design shows

disappointment design: firstop 2004

by Grace Bonney

i hate to admit it, but brooklyn let me down. the design community here has always kept me on my toes, wanting for nothing in the way of great, innovative design- but this weekend things were different. with the exception of a few studios, this weekend’s firstop design festival in williamsburg was a lackluster display of disjointed themes, designs and trends. a few interesting patterns emerged, but for the most part i was left wishing i’d taken a more leisurely brunch at relish with my favorite politico.

porcelain mockups of “throwaway” consumer products were everywhere. along with bent ply (ugh), porcelain casts of everything from styrofoam cups to hostess cupcakes lined the shelves of williamsburg studios and stores alike. the trend wasn’t entirely without merit, but was so overwhelming that i fear i’m already behind in declaring it painfully overexposed. miri mizrahi’s porcelain “styrofoam” cups at the future perfect were cute, but a bit tiring after awhile. light-hearted pieces like jason miller’s porcelain hostess cupcake were amusing, but to me, signify the end of the trend. i mean, do we really need a porcelain version of everything? after awhile it just feels like overpriced tchotchke.

(i’m aware that lorena barrezueta’s gourmet dish collection at the future perfect is also one of the products of porcelain mania, but i find her works have less to do with kitsch that they do with art or, at the very least, functional pieces of dishware.)

silver and gold were still a hit (see piet houtenberg’s grenade oil lamps at the future perfect), but in the end the stand out pieces weren’t part of a larger trend you could feel throughout the event. (i understand the show didn’t have to have a unified trend, but what i would have liked to feel was a sense that all of the designers were taking bold new steps in interesting directions. perhaps this was poor timing on the show’s part, but to me it felt as if the designer’s just weren’t hitting their marks yet).

on an up-note, the emergence of felt as a key element in design schools is starting to spread to brooklyn and i’m pleased to say this trend has endless possibilities and a wide range of creative implications. not jut felt but recycled fabrics, paper products and eco-friendly design materials seemed to be just below the surface at firstop. bettencourt wood’s green building ideas (also seen in their scrapile line by colleen smiley) were a welcome change and one i hope continues to grow. also, on a totally unrelated note, matt dilling’s neon chandelier at the future perfect was fantastic. dilling works at lite brite neon which has quite an impressive portfolio and list of clientele.

all in all, this past summer’s living spaces show in williamsburg was the better showing of brooklyn talent. in spite of this weekend’s blah showing, i’m not giving up on my home turf- and hope you guys don’t either. keep your eyes on stores like citizen-citizen, the future perfect and the yarn tree for brooklyn brilliance, it’s bound to happen soon and i think this show was simply the result of poor timing.

LITE BRITE [neon chandelier*matt dilling] matt dilling is a neon god. check out his website and see why.

MORE? [porcelain styrofoam cups*miri mizrahi] cute but sort of eh? porcelain cast styrofoam cups.

FELT UP [recycled felt chair*bettencourt wood] a sign of things to come…i hope

MORE PLEASE [felt cushioned crate stool*future perfect] i’d like more of this, although less gray and orange, please.

TIME FOR FELT [felt clocks*yayo designs] felt clox. nuff said.

SILVER AND GOLD AGAIN [grenade oil lamps*piet houtenbos] metallic faux-grenades at the furture perfect.

WAX COOL [all wax candles*citizen:citizen] they melt all the way down. so cool.

ECO WOOD [table and chair set*bettencourt wood] gorgeous wood. comfort judges are still out…

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  • hey beautiful,

    first – thanks for keeping up with an amazing ‘blog. always on my daily check for a new read or a re-read.

    second – i agree with your post. i found it more interesting to watch all the people running around rather than looking at the same thing at different stores. i know brooklyn is more creative than that, so we went towards the clothing and music.

    keep up the great work!

  • thanks a lot speck– i agree that the show really lacked something, but i’m glad both of us could enjoy the people watching and enjoy the day in wburg. thanks for stopping by my blog- hope to hear your thoughts again…


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