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It was a tragedy when this cover for a Canadian magazine (name changed to protect the innocent) was rejected.
Given carte blanche to design a special edition cover in red, black and silver, this was my intended design. The job was killed part way through, but I liked it so much I decided to finish it.
Very simple ... an illustration for the Contents page of the October issue of Fast Company.
Wallpaper* Magazine asked me once again to be a part of their exhibit at the Salon del Mobile in Milan this year. They approached me to apply graphics to a Laser Sailboat.
It just so happens, I’ve always wanted a Laser.
I decided to avoid the obvious of working with organic forms to go with wind, water etc., and instead work deliberately against those forms. I wanted to make something that was incredibly distinctive in the water, and which would disguise its speed and versatility. To create an optical illusion of sorts, of something that looked like it didn’t belong in the water at all, much like the cubist patterns of WWI & WWII “dazzle” naval camouflage.
This is the finished boat, and the photo as it ran in the August 2010 “Handmade” issue of Wallpaper*. The photo is by Benedict Redgrove.
I worked with Sarah Douglas at Wallpaper*, James Lund Lack at Laser Performance, Alastair Goodall at Inchmere Design in the UK, and John Brooks at Hyde Sail in the Philippines.
And here’s the transom:
The sail, being a one-off*, was hand painted:
And here is someone in the UK taking it for a spin on a sad little English day before it was shot for Wallpaper. (Thanks to James Lund Lack for the photos.)
But here’s the good news! YOU CAN BUY ONE! Wallpaper is making a limited edition of 12, each for the small sum of £10,000. How can you resist? Order yours from Wallpaper* now!
It’s been making some … er … waves in the sailing community, too.
For the New York Times Week in Review, I created this illustration as a response to the following summary:
“In many ways Ringo turning 70 and celebrating by playing radio city is exactly the kind of counterpoint that gerontologists like Robert Butler, who died this week, dreamed of when they first talked about “ageism” forty years ago. It shows the world that elderly people can be creative, vibrant, active. At the same time, the pressure is increased, which Butler also talked about: to “successfully age,” we think we have to be active. The stories we hear are at two poles, it’s either early onset Alzheimers or the skydiving 92 year old. The pressure is particularly acute in the 70s, which is now thought of as the time just after you retire. In fact, life expectancy is still in the 70s.”
And a closer look …
This illustration was made to accompany an article in The New York Times about the word “So”. Picking up from this line in the article:
And “so” suggested a kind of thinking that appealed to problem-solving types: conversation as a logical, unidirectional process, proceeding much in the way of software code — if this, then that.
I decided to create a pattern out of the words “IF THEN” and then pick “So” out of that pattern.
I’m a big fan of the band The National, so when I got a call to do a gig poster for them, I was very excited. This wasn’t to be a poster that would hang on the streets, but would be more of a commemoration of the event, for sale at one concert only: at the Wiltern in LA. I’ve never been to The Wiltern, but I’ve admired the building from the street and I knew it by name. It’s a beautiful Art Deco building, and while I didn’t want to do a Deco poster, I did want to reference the geometry somehow.
But also, I was thinking about how it would be dark in there, and maybe hard to see. Thinking about concerts, etc., I decided to make a poster that was actually 3 posters in one. By using Black, Flourescent pink and Glow-in-the-dark inks, I made a poster that would look one way in daylight (above), another way in Black Light (or ultraviolet light):
and different again in the dark:
The poster was screen-printed by Delicious Design League; great poster designers in their own right.
For this year’s Salon del Mobile in Milan, the highly inventive, active and innovative company droog decided to buy various lots of remaindered items from liquidation sales, and then offered the batches of unusual things to 14 designers to transform in some way. Things like glassware and safety vests and dog baskets and wooden spoons … none of it particularly nice, so it was a challenge.
From the lot I chose 2 items: a single wooden table, and 80 wooden folding chairs.
For the folding chairs, well, I had this wacky idea. I had just had my fingernails done in LA for the first time, and I was fascinated with how quickly and nicely the manicurist put designs on my nails. So I proposed to droog that we get 80 manicurists and get one each to decorate a chair. Incredibly, they went for it. In the end there were only 4 or 5 manicurists, but still.
This is the first time ever that I have done something that was only concept, in which I designed nothing, and touched nothing with my actual hands.
These were my instructions:
bright colours: pink, red, yellow, etc.
opaque colours: white or nail polishes with a lot of white in them: light blues, greens, etc.
neon colours (a whole chair in neon colours would be cool: it would glow in blacklight!!)
metallic colours: the more shiny-metallic they are, the more they will stand out on the dark surface. Silver, copper, glitter .. .I have found that even metallic dark greens and blues look quite good.
