‘Works in Progress’, a regrettably brief exhibition taking place at the American Industrial Center in San Francisco’s Dogpatch district until 23 January 2024, is as much about local designers talking to each other as it is about local design – community-building as much as profile-building.
Design in the Bay Area
Bay Area furniture design has long been overshadowed by Silicon Valley’s virtual excellence, but it has always harboured its gems. In recent years, it’s shifted from mass production towards a maker movement and bespoke craftsmanship, from minimalism and simple sustainability towards experiment and eclecticism, experience and storytelling, upcycling and circularity. It has become less niche and more diverse.
Reflecting all of this, ‘Works in Progress’ is an elegantly concise show of 12 pieces by 13 creative studios, co-curated by three designers (from three separate studios), and the first of an indefinite series. Kelley Perumbeti (Office of Tangible Space), Kate Greenberg, and Sahra Jajarmikhayat selected similarly scaled seating pieces by a range of studios, artists, interior designers, and craftspeople. ‘I like to think of each piece as a self-portrait of each designer/studio, encompassing the look and ethos of their practice,’ says Jajarmikhayat.
Greenberg agrees. ‘Everything from proportion and material language to outlook on the world are hidden here in plain sight. The first time we brought these pieces together in one room, it felt like you could set aside any two and they either shared surprising common ground or duelling affirmations.’
Viewing Greenberg and Jajarmikhayat’s collaborative side table, made of glass, next to Prowl Studio’s stool, made from a 3D textile knit from wool and recycled polyester, the materials and forms couldn’t be more different. But both comment on natural phenomena – one, erosion, the other, regeneration after wildfire.
At a glance, furniture artist Caleb Ferris’ wooden stool could be mistaken for melting marble, an endearingly flatfooted version of ball and claw-foot seating. This elegantly cartoonish maximalism offers a striking contrast to design-build studio Fyrn’s luxe-industrial stool, crafted using a proprietary system of replaceable (read: customisable, product life-extending) components.
Art and design collective Studio Ahead worked with textile brand JG Switzer to make its Merino wool stool, which was felted by founder Jessica Switzer herself, using fibre from her own Sonoma County flock. It sits beside a work of ‘nostalgic futurism’ crafted by NJ Roseti, a small windowless building of a stool with a restrained Memphis form and colour scheme.
Woodworker Duncan Oja is influenced by found forms, tree offcuts, tool marks and textures. Ido Yoshimoto (featured in our Wallpaper* USA 300 guide to creative America, and also with a piece in the exhibition ‘100 Hooks’ at JB Blunk Estate, until 11 February) is an artist and arborist who salvages wood and bone and finds inspiration in rot, rust, weathering and growth. Looking at their stools – one rough-sawn charred oak, the other carved from old-growth redwood – you can almost hear the two men sitting down together, drinks in hand.
‘Works in Progress’ is on view until 23 January 2024
American Industrial Center
2345 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94107