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Rhode Island School of Design Presents Risk and Certainty in Uncertain Times During Milan Design Week and International Contemporary Furniture Fair


 RISD Department of Furniture Design alumni showcase work curated by RISD President John Maeda at Ventura Lambrate Milan and WantedDesign NYC


The exhibition Risk and Certainty in Uncertain Times, curated by Rhode Island School of Design President John Maeda,features work by RISD Department of Furniture Design alumni, demonstrating how RISD students transform their educational experience into successful professional practices. The exhibit will be on view during Milan Design Week at Ventura Labrate and during International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF) 2013 at WantedDesign.  

Ventura Lambrate

Via Privata Oslavia 7

Milan, Italy

April 9–13 | 10 am – 8 pm / April 14 | 10 am – 6 pm

opening reception: April 10, 8–10 pm


The Tunnel, 669 West 11th Avenue – Booth B19

New York, NY

May 18–20 | 10 am – 7 pm

press preview: May 17 | 5 pm – 7pm by appointment only

The furniture, lighting and product design in the exhibit express various concepts and points of view and have been either mass-produced by established manufacturers, batch-produced or made by the designers themselves.

I spend many of my days at RISD trying to relearn what I thought I knew about design; I spend others sharing what I have learned with the rest of the world. Anything I can say about design to CEOs and government officials is far eclipsed by showing the work of our alumni in the traditional form of an exhibition – as presented here in both Milan and New York City,” said RISD President John Maeda, curator of Risk and Certainty in Uncertain Times. “As a whole, this work reenergizes the importance of making (whether by hand or machine or computer) and thinking (whether materially-based or historically-based or culturally-based) and epitomizes what critical making can achieve for design in this century. We invite all visitors to this show to rejoice in this new generation of critical makers.”

“The alumni Furniture Design work on display showcases the strength of a RISD education, which values in-depth material exploration and critical thinking to create highly resolved objects,” added RISD Department of Furniture Design Associate Professor Lothar Windels.

Risk and Certainty in Uncertain Times will feature the work of RISD Furniture Design alumni, including:

1       Tanya Aguiniga MFA 2005

Humpback Chair, 2012

The Humpback Chair is a continuation of the Chiapas Animal Series inspired by small wool animals made by Mayan women in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico. The abstracted animal form was hand-carved and upholstered with contrasting fabrics to accentuate its two halves. The fabrics are joined with a traditional Mayan embroidery motif, visually alluding to an animal’s spine.

2      Ben Blanc, MFA 2004

24K Bowl, 2011

The 24K Bowl is formed with welded steel rods and plated with 24-karat antique gold. The intersecting lines create distinct geometric patterns depending on the angle at which they are viewed.

3       Vivian Chiu BFA 2011

Pixel Chair, 2011

The Pixel Chair is made of maple cubes laminated together in a brick pattern. The project transforms the archetype of a chair into seemingly digital pixels, creating a trompe l’oeil effect.

4       Annie Evelyn MFA 2007

Squishy Sticks, 2011

The Squishy Sticks chair is part of a larger body of work that uses hard materials to create soft upholstered surfaces. This design combines traditional upholstery techniques with unconventional upholstery materials.

5       Debra Folz MFA 2010

XStitch Stool, 2012

The XStitch Stool utilizes perforated steel as a canvas for more than 40 hours of hand embroidery work. Investing substantial handwork into industrially produced materials can yield an object that blurs the line between mass produced and one of a kind.

6       Tyler Inman BFA 2006

Steel Horse, 2012

The structure and aesthetic of Steel Horse is as direct as possible: It ships flat and assembles with a single screw on each end, making the minimalist hardware its most prominent detail. 

 7      Misha KahnBFA 2011

Pig Bench, 2012

Pig Bench utilizes manmade materials representing the persistence of vernacular furniture in the rapidly changing American midwest, where Wi-Fi  coexists with log cabins. It juxtaposes the minimalism of log cabin furniture with creative chemistry experiments.

8       Conor KleinBFA 2010


Ashtray features 20 cavities for cigarette butts. It serves as a registry of the past and offers a pragmatic design that helps both organize your butts and remind you that you’re smoking too much.

9       Daniel Michalik MFA 2004

3/1 Chair, 2011

The 3/1 Chair represents simplicity and material efficiency. A cast block of recycled cork forms the seat, which holds the legs and back firmly in place through flexibility and high friction. The chair packs flat and no adhesives or hardware are necessary for assembly; the user simply pushes the components together. The 3/1 Chair is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian’s Renwick Gallery of American Craft.

10      Josh Owen MFA 1997

WC Line, 2012,

The WC Line (produced by Kontextur and recognized with the 2012 Chicago Good Design Award) consists of a plunger with a storage dish, a toilet brush with a storage vessel and a waste bin. The design uses functionality and performance as the primary measures to define beauty. Based on circular footprints, these items relate to one another naturally in many configurations, never looking out of alignment in their setting. All items in the line are washable and made to last. 

11      Josh Owen MFA 1997

Menorah, 2010,

Traditional in construction and modern in conception, the Menorah (produced by Areaware and now in the permanent collection of the National Museum of American Jewish History) is elegant and functional. The incorporated plate catches the drippings from the candles and provides a safe resting place for a used match. It is made of solid cast iron, which provides the reassuring heft and solidity expected of a trusted household tool.

