Next-Gen Design Online

RISD's furniture design workshop photographed from above

In an impressive effort to introduce emerging artists to the design world, WantedDesign has once again launched an online exhibition featuring thought-provoking student work. While last year’s WantedDesign Online show represented an agile response to what was then a brand-new worldwide pandemic, the 2021 International Schools Show (on view through June 12) offers a more in-depth view of this moment, including pieces by 180 students from design programs around the world. “As in-person shows continue to be paused, we hope this online destination will be as rich as the original editions,” note the show’s organizers.

upholstered rocking chair in green
Julia Rocking Chair by senior Deirdre Klemek 21 FD was named after the artist’s grandmother.

RISD’s portion of the exhibition features work by furniture design grad students and undergraduates presenting a wide range of objects—many of them decidedly whimsical in nature—synthesizing the core values of the Furniture Design department and reflecting an ethical, sensitive and knowledgeable use of materials.

“We put out an open call for student work and tried to be as inclusive as possible in selecting pieces for the show,” says Department Head Chris Specce 01 ID. “Many of our students come to RISD with something specific they want to express and then master the techniques that enable them to do so.”

triangular wooden bookends

colorful table with large cartoon cat head
Contemporary Heirlooms (top image) by grad student Eric Loucks MFA 21 FD were built to stand the test of time, while the cheerful table (directly above) by Amos Kang 21 FD was made “for cats to gather around on the playground.” 

Senior Amos Kang 21 FD used the opportunity to tell a kind of fairytale about cats and dogs. “These objects are part of a larger body of work meant to create a world of fables with surrogates in the form of objects or furniture,” he explains. And the fluffy and inviting A Flock of Sheep by second-year grad student Youtian Duan MFA 21 FD “explores the possibilities of … modular furniture … to encourage people to gather together for good conversation.”

As Graduate Program Director Patty Johnson explains, “Youtian’s piece fits in well with the work she is currently creating as part of her thesis project. She recorded literally thousands of her own dreams and is using them to make work reflecting on perception and reality.”

white sheeplike modular seating
A Flock of Sheep by Youtian Duan MFA 21 FD.

“Youtian recorded literally thousands of her own dreams and is using them to make work reflecting on perception and reality.”

Graduate Program Director Patty Johnson

New faculty member and RISD alum Amy Devers MFA 01 FD—host of Clever, a podcast focused on design and creative thinking—is also familiar with this body of work and is again collaborating with WantedDesign on this year’s programming for emerging designers. To kick off this spring’s events, she recently moderated Creativity & Career: Designing Opportunities, a panel discussion featuring show organizers Odile Hainaut and Claire Pijoulat as well as RISD President Rosanne Somerson 76 ID and industry leaders Diane Domeyer and Natalie Nixon. A recording of the conversation will be available soon.

“Although there’s no defined expectation for these online events, the hope is that professional designers will take note of the student work on view.”

Assistant Professor Amy Devers MFA 01 FD

“We want to celebrate this pool of creative talents, who are embarking on their careers at a time of incredible upheaval,” Devers says. “There are normally a lot of organic opportunities for young artists to present their work at NYCxDesign. Although there’s no defined expectation for these online events, the hope is that professional designers will take note of the student work on view.”

a conceptual chair made of twisted metal
The entire Providence Project collection by grad student Lauren Goodman MFA 21 GD was made from salvaged, discarded material harvested in and around Providence.

Devers is also moderating two upcoming emerging designer showcases, on June 2 and June 3, which will spotlight selected students involved in the show and elicit feedback from high-profile industry experts like Giulio Cappellini and Simone Vingerhoets-Ziesmann. One of the students included is RISD’s Lauren Goodman MFA 21 FD, whose Providence Project was created using only materials salvaged from the Providence area.

“She cedes control entirely and allows the work to emerge from her knowledge of the materials,” says Johnson. “By using found materials and investigating Indigenous processes, she has created compelling and universal pieces.”

long thin standing lamp with moody shade
Senior Jason Han 21 FD created Paper Light 01 to draw attention to the use of paper.

Devers describes Goodman’s work as “a non-extractive way of making that tells the story of a specific place” and sees a larger pattern in the work RISD students are creating this year. “They’re reacting to the pandemic in ways we’re still processing,” she says, “but we’ve seen a clear shift from personal expression to social design and a need for community.”

Simone Solondz

See the work and watch videos of students describing their practices at International Schools Show.

Related Stories

2020 graduates of RISD’s BFA and MFA programs in Furniture Design showcase solid work in online exhibitions.

From film premieres to the grad thesis show, graduating students are turning to alternative outlets for showcasing their work.

Furniture design icon Giulio Cappellini encourages RISD students to study the history of design so they can reinvent established forms.