New West Coast Design

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Today, I had the pleasure of stopping by the San Francisco Museum of Craft+Design during the press preview for New West Coast Design: Contemporary Objects, which officially opens tomorrow and runs through April 27. Curated by Kathleen Hanna* and Ted Cohen, the exhibit showcases works from over 50 designers and studios in California, Oregon and Washington (I’m doing my faux-gansta West Coast hand signal to myself as I write this, represent, represent). While there are a few purely decorative pieces, the focus is on functional objects that represent the current trends in the way we West Coasters live, both in and out of doors.

A stroll through this exhibit promises more than eye-candy and cool objects that you’ll end up coveting – it’s a great source of inspiration for anyone who’s interested in design. And while you may find yourself dumbly staring at the skill and craftsmanship before you, thinking thoughts that make you feel embarrassingly dull-witted in comparison (e.g. like, wow, some people have really cool brains…) your creative self will walk away energized. I certainly did.

Here are a few of the pieces that really struck my fancy:

Allison MacLennan’s fabulous jewelry case (something I would venture to say there are not enough of in this world):

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And the inside of the above piece:

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Mike and Maaike chair (it reminds me of a contemporary take on those 60’s egg chairs):

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Lee Miltier‘s deceptively simple, handblown glassware (as Hanna said to me when we were looking at Miltier’s work, “You know what they say, it only takes 20 years and five minutes…” to pull something off like this):

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Bruce Gordon‘s handmade – yes, made by friggin’ hand – bicycle, which won Best of Show 2007 in the North American Handmade Bicycle Show:

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After perusing the exhibit, don’t leave without spending some time in the onsite store. It’s much more than your average museum gift shop. Buyer Raymond McKenzie* was kind enough to show me some of the unique, handmade textiles and accessories they’ve collected from around the country. I had a great time checking out works from Bay Area artisans, including Josh Jakus felt bags, ceramics from Rae Dunn, hand-stitched men’s and women’s scarves by Hiroko Kurihara, felted scarves by Jennifer Giles and jewelry by Ben Neubauer, Thea Izzi and Davide Bigazzi.

If you want to turn a visit to this Union Square-area museum into a full indie adventure, you’ve come to the right block. After a cruise through the museum, head to Hang Art, scoop up woolen wonders from Three Bags Full and peruse the artsy-funky apparel and gifts at Kati Koos. Finish up with a bite at Lori’s Diner or revive with a caffeine infusion from Cafe Espresso and fulfill your retail cravings by scouting for deals at the Designer Consigner.

* Special thanks to Kathleen and Raymond for giving me so much great info during my visit.