12      Josh Owen MFA 1997

SOS Stool, 2008,

The SOS Stool (produced by Casamania) blurs typological boundaries that define the acts of sitting, holding and carrying. The two elements attached to the seat can be used as cup or wineglass holders, handles or hooks. The top surface features a rim, which allows it to be used as a tray. The SOS Stool is included in the permanent design collections of Centre National d’Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Philadelphia [PA] Museum of Art and the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montreal.

13      Matthias Pliessnig BFA 2003

Thonet No.18, 2007

Thonet No. 18 reinterprets Michael Thonet’s classic bent wood chair design, which had a tremendous impact on simplifying the manufacturing process of furniture in the late 19th century. To create the piece, Pliessnig has ferociously wrapped the chair with steamed, unsanded, unfinished white oak strips until it is no longer usable. An ode to the simplicity of the Thonet chair, this new interpretation questions superfluous design. 


14      Scot Bailey MFA 2012

          Taylor McKenzie-Veal MFA 2012

          Ian Stell MFA 2012

          Yumi Yoshida BFA 2011

Granoff Sofa, 2013

The Granoff Sofa is a flexible seating system designed for a multitude of spaces. In its complete arrangement, it forms a sofa that can accommodate four individuals. The sofa can be easily pulled apart to become three independent pieces of furniture.

15      Charles Brill BFA 2006

             Theo Richardson BFA 2006

             Alexander Williams BFA 2006

Branch Double Floor Lamp, 2010

The warm light of Branch Double Floor Lamp(produced by Rich Brilliant Willing) filters through perforated metal shades that are attached to bent plywood branches and connected to a central hub. A variety of configurations suitable for residential needs can be achieved by using different modular components.

16      Ian StellMFA 2012

Femten Chair, 2010

With a number of elements that pivot around a central plane, the Femten Chair can assume several configurations and be turned inside out. It can also fold completely flat to create an abstract image.

17     David Wiseman BFA 2003

Tufted + Facet Vase, 2012

The Tufted + Facet Vase is part of a bronze vase series exploring form and texture. Drawings of faceted glacial landscapes evolved into three-dimensional objects. Each individual object highlights and refines the processes of faceting, tufting, carving, scarring, patinating and polishing.

 18     Hyun Yoo MFA 2006

Terra Cotta Vessels, 2010,

Inspired by simple, utilitarian terra cotta herb pots, Terra Cotta Vessels (produced by OOM) feature a streamlined design and thin, delicate walls. The contrast between the clear, glossy finish on the inside and the smooth outer surface transforms these vessels into sophisticated objects.

About Rhode Island School of Design

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) has earned a reputation as the world’s preeminent college of art and design. Founded in 1877, RISD includes the College and the Museum of Art which houses a world-class collection of works spanning from ancient times to the present. Degree offerings include 16 undergraduate and 17 graduate programs in fine arts, architecture and design, and art education.

Approximately 2400 students and 350 faculty and curators comprise a community drawn from more than 44 countries. The mission of RISD, through its college and museum, is to educate its students and the public in the creation and appreciation of works of art and design, to discover and transmit knowledge and to make lasting contributions to a global society through critical thinking, scholarship and innovation.

About the RISD Department of Furniture Design

The Department of Furniture Designeducates students in a broad range of design areas delineated as FORM – furniture, objects, research and materials. Students develop their ability to conceptualize and realize their vision by designing and building objects to scale using a wide variety of materials. Through the department’s sequenced curriculum, they investigate emerging challenges posed by technology, materials, economic and ecological conditions and changes in societal patterns.

About Ventura Lambrate

The Salone del Mobile is the most important design & furniture fair in the world. Every April, it announces the start of the new design year.In 2010, Organisation in Design succeeded in the realization of their new project: Ventura Lambrate, a new area for design in Milan, during the period of the Salone del Mobile. Ventura Lambrate offers the new and exciting possibilities which the design world asked for. The main focus is on: creativity, quality, experimentation, and content. Ventura Lambrate shows renowned established designers, emerging young designers, creative labels, interesting initiatives, small surprises and exciting presentations. With Ventura Lambrate we challenge both the public, professionals and press by qualitative presentations, interesting exhibitions, inspiring ideas and new designs.

About WantedDesign

WantedDesign is a creative destination for the design community with innovative installations, student workshops, engaging discourse and more. Building from the success of WantedDesign’s successful debut in 2011, and amazing programming and attendance in 2012, the third edition will feature a strongly curated exhibition of international designers along with a rich conversation series, design workshops, a pop-up store, convivial lounges and more. Located in the landmark Terminal Stores building on 11th Avenue between 27th and 28th streets, and featuring high ceilings, exposed brick walls and unique architectural details, WantedDesign offers participants and visitors alike with a unique and dynamic international design experience. WantedDesign is the meeting point for designers, manufacturers, industrials, craftsmen, students, design institutions, the press and all design lovers. WantedDesign is also playing a strong role, with our partners, to make NYCxDESIGN more dynamic and transform New York into a real design destination.

High-res digital images are available for download at by contacting Jaime Marland, or 401.427.6954

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At RISD there's nothing unusual about suddenly finding a doorknob on a tree trunk, shown here across from Carr House,
the charming home of Student Life offices and the student-run Carr Haus Café.