift: A Series of Panel Discussions, Workshops, and Conversations for the Fashion and Design Industries.
We opened the week of events last Tuesday with an incredible evening at theStandard Hotel, East. Dubbed “Shifting Thoughts on Design, Fashion, Craft, and DIY” this was anything but your typical panel discussion. The night was highlighted by two performances of “Fair and Tender Ladies” by Rosanne Cash—the first a heart wrenching rendition that showed off Cash’s extraordinary depth and range, the second a tweaked version with some lyrics replaced with suggestions from the audience. The 100 plus in attendance then got to sing the new version themselves, led by Cash. Add in some finger knitting with Natalie Chanin, remarkable stories of DIY success from designer Maria Cornejo andHeath Ceramics owner, Cathy Bailey, and some perspective on the state of the fashion and design industries from NYU professor, Jessamyn Hatcher, the night was, simply put, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
After an Alabama Chanin pop-up shop party held at the Billy Reid showroom on Thursday night featuring the musical marvels of Grammy-nominated Tift Merritt, and a knitting workshop on Friday, we readied ourselves for the main event—at least as far as we were concerned—on Saturday afternoon, “Crafting Design.” For our part, we set about collecting cast-off chairs from Krrb and scouring the streets of New York for broken and busted seating that could be resurrected by attendees.
Partners and Spade provided the space to work and some serious inspiration with their current show of “Children’s Chairs.” Alabama Chanin provided tools and material that would allow attendees to turn the sad and forlorn chairs into pieces ready to once again take center stage in anyone’s home.
With some serious star-studded attendees including Los Angeles-based designersAmy Devers and Tanya Aguiniga, the affair produced some gems that would have been the highlights at any of the many galleries putting their best feet forward during design week.
But we had other ideas. While some attendees took their pieces home, we set Amy and Tanya’s contributions free in the wilds of New York—returned to the streets from whence they came. We are firm believers in what comes around goes around.
The New York Times
From The New York Times:
Pull Up A Chair, Then Fix It
IT’S hard not to get swept up in the excitement of Design Week in New York, when the newest home furnishings are introduced at the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, and related events happen all over town.
But what about all the old furnishings: those forlorn, broken-down pieces that are forgotten, cast off and kicked to the curb, seemingly destined for the landfill?
Not everyone, it turns out, has left them for dead.
Last Saturday, as part of a conference called MakeShift, Natalie Chanin, the founder of the fashion label Alabama Chanin, held a workshop to rehabilitate some of these castoffs at Partners & Spade on Great Jones Street. The event, which she called Crafting Design, was dedicated to resurrecting the bent, twisted and broken remnants of what the poet David McFadden has described as “the most ubiquitous and important design element in the domestic environment”: the chair.
But with New York’s bed bug scare still going strong, finding enough eligible chairs (more than 20, so that every participant would have at least one to work on) was more challenging than anyone anticipated.
Organizers finally decided that while steel and plastic chairs found on the street were fair game, wooden chairs were too risky, and only those found online were accepted as candidates for rehabilitation. Still, by the morning of the event there was a good-size pile for attendees to pick through outside Partners & Spade.
Amy Devers and Tanya Aguiñiga, Los Angeles-based designers who were in New York for the fair, each found a chair within minutes.
“We do this for a living,” said Ms. Aguiñiga, who specializes in furniture and jewelry design. “We know what we like when we see it.”
Inside, hammers, drills, nails and sandpaper were artfully laid out for participants’ use. The 20 or so people who showed up were given only one instruction: that there were no instructions. Even so, seasoned designers like Ms. Aguiñiga and Ms. Devers and several experienced craftsmen were on hand to offer help and advice.
Cathy Bailey, an owner of Heath Ceramics, grabbed a drill and a plastic knockoff Eames chair and calmly set to work on it, weaving a zigzag pattern into the plastic seat using colorful scraps of T-shirt material provided by Ms. Chanin’s studio.
Ms. Aguiñiga quickly dismantled the weathered seat of her wooden chair. Then she grabbed a handful of T-shirt strips and began weaving them through the back of the chair, creating a soft multicolored backrest. For the seat, she used thin rope to provide structural support and then applied a layer of navy-blue T-shirt material on top.
Ms. Devers, a furniture designer and the star of “Fix This Yard” on A&E, was hammering nails into the seat and back of her old Ikea chair, piling T-shirt scraps on top and carefully threading them through the nail bedding, so that the material began to take on the appearance of a colorful shag rug. One lone, loose piece from the back was left to dangle gracefully to the ground.
Soon, two hours had passed, and it was time to assess the results. All the castoff chairs had been restored to life, and some could have held their own at the furniture fair.
But that was not their destiny. Instead, it was decided that they should be returned to the streets where they came from, to pass on inspiration to whomever found them.
And so, at the end of the day, they were back on the sidewalk. Several of them sat on a corner in Chinatown, beside a pile of trash, where curious passers-by could peruse them.
Perhaps some lucky person took them home.