Jonah Takagi, formerly a touring musician, founded Atelier Takagi in 2010. His attention to both form and function is evident in his objects as minimalism meets performance. From household items to furniture and even art installations, his work begs to be considered up close and intimately examined for its gentle details and a seamless transition from art to object and back again.
Casey Lurie Studio
Casey Lurie has returned to artistic roots, ditching the reliance on digital techniques and focusing on the raw simplicity of design. Producing furniture and objects that combine the industrial with detailed craftsmanship, his upcoming projects include sunglass designs for Japanese eyewear industries to chair and tables made locally at Lawndale Forge. This collaboration between independent artists and a variety of manufacturers makes Casey optimistic about future design trends. “Chicago has this amazing community of small-scale manufacturers—I think it has something to do with being in the Midwest.” His excitement also manifests in the growing community of designers and thinkers in the area. “I feel like there are more designers staying in Chicago. Students come from all over and they don’t go off to New York or to L.A. or wherever. They’re staying here and there’s a younger energy now.”
Mary Eleanor Wallace
Bringing together a highly curated selection of clothing, prints and design objects, Tusk focuses on locally made pieces that support independent small businesses. In her part boutique, part gallery space, Mary Eleanor Wallace unwinds from her day job as a nurse at a community health clinic on Chicago’s West Side. Diving into creative collaborations with artists and designers around the city, she even indulges herself making ceramics, jewelry pieces and wearable pieces such as denim jackets—which puts Tusk on your list of reasons to do your shopping in the ever-evolving Logan Square neighborhood.
Badass Cross Stitch
“I’ve spent the past fifteen years in Chicago contributing, learning and building community. I love this city,” says Shannon Downey, who blends politics, activism and art into projects that are meant to inspire others to take action, think, discuss, engage with democracy and their community, and to find a balance between digital and analogue. In a word: craftivism. Off to change the world one cross-stitch at a time, Downey will hit the road for a year to take her community art projects on tour to the rest of the country. As for the future? “Chicago is going to be an epicenter for climate refugees in the near future,” she says, hoping that the design community will focus on building community and resilience to prepare Chicagoans for the inevitable future.
Bill Tellmann and Collin Smith
Designers and fabricators Bill Tellmann and Collin Smith take on architectural elements, furniture, lighting and other equipment in their custom design, build carpentry and art studio. “We have made our careers and business out of understanding how to work with metal. Because of this we are equipped to make extraordinary objects, vehicles and structures out of all kinds of metal,” the Active Alloys founders say. “If a part doesn’t exist, we make it. If a new mechanism is required, we invent it. We engineer critical pathways until a product is complete. We learn by doing.”
It all started with a senior thesis at the University of Michigan: Gabriella Meyer designed a conceptual art installation commenting on the democratization of blue jeans. Despite the critics who demeaned her work as “fashion, not art,” Meyer got media attention when she had newspaper stories about sexual harassment in the workplace laser-etched in denim. The capsule collection, entitled “We Wear the Pants,” was featured in a lengthy article in The New York Times. Now with her brand Denimcratic, founded in 2017, Meyer continues to apply socially conscious practices, using handpicked recycled materials and keeping production small. “It’s important to consider the environment and climate we find ourselves in when choosing what we buy and wear,” she says. The self-taught designer prides herself on creating statement pieces that are all produced locally in Chicago.
Reverse engineering is at the heart of Jackson Cavanaugh’s typeface design. “I like to take expressive and interesting ideas and see what happens when I strip away as much as possible. Sometimes there’s just enough personality left over to find my sweet spot.” His foundry-studio’s namesake, “Okay,” is an extra-bold typeface born of Cavanaugh’s process of reimagining. He shares the Okay Type studio with only felines, but he speaks highly of his peers. “Chicago has a lot of great designers just doing their thing. Head down, cranking out amazing work. I’d love to see more collaborations, especially across disciplines.”
One Design Company; AIGA Chicago Chapter
“I see our community breaking down silos of traditional discipline and practice to embrace the truly multidisciplinary approach,” says David Sieren. At the offices of One Design Company, an ever-evolving design consultancy, Sieren leads creative teams as managing director of design and strategy. As co-president of AIGA Chicago Chapter, Sieren works to further development in the design community through organizing workshops, podcasts and distributing awards to the city’s top designers. Sieren also serves on the board of the newly incorporated Chicago Design Week, set for June 2020.
Pleasure. That’s what Leah Ball’s work is all about. Their ceramic wares depicting an image of someone pleasuring themselves is a big hit in their line—a beautiful collection of pipes, vases, mugs and plates that are guaranteed conversation starters. Conversation is also at the core of their work, since Ball facilitates discussions and workshops focusing on queerness, self-exploration and self-acceptance. Amongst those is a sought-after Erotic Plate Painting class, where Ball encourages participants to use “materials sourced from feminist erotica and porn, personal photos and selfies, images from nature, space, the ocean, and poems to compose unique depictions of acts of ritual pleasure—our own erotic language,” they say. “I like to demystify the creative process and give people tools and stories from my own research to show how valuable creative expression is to the human mind and co-existence.”
Alexandria Wills makes shoes from scratch. “All shoes are made by my own two hands in Chicago with traditional shoe-making techniques,” she says, explaining that she works with clients to design unique wearable art that is comfortable, stylish and quality-made. “Shoes and foot health affect so many parts of your body and people are starting to take that into consideration when choosing what shoes to wear,” she says. “I also see greater consciousness toward sustainability. More and more people are questioning where the things they buy come from, who made them, what materials were used, how far it traveled to get to them.” Wills also hosts shoemaking events and creative meetups, bringing her craft closer to the people at a time when fast fashion is taking over the world. “I enjoy sharing my knowledge and the joy of making with the Chicago community,” she says. “I love watching my students walk away with the biggest smiles on their faces as they try on shoes they made with their own hands, for the first time. It is priceless.” But Wills doesn’t stop with shoes. Next to mules, sneakers, boots and lace-ups, you will find tote bags, fanny packs, even pillows. Whether you pop by to shop her custom designs or to attend one of her workshops, one thing is for certain: her Logan Square studio is an experience all its own.
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