They can choose a colour “theme” or make it multi-coloured.
I’m not looking for works of art. Keep the designs simple and easy to make.
Flowers are very easy to make: 3- , 4-, and 5-petaled flowers
or little grasses, stars, abstract things with shapes and dots (I like this a lot).
Maybe there is some design they have learned that they are good at: a little butterfly or ladybug or something. Whatever they are, they should be small and simple, as though they were done on a fingernail … but there will be lots of them. I would prefer that they pick one or two little designs and just do that over and over, over the surface of the chair. Something they get good at and can do quickly and easily. NO big design pictures, no scenes or designs that would not fit on a finger nail … it should look pretty and delicate.
The Centraal Museum Utrecht bought one of these chairs, but droog still has a lot. The plan is to ship them to the droog store in New York, I believe, where they will be for sale, and more will be made.
Photos by Stefanie Grätz, courtesy of droog.
Wooden folding chairs
OK, for this year’s Salon del Mobile in Milan, the highly inventive, active and innovative company droog decided to buy various lots of remaindered items from liquidation sales, and then offered the batches of unusual things to 14 designers to transform in some way. Things like glassware and safety vests and dog baskets and wooden spoons … none of it particularly nice, so it was a challenge.
From the lot I chose 2 items: a single wooden table, and 80 wooden folding chairs.
For the table I had the idea that I wanted to print an overt “call to action” message on the table. Droog items can be pretty expensive so I imagined someone with quite a lot of disposable cash, and what it is I wanted to say to them … how I might possibly be able to influence them or their guests.
So the table says “Get up from this table and go make a contribution to Doctors Without Borders. Donate enough that it hurts a little. Then come back to this table and enjoy your meal. Really, really enjoy your meal.”
(Choosing DWB as a charity was a tough call. I like what they do, but I hate the awkwardness of their name. Oh well.)
But no one likes to have an overt message in their face all the time, so it’s disguised as an attractive pattern. This way, I imagine visitors coming over for dinner, looking at the table, figuring out what it says, and then, yes, maybe … do you think they might …?
However, on the first day of the Salon, the Centraal Museum Utrecht bought one of everything in the droog collection … and there was only one table. So, now it’s in a museum, which is great, but it kindof defeats the dining purpose of the message.
Stay tuned however, for possibly more editions of the table.
Images courtesy of droog. Top image by Stefanie Grätz.
Maharam is a very high end fabric company, mostly for the trade (architects, interior designers) with “a strong focus on new technologies and cultural markers, often finding inspiration beyond the textile industry, including collaborations with avant-garde industry outsiders.” That would be me.
After wanting to work with them for several years, I have now been working with them on some things for about a year, some of which are not ready to be revealed. But these are: from Maharam Digital Projects, their new collection of wall coverings.
So far there are 3 designs of mine to choose from.
This is an old pattern of mine, which I revived and perfected for this project. I confess I was doubtful about the application, but clearly they know more about these things than I do because it looks terrific!
2) Pattern Plaid
This is a plaid in which not only do the colours cross at the intersections but little pattern units do as well. It’s bright and cheery.
This bird is one I drew years ago which has also been resurrected and patternized for the wallpaper. Giant, scrolly birds.
To see these on the Maharam website, or to order them, go to the Maharam Virtual Library and click on the binder (currently on far left) called Maharam Digital Projects, and then click on the index at top right, and scroll though to find mine. But be forewarned, you’ll probably get to the ones by Karel Martens and forget all about me and order his for your entire house. Not to mention all those other fabulous designs that I wish I had a palace for.
Photos courtesy of Maharam.
Chip Kidd recommended me for this project to do a poster for the Academy of American Poets to promote April as National Poetry Month. I worked with Christina LaPrease and Tree Swenson on this (interestingly I used to do typesetting for Tree, a million years ago), and they gave me several poetry quotes to choose from. I chose, “We make a dwelling in the evening air / In which being there together is enough.” from the poem “Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour,” by Wallace Stevens.
Being a visual person I interpreted this as a romantic space which is both interior and exterior. But Tree knows more about poetry than I do, and in a very kind and complimentary letter to me she said, “You’ve created a most fitting visual pairing for the Stevens excerpt—giving a clear sense of of the ‘intensest rendezvous’ in the poem. The centripedal energy in the poster also gently urges one to go where ‘we collect ourselves,’ as Stevens advises.”
