Interview: Alec Coiro
With Next Level a group of likeminded designers grabbed themselves a space in NoHo and took design week into their own hands. The result is more than a collection of furniture on display; the show exudes joie de vie and the sort of whimsy that one only finds in art. A lot of old Ravelin favorites are included, including Fort Standard. We had the chance to speak with one of the designers, Jamie Israelow, about how the project came to be.
Is there a philosophy that undergirds the co-curation approach?
The co-curation is something that comes from a naturally occurring camaraderie and community in the New York design world. Since we all share resources and spaces and work alongside one another frequently, there is a lot of natural synergy with all of our work. When we sought out work from designers and artists participating in Next Level we asked them only to send us images of work that really is elevated to the “next level.” As in, not just what you normally do or might show elsewhere. It has to be their best, that they are most proud of, work that indicates the designer really pushed him/herself to the edge of what they’re capable of. Thinking here specifically of Patrick Weder’s cast concrete pieces. He is working with materials that people are used to seeing, but not at all in the way he is using them. His technique is definitely “next level.” Kin and Company’s work also comes to mind immediately in epitomizing this concept. In talking with co-founder Joe Vidich of Kin and Company, I learned that he and Kira were not afraid to try sparkles in their one of their finishes, knowing it could look amazing or it could be cheesy. Of course it ended up amazing.
Why do you think it’s important to blur the line between art and design?
The blurring of the line between art and design is a common thread throughout most of our work. We’d all be really bored if we were only designing objects. Having an artistic element to what we do means making the world a more interesting place to inhabit. We value blurring this line because a lot of us have artistic backgrounds and so art has always been a part of our practice while design has brought our work into the functional realm. Asher studied sculpture before getting a degree in architecture. Furniture is the clear connection between those two realms, and every object he makes is informed as much by form and idea as it is by function. Shanan (of Eskayel) has a background in painting and translates that aesthetic into rugs and objects that make a space more enjoyable to live in. Jamie (of Hart textiles) has a previous career in photography and uses her understanding of light, space and composition to inform her use of materials and forms and how they interact with space. Tamika (of Here Projects) has a thriving art practice, turning anything she touches into art, but she also has the drive and vision to connect design and art to the world around her. Patrick has a background in sculpture that has led to curiosity and experimentation with materials and forms.
How did the designers who started “Next Level” know each other previous to the project?
We knew each other through the design events and shows we all participate in, from knowing each other’s work and socializing during the design events in New York and Milan. We also have worked together and helped each other out – shared trade show booths, used each others spaces for photoshoots and collaborated in some cases on actual work. The organizers also happen to be three couples that work together. The story of how we each met our spouse is a lot longer…
All of the pieces achieve a sort of precision mixed with the whimsical which creates a nice juxtaposition between function and luxury object.
How did you settle on the “Next Level” venue?
The venue was a serendipitous opportunity that actually spawned the whole idea of Next Level. Though we had been talking about the idea of doing our own pop-up galleries during design week for years, we hadn’t actually pursued it until this year. So when we got the space and then were motivated to do something that would justify its incredible size and location.
Is there a common aesthetic that you think the designers involved share?
There is a common thread of reverence for materials and craftsmanship that runs throughout all the work. All of the pieces achieve a sort of precision mixed with the whimsical which creates a nice juxtaposition between function and luxury object.