Art Design

Rick Salafia’s Wildly Shaped Aluminum Rulers Measure Impractical Proportions

April 19, 2023

Grace Ebert

An aluminum measurement instrument shaped in a circle with a central whole

All images © Rick Salafia

With dramatically bowed edges, coiled shapes, and fragments jutting in opposite directions, Instruments by Rick Salafia defies many standards of measurement. The ongoing series, which currently comprises more than 200 works, disregards the one-foot rectangle in favor of a playfully diverse array of shapes. Semi-circles stretch like a croissant, ends expand into wide, asymmetric forms, and a segment stretching just a few inches breaks free from the rest of the metal tool. While the pieces in Instruments take on impractical shapes and proportions, the individual inked lines and numbers remain relatively uniform, evoking the systemized nature of a typical ruler.

Salafia produced each work in an edition of three and has some available in his shop. You can find more from the series on his site.


An aluminum measurement instrument with segments jutting out on the left and right sides

An aluminum measurement instrument shaped in an angular twist

An aluminum measurement instrument with bowed edges

An aluminum measurement instrument with a central segment appearing to be cut and spliced

An aluminum measurement instrument with wide curved edges

An aluminum measurement instrument shaped like a croissant

An aluminum measurement instrument with crisscrossing lines

An aluminum measurement instrument shaped like a semi-circle

An aluminum measurement instrument with what appears like loose markers




Art Design

A New Book Celebrates the Playful and Imaginative Interpretations of Working ‘Out of the Box’

April 17, 2023

Grace Ebert

A diorama of a four-story building with the top three floors filled with books and shelves and the bottom a large black tank

All images courtesy of Tom Buchanan, shared with permission

A new book from London-based artist and curator Tom Buchanan revolves around what he terms “box art.” Encompassing what has “evolved, been created within, or even escaped from a box,” the 336-page compendium draws together more than 500 assemblages, collections, dioramas, miniatures, and other works that play with and reenvision the limits of the humble container.

Titled Out of the Box, the volume features a wide array of mediums and styles from enchanting paper dioramas by Hari & Deepti to Ben Young’s sleek glass sculptures mimicking pools and seas to Wolfgang Stiller’s charred matchstick figures. The book is organized by the four elements—earth, water, air, and fire—and highlights the narratives that emerge from physically collecting and displaying objects, especially as life becomes increasingly digital. “We live, arrange, watch, and rest in death in boxes, and this collection is a testament to the absurdity and wonder that is life,” Buchanan says.

Out of the Box is published by Eight Books and is currently available in the U.K. Find more from Buchanan on his site.


A book opens to a spread featuring text and two smaller photos of wooden sculptures on the left and a boxy sculpture on wheels with branches emerging from the top on the right

A collection of small blue dots arranged by size in a gradient within a wooden frame

A drawer that opens to reveal smaller wooden and cardboard boxes and some are painted with grave waves

A book spread with the left page saying "earth" and "2" and the right page showing an intricate cut paper forest that's backlit by soft light

A miniature concrete building that reads "hotel" built on a pedestal in front of a parking lot

A book spread with the left page featuring text and three boxy constructions and the right page showing a photo of an orange and white device with an attena

A wooden sculpture on wheels with innumerable rusty nails jutting out

A white frame that gradually expands toward the right. Small figurines are seating inside

Two Out of the Box books, one stacked on top of the other



Art Design

Recycle and Renew: Future Materials Bank Archives Hundreds of Projects that Emphasize Sustainability

April 6, 2023

Kate Mothes

A figure reaching out to touch a canopy made of green plastics.

Katesi Jacqueline Kalange, part of the series ‘Nature Invasion,’ recycled plastic. Photo by Framez and Wavez, Magezi Photography, and Vanessa Mulondo. All images © the artists, courtesy of the Future Materials Bank

Fashion designer Stella McCartney’s latest collection made headlines with a form-fitting jumpsuit composed of iridescent, scale-like sequins made entirely from plant-based compounds. Lauded for her longtime interest in sustainable fashion, the designer collaborated with Radiant Matter, a studio founded by Elissa Brunato dedicated to producing “naturally shimmering biomaterials.” Engineered from renewable cellulose, the biodegradable material provides an environmentally conscious alternative to mass-produced plastics. It’s just one of nearly 400 remarkable projects archived in by the Future Materials Bank.

In 2020, the Jan Van Eyck Academie in The Netherlands saw an opportunity to respond to the global shift toward sustainability. The Future Materials program was established to position “art, design, and other creative practices in relation to the climate crisis, environmental breakdown, and their manifold effects,” tapping into artists’ and designers’ penchant for experimentation. Through researching and proposing renewable alternatives to unsustainable practices, the program aimed to open up discourse and set “a framework that embraces a diversity of practices and allows for a multitude of voices.”