For me, I am happy that 200,000 of these are printed and being distributed to schools across the U.S. Promoting poetry is something I am more than happy to do.
Printed in CMYK + Gold.
This year I had the idea to make my valentines from old Christmas cards.
I solicited my friends to send me all their used Christmas cards, and I started getting exciting envelopes of cards in the mail. Many, many cards. This must be what it’s like to be popular!
I created the design of the heart for laser cutting … I wanted most of the card image to be cut away, but there to be enough left that some semblance of image remained; that you could tell it came from a christmas card.
I then consulted with Arkwel Industries here in Vancouver about the production. They got totally behind the idea, and Nancy Lock and her boss, Bill, also sent me a huge batch of used cards.
The laser cutter is fussy, so then I had to sort the cards, discarding any with multi-layers or glued-on bits, and sorting the rest into card weight, which I did just with a primitive snap-test.
Then I trimmed them so that the heart would fall in the most interesting part of the card.
The final result exceeded my most hopeful expectations.
I simply couldn’t believe how transformed the cards were …
How these cards (most of which were, in their original state, nothing special, or even downright ugly) gained so much more from the process.
How abstracted the designs became.
And how incredibly attached I became to each and every card. They were very hard to give away.
I made about 500, and every single one is different.
Here’s Ed Fella’s card, hanging in his office:
They looked so great all together:
Vector Art / Laser cut
For New York Magazine’s end of decade issue, Chris Dixon asked me to create a full page illustration of the words “The 00s” with the most emphasis on the 00 part. Other people were creating title pages as well, and they would be distributed throughout the magazine to separate the sections.
This piece is officially dedicated to Henrik Kubel, for giving me the idea of working in foil. This assignment conveniently came up shortly thereafter and I was overjoyed with the results. Depending on how I shot it, it reflected colours, had different hues, and was just generally all-round pretty.
This is the one I chose in the end for the mag, because they wanted it to be “punchy.”
However … as it turns out, editorial ran over and many of the title pages didn’t run. Well … it did, as a 1×1.5-inch thumbnail on the contents page.
This time, I was invited, along with 10 other designers (including Milton Glaser, Louise Fili, Neville Brody, Chip Kidd, among others) to design one of 10 special covers for GQ Italia’s 10th anniversary issue.
Of all the things I’ve done recently, this is my favourite. It’s structured, manly yet pretty, n’est-ce pas?
(printed in CMYK + silver)
My good friend Brian Morgan called in a favour to get me to do this cover for The Walrus. I then worked with Kelsey Blackwell toward the final.
They wanted me to illustrate the words “We’re Sorry” relating to a story about the Canadian propensity to apologize, and the troubles that ensue from public apologies for past national crimes. I had hoped to trick them into letting me draw snakes, but just as I was relishing the prospect of a triumphant coup in getting snakes on the cover of a magazine, they nixed that idea. Disappointed but not surprised, I switched to string … or the entanglement of yarn. I don’t think Brian thought I was serious when I suggested a fluffy kitten to go with it, but I was! Alas, no snakes, no kittens.
However, I quite like the way, from a distance this looks like some gruesome viscera … but on closer inspection it reveals itself to be only harmless, friendly yarn.
John Gall at Random House invited me to take part in a project whereby 21 designers are invited to create a cover for reissues of Nabokov’s books … but within the prescribed format of creating a specimen box (Nabokov collected butterflies) with pins and “paper”, to create the cover.
Ten of these new designs are just being issued now, with wonderful covers by Carin Goldberg, Sam Potts, Michael Bierut, Stephen Doyle and the ever-amazing Martin Venezky, among others.
My book was “Transparent Things” so I used the pins to suspend 4 layers of acetate, with dots of transparent ink on each later.
And below is the picture I took of it, in sunlight.
You can view all (or almost all) of the covers here, at Design Observer. (Including a more eloquent description of the project, by John Gall.)
I’ve been doing some work with the fabulous, and famous fabric company Maharam lately … work which is not ready to be shown yet (yet!), but they did use a piece of mine for the cover of their 2010 calendar.
I think you have to be a client of theirs to get this. Sorry.
Emilie Lamy of the design magazine étapes in France, asked me to contribute a piece for their upcoming book celebrating 15 years of the magazine.
She asked me to create something for the 15 years, but also to reflect my process in the piece.
The tiling unit for this piece is a “15”, and the piece then shows how it goes from one little sketch, to a repeated pattern which evolves and changes from left to right. Plus of course, there is a “15” in the larger, resulting image.
