(This is an adaptation of the catalog's introduction.)
WHY/HOW/WHAT FOUR CORNERS?
Welcome to "Four Corners: Design from Philly Surrounds." Early in the planning of this exhibition, we, the curators, met in our living rooms. Then we began meeting in coffee shops. Our favorites were heavy on design by local makers. (At Philadelphia Java at 2nd and Christian streets, co-owner Jerry proudly showed us the local provenance of everything from floors to windows.) At some point we realized our ongoing conversation was happening against a backdrop created by the designers and materials we were handling in the exhibition. It underscored our excitement about how designers, past and present, and their work are characters in the narrative of the city and its spaces.
In the spirit of that back and forth between the city, its makers, its design heritage, and raw materials, we include this back and forth between Caroline and Royce. It's about our intentions, goals, and our process — basically, a continuation of our many planning discussions. The format also celebrates our collaboration which was as wonderful as a collaboration can be. (Caroline wrote that last sentence, but she thinks Royce agrees.)
CAROLINE TIGER As someone who writes for a living, it’s exciting to discover new storytelling tools. Curating and writing articles have a lot in common. In both cases you set out with an intention and as much as you try to avoid it, with preconceived notions. Our intention was to answer the question: "What is Philadelphia design at this moment in time?" Our curatorial criteria were objects designed or made in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania that have relevance in a global design context. We decided to place the 50 or so objects in a domestic setting because these are functional objects designed for everyday use. Also, seeing them in this context seems to make their stories more immediate and intimate.
ROYCE EPSTEIN I’m typically not focused on the local design community as much as I am on the international one. What I enjoyed most about working on this exhibit was learning about new designers and contemporary designed objects and juxtaposing them with the design heritage of the Delaware Valley, and especially urban Philadelphia. It’s been thrilling to focus more on my home turf and on the incredible design stories that are right under our noses.
CT At some point in our curatorial process we honed in on the words, “innovation, craft, heritage, and manufacturing.” We’re providing these themes as a framework, but I think people will also have fun picking up on smaller, more subtle threads.
RE To me there is no object in the exhibit that expresses all of it—innovation, craft, heritage, and manufacturing—more than Emeco’s Lancaster chair. It was made in a collaborative way that incorporates manufacturing and craft. It combines two types of heritage—one that is machine-based and one that is hand-made. The power of all that is possible with design and object creation in this region is embodied in this chair.
CT MIO’s collaboration with one of the region’s last remaining millineries is another great manufacturing story. Jaime Salm is designing a compelling future for urban manufacturing by keeping older resources relevant. And Adam Wallacavage’s octopus chandelier is another quintessential Philadelphia story about reinvention and craft, because it was born from a perfect storm of Philadelphia-centric factors. He was inspired by Wildwood (the Doo-Wop Shore town) and by the period rooms at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. And when he bought a gutted, sprawling 19th-century brownstone on Broad Street in South Philly, he used DIY ingenuity to restore it piece by piece on an artist’s dime.
RE I’m also pleased we’re including art and photography, since that’s such a big part of the Philadelphia design scene. Really, if we can accomplish one thing with this exhibit, it will be to highlight all the stories and their relationships with each other. It will be to flesh out the region’s identity for people who’re already familiar with it and to open people’s eyes to the fact that Philadelphia is at the center of a design region that can hold its own on the world’s stage alongside other great design cities and regions.
We hope you enjoy looking at these fifty or so objects designed and/or made in Philadelphia and its immediate surrounds. Thanks for visiting, and enjoy! —Caroline and Royce
Objects from Philadelphia (26)
Kensington (4), Fishtown (3), Old City (2), Bella Vista (1), Center City (5), Port Richmond (3), Loft District (2), Northern Liberties (1), Frankford (1), South Philly (4), Manayunk (1)
Objects from Pennsylvania Surrounds (13)
Bloomsburg (1), Jessup (1), Hanover (1), Lancaster (1), Prospect Park (1), East Greenville (2), Bally (1), West Chester (1), York (2), Penndel (1), Malvern (1), New Hope (1)
Objects from New Jersey Surrounds
(just over the bridges) (4) Cherry Hill (1), Westmont (1), Delanco (1), Glassboro (1)
Squatting in the Ritz Carlton lobby (1), inside a former textile mill (1)
On SEPTA’s regional rail (1),
at a co-working facility (2)
Using equipment dating to pre-1950 (7), tapped into Amish craftsmanship (1), Worked with repurposed materials (8) Wood (6), dog leashes (1), skateboards (1), criminal records (1), plastic bottles (1), made use of scraps (2)
Female designers (13), male designers (31)
Lighting (3), Seating (13),Tables (6) inclusive of one repurposed subwoofer, Accessories (9), Wallpaper (5), Art (6), Textiles (4)
Urban Tropes (3)
Bowling (1), architecture (2), satellite dishes (1), shipping (1), skateboarding (1), horseback riding (1)
Woodland/deer (3), sea creature (1), birds (2), flower/plant (4), pebbles (1), wood grain (3), rocks and minerals (2)
Typography (1), crime (1), monsters (1)
Click here to view the complete catalog of objects included in the exhibition.