Influential Designer + Artist Biographies

The Smart List is a monthly list of multi-media recommendations on everything design, curated by Interwoven Design. In this issue we share biographies of designers and artists who changed their respective industries with their vision and drive. If you are looking for some creative inspiration, any of these books is a wonderful place to start.

The Smart List: Influential Designer + Artist Biographies
The Smart List: Influential Designer + Artist Biographies

Everything She Touched: The Life of Ruth Asawa

by Marilyn Chase

Ruth Asawa was an American sculptor in the modern style and is best known for her hanging wire sculptures, which are featured in the most exclusive museums in the world, and her powerful urban installations. She spent her childhood in World War II Japanese-American interment camps, going on to study arts at Black Mountain College, the famously innovative liberal arts school in rural North Carolina. The high quality photography and artwork reproduced for this edition make it more than a compelling life story. KQED Arts wrote of Chase’s work, “Everything She Touched reveals the emotional life and personal trials of a social pathbreaker and civic leader. Author Marilyn Chase connects the barbed wire and dispossession of Asawa’s early life to the artist’s transformative approach to spooled metal, and intimately conveys the teeming creative life inside her home studio as it filled with six children.”

We Flew Over the Bridge