David Huyck asked me to contribute something to Vol 1. Edition 3 of his Cloudy Collection, on the theme of “Scarlet Lettering”. Printed letterpress in red plus blind deboss, this is perhaps the most difficult-to-read piece I’ve made yet.
This, along with 6 others by various artists, are for sale at the Cloudy Collection website for $40US (for all 6 incl. free shipping to the US and Canada), with part of the proceeds going to the Nature conservatory.
The original, in pen and ink, is a little easier to read. Sort of. It’s two poems, or odes regarding my complex feelings for a certain individual … though, to make matters worse, there is a typo in one of the lines. Oops.
pen & ink
After attending Design Indaba in Cape Town, South Africa, earlier this year, I was asked to do the cover for the next issue of the Design Indaba magazine. It’s a great conference, by the way, if you ever get a chance to go, do!
For those of you who missed my show at the University Art Gallery of California Polytech State University in San Luis Obispo, Here are some images. There were over 100 pieces shown, including my really bad first video (which looked OK projected on the floor, with the sound off).
Thanks again to everyone who helped put this together; in particular Jeff VanKleeck, who painstakingly drew my grid on pencil on the walls, and hung the show himself; to Charmaine Martinez; and to the students who helped out at the opening and hung the valentine letters from my “LOVE” banner.
Show at California Polytech State University
Jan 9–Feb 20, 2009
Todd Falkowsky of Motherbrand in Toronto approached me to design a … a … well, see, there’s this machine that squishes pennies, just like we used to do on the railroad tracks when we were kids (only it’s safer) and it has the ability to impress a new image into the penny, turning the penny into an oval copper thing. So Todd wanted to get 4 designers to make designs for this machine, and then set the machine out somewhere and give the proceeds (I think it costs $2, plus the penny) to an art studio for street youth.
I just liked the idea of squishing pennies … though, isn’t there a law against this? Doesn’t it come under “defacing the queen” or something?
Anyway, So I thought about what one might conceivably want to have on a copper thing that might mingle with your change in your pocket. Ultimately I decided on “Empathy”, because really that’s all the world needs is a whole lotta empathy, and I imagined that you might look at that Empathy penny from time to time and it might actually influence how you viewed a situation.
Then, for the design, I was interested in putting the “round” back in the distorted penny. Or maybe I’m just into circles right now (yes.)
Where can you get this? Only one location: at the Design Exchange in Toronto.
The three other designers were Douglas Coupland, Burton Kramer and Paul Butler, so if you want my design, make sure you turn the dial to the right position!
Vector Art / Copper
I am tardy at getting this piece up, because the issue is now almost off the stands. My good pals Mark Mushet and Gudrun Will asked me to design the cover for their 20th issue.
Don’t ask me why I envisioned a rubbery, bubble-gummy “20” in pink and blue … maybe because the magazine is anything but?
Anyway, Happy 20th, VR!
Way back in November, Flaunt magazine asked me to do the cover for their 10th Anniversary, I decided to do an oil painting of the whole cover and this was it.
They loved it! And then there was an edtorial change and they couldn’t use it. Shit happens.
Magazine Cover (not printed
My 2009 valentines were a bit of a departure in a number of ways. They were more “conceptual” than previous years. Where previously I sent a nice or pretty something that was either straight forward or easy enough to figure out, this one is a bit more mysterious. This year I wrote 4 fragments of letters; each has no beginning and no end; and each is carefully crafted to hopefully have some resonance with most people. Each recipient got one fragment.
My expectation is that the first, predominant feeling would be confusion. I neither addressed nor signed the letters (though the mailing label said “Happy Valentine’s Day from Marian Bantjes”). They look like they could be an original, by hand. Is this meant for the recipient? Is it from Marian Bantjes? Did Marian forget part of it? Or is it some kind “found fragment”? The prose is over the top, in that love-letter kind of way … yeah, you might say it’s purple.
My hope is that the recipient will read the letter at least twice; and that on 2nd or 3rd readings they will find something in it for them, something that makes them believe that somehow through unknown means, I have known something about them all along.
Happy Valentine’s Day (belated).
... also written up on Eye Magazine’s Blog.
Pen & Ink
Michael Bierut at Pentagram hired me to draw some thistles for a new mark for Strathmore Papers. I did various versions, all designed to work as repeating patterns as well, and this was the one they chose.
Katie Barcelona, at Pentagram, worked on these ream wraps with Michael … I think there’s more stuff to come.
I am having the first show of my work at the University Art Gallery (Dept. Art and Design) of California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California, from Jan 9–Feb 20, 2009.