A textile fabric made from plant roots.

Zena Holloway, detail from the series ‘Rootfull,’ root-based textiles. Photo courtesy of the artist

Placing an emphasis on the availability of different materials around the world, the archive showcases substances and resources found in a range of climates and various industrial processes. In Uganda, Katesi Jacqueline Kelange repurposed polyethylene bags, plastic strips, and second-hand clothes to create lightweight woven shelters and costumes for public performances that draw attention to the need to move away from the manufacture of products that rely on fossil fuels.

Ubiquitous yet unexpected organic sources appear in textiles, such as seaweed, human hair, or plant roots. Intricate fabrics made of roots by Zena Holloway (previously), for example, are grown inside beeswax molds; nature does all the work producing the lacy detail. Matter that seasonally sheds onto the forest floor and would normally rot on the ground, like tree bark or pine needles, can be gathered and processed into modern tableware. And items like pendant lamps, vessels, or stools can repurposed from limestone dust or ceramic waste—industrial byproducts—into functional objects.

The Future Materials Lab was launched in collaboration with the Material Futures Masters course at London’s Central Saint Martins and facilitates “an ecologically mindful approach to material choices.” Find out more about the program on the Jan Van Eyck Aademie’s website, peruse the Future Materials Bank for inspiration, and follow on Instagram. You might also like Phillip Lim and Charlotte McCurdy’s sequins made from algae.


A series of vessels and trays made from recycled pine needles.

Gaurav MK Wali, ‘Cheer Project,’ recycled pine needles. Photo courtesy of the artist

A canopy over an exterior stairwell made from recycled plastics.

Katesi Jacqueline Kalange, part of the series ‘Nature Invasion,’ recycled plastic. Photo by Framez and Wavez, Magezi Photography, and Vanessa Mulondo

A textile made from plant roots.

Zena Holloway, detail from the series ‘Rootfull,’ root-based textiles. Photo courtesy of the artist

Two photographs of natural earth pigments sourced from soil.

Leah Fanning, earth pigments made from rocks, soil, and minerals. Photo by Natural Earth Pigments

Three pendant lamps made from 3D printed recycled ceramic waste.

Hanneke de Leeuw, ‘Remake/Reprint Ceramics,’ recycled ceramic waste. Photo by Tessa Spaaij / Coudre Studio

Numerous ceramic tiles with pigments being tested that are made from recycled metals.

Agne Kucerenkaite, ‘Ignorance is bliss’ tile series, recycled metal pigments on ceramic tiles. Photo by Studio Agne

A fabric of biodegradable sequins made from cellulose.

Elissa Brunato, “Bio Iridescent Sequins,” cellulose. Photo courtesy of the artist

Two images of sequins made from cellulose.

Elissa Brunato, “Bio Iridescent Sequins,” cellulose. Photo courtesy of the artist

A stool made from recycled limestone dust.

Sakeb collective, “Kabes stool,” recycled limestone and sawdust. Photo by Haifa Zalatimo / AM Qattan Foundation and Mohammad Sabla

Two images showing hard material that has been made from tree bark to create bowls and platters.

Evelina Kudabaite, ‘GIRIA’ homewares series made from tree bark. Photos by Mantas Astrauskas



Art Design

Global Architecture Rises from Resin Hermit Crab Shells in Aki Inomata’s Consideration of Home and Borders

March 31, 2023

Grace Ebert

A photo of a hermit crab in an architectural resin shell

All images © Aki Inomata, shared with permission

When hermit crabs outgrow their shells, they participate in an encouraging act of resource sharing. The crustaceans line up by size and swap homes, and hopefully, each creature finds an appropriately sized shelter. Options tend to be limited to the shells washed up on shore, unless Tokyo-based artist Aki Inomata is involved.

Since 2009, Inomata has been designing tiny homes for hermit crabs topped with towering skyscrapers, windmills, and churches. Part of an ongoing series titled Why Not Hand Over a ‘Shelter’ to Hermit Crabs?, the 3D-printed resin works resemble urban landscapes and draw similarities between human and animal environments. Inomata’s designs, although not released into the wild, evoke the species’ organic exchanges as a way to consider the evolving nature of home.


A photo of a hermit crab in an architectural resin shell

The artist shares in a statement that the project was born out of her participation in the 2009 No Man’s Land exhibition at the French Embassy in Japan, the final show in the space before the building was demolished. She elaborates:

This work was inspired by the fact that the land of the former French Embassy in Japan had been French until October 2009, and then became Japanese for the following fifty years, after which it will be returned to France…A piece of land is peacefully exchanged between two countries. While it is the same piece of land, our definition of it changes. In the same way, the appearance of hermit crabs changes completely as they exchange shelters. The hermit crabs in my piece, who exchange shelters representing cities of the world, seem to be crossing over national borders.

Now more than a decade since Inomata began the series, the project takes on additional significance given the surge in migration and refugee crises around the world. The array of global architecture allows individuals to seamlessly swap Western streets for Eastern palaces or capacious spaces for dense cities, emphasizing the potential for more communal, cooperative living.

Head to Vimeo to watch the crustaceans scuttle along wearing Inomata’s works, and follow additions to the project on Instagram.


A photo of an architectural resin shell

A photo of a hermit crab in an architectural resin shell

A photo of an architectural resin shell

A photo of a hermit crab in an architectural resin shell

A photo of an architectural resin shell

A photo of a hermit crab in an architectural resin shell

A photo of an architectural resin shell



Art Design

A Monumental Inflatable Installation by Pneuhaus Celebrates Interconnectivity in Vibrant Color

March 28, 2023

Kate Mothes

All images © Pneuhaus, shared with permission

A spectrum of glowing light pulses through 23 inflated columns that ascend from the ground in Pneuhaus’s (previously) new public installation, illuminating an invisible world just beneath our feet. For Grove, the Rhode Island-based design collective drew inspiration from an ancient biological structure known as the mycorrhizal network. Often referred to as the “wood wide web,” the underground system is characterized by a complex symbiotic relationship between certain types of fungi and the roots of trees, enabling them to communicate with one another and share nutrients.

Grove‘s inflatable, branching arches invite visitors to gather and wander through a colorful, forest-like installation, drawing parallels between the web and the support networks communities rely on to nurture unity and growth. “Nature builds in relationships,” Pneuhaus says, “(and) for Grove, we followed that lesson to create a transportive space designed to excite and support community gathering.”

Grove was designed for BLINK Cincinnati to mark the festival’s return following cancellations due to the pandemic. To construct the complex, organic shape, Pneuhaus utilized a unique algorithm inspired by the way slime molds move around in search of food. “Integrating this kind of living logic enabled us to design a form that expresses a truly root-like connectivity,” the team says. They also teamed up with Smooth Technology to incorporate vibrant lighting and interactive animations.

Watch a video below of the collective’s studio process made by Joe Walsh, and explore more on Pneuhaus’s website and Instagram.




Design History

Meticulous Flat Lays of Vintage Toys and Miniatures Celebrate the History of Play and Design

March 22, 2023

Grace Ebert

A flat lay photo of miniature toy hands and stickers of hands

All images © Jane Housham, shared with permission

“There’s a feeling I remember which has to do with the seriousness of play, when you were completely absorbed in playing a game with your toys and fully believed in the world you’d created, and it really mattered,” Jane Housham says. “I look longingly back at that imaginative space.”

A writer, artist, and self-described accumulator, Housham continually returns to the engrossing joys of childhood through a vast collection of found objects. Stickers and plastic doll hands, a pantry of non-perishable goods, and a menagerie of animals on wheels are the catalysts for her flat lays. Precisely categorized by color, shape, or theme, each composition highlights the varied styles, functions, and contexts of similar items and becomes a useful and approachable entry into the history of design. “If I’ve acquired a new (to me) little object, that often nudges me to revisit the category it belongs to—a new tiny seahorse or radio will subtly alter the pre-existing set, and the arrangement is always fresh in any case. Seahorses and radios are particular favourites of mine,” she says.


A flat lay photo of miniature red objects

Housham’s mother was a dollhouse enthusiast and passed on her love of miniatures, which inspired the artist to keep a box of treasures as a child that she would frequently sort and arrange. That early experience is the root of her current practice, which is the result of rummaging through massive stores—she estimates there are thousands of objects in her possession at the moment—of vintage toys and tiny items.

Because many of the pieces in her collection are antiques and sourced secondhand, sometimes they’re rusty, scratched, or broken, and a considerable number are made from plastic. Housham adds:

I’m not really interested in new plastic things as I don’t want to encourage the continued spewing out of unnecessary plastic bits and pieces, but I like to save old plastic toys and other secondhand bits and bobs and to celebrate their colours and the ingenuity of their design. Although it’s now understood to be so bad for the world, plastic was a beautiful material in its heyday.

Housham shares a trove of miniature finds and color-coded compositions on her Instagram, Found and Chosen, and sells prints of the flat lays on Etsy. As she amasses more objects and engages with the childhood curiosity and imagination she so deeply values, she does find herself asking one recurring question: “Where will all this collecting end, I wonder?”


A photo of vintage miniature pantry items

A photo of plastic animals on wheels

A photo of vintage pink and blue toys and objects

Four photos of flaty lays featuring miniature animals, figures on bikes, tiny scissors, and cobalt plastic toys

A photo of a shelf of organized vintage objects