Oddly enough, this is the first time I’ve made a poster for myself. I originally planned to make the whole thing in fun fur, but it didn’t work out so well, so I used scraps of fun fur, including making my name … which turned an elegant hand-drawn script into something that looks a lot like a tarantula. I threw in some patterning, some vector art, some pencil drawings, including a sketch for the poster itself and a little drawing of me, and the result is kindof a mix of what I’ve done in the past plus what I’m interested in in the future. It’s precise, and a little odd, and a little funny … I hope.
The show itself has over 100 pieces, including some video, 25 or so original drawings, some paintings, posters, photos, etc.
Big, big thanks to Jeff VanKleeck, who invited me to have the show, and who is working his ass off to get it ready.
I’ll also be speaking at CalPoly on Jan 16th, 2009.
Oh, yeah … details typeface is H&FJ’s Acropolis. One of my faves.
Vector, Fun-fur, pencil
Last year Saks commissioned me to draw 25 snowflakes for their 2008 Christmas season. (I delivered a few extras.) Working with the marvellous Terron Schaefer once again, he encouraged me to be very loose and varied in my approach. I spent a number of days, sitting on my couch, in July, drawing snowflakes.
I drew some like feathers, like antlers, with little people, one made all of houses, some like sparkly lights, a hairy one, a few like ribbons, some were complex and three dimensional, others simple and flat …
You know how it is, you do some work for something that won’t be realized for over a year, and you kindof forget about it. It’s not that I forgot, exactly, it just that I forgot what Saks does with things after I hand them over! And now the season of magic is upon us, and the snowflakes have been launched, and are turning up on bags and ads and catalogues and hats and … well, have a look:
The front and back of one of the catalogues (above and below):
Another catalogue showing the snowflake hat:
I supplied drawings, but they have been transformed into all sorts of other materials:
A page from the catalogue shows the boxes:
The bags, outside and inside … :
But get a load of this. They commissioned jewellers to make one-of-a-kind pieces based on some of the snowflakes:
More about the jewellery, here.
And I will be going to New York in mid-December and will return, I hope, with more pictures from the store.
View the Saks catalogue online, here. (Not sure how long that link will work: maybe not after Dec. 25 2008?)
pencil & pen drawings
July 2007 / November 2008
I can’t really take any credit for this. When I drew the snowflakes for Terron Schaefer at Saks Fifth Avenue last year, I didn’t know what, ultimately they would be doing with them all. But I was excited when he said they had commissioned different jewellers to interpret some of the drawings into jewellery. And I was super excited when I saw the results.
So here are the drawings and the pieces that were made from them:
This pendant, by Chopard, is one of my favourites: $77,200
And then this brooch, by Vendorafa, a very different—and faithful—interpretation of the same drawing, for a mere $17,750
Then, (this, by the way, was Terron’s favourite snowflake)
Interpreted as a brooch by Utopia, for $44,000
But the prettier version by Faraone Mennella, will cost you $64,000
My antler-snowflake …
Spawned this pendant by Marco Bicego, $27,230:
But I prefer the red enamel necklace by Roberto Coin, and the least expensive of them all at $12,500
Then, I was most impressed how the shading in this unspectacular little snowflake …
was faithfully interpreted by Gurhan, in this necklace for $32,800
This drawing looks like an unlikely pick …
but Dominique Cohen did an amazing job with it with these earrings (earrings!!!) for $55,000
Another weirdo drawing
And another great interpretation by Graff, a pendant for $38,000.
A rather nice drawing, if I do say so myself
and a very expensive ($81,600) pendant by Kwiat
The last I’m not sure of … tentatively this drawing is the inspiration … either that or they went off and did their own thing …
Temple St. Clair’s pendant for $17,500.
And if you really loved me you’d buy them all for me. Or at least the earrings. Pleeeease?
July 2007 / November 2008
This one of my favourite pieces so far.
R-Wines, from Australia, wanted a poster with the names of all of their suppliers, to give to them as a present.
I drew 30 grapes, of different varieties (who knew they were so colourful?) each hiding a letter of the alphabet. But then I had to place them … a total of approximately 2,130 grapes!
Here’s a detail:
This is a groovy isometric patterned cover I did for the “Signs, Symbols, Ornaments” issue of the German mag Slanted.
Oddly, something happened when the file was processed. The red (now pink) overprinted instead of knocking out … or is it the black? Anyway, my original design is below, but I’m not sure which i prefer.
And here’s the front and back cover together (before it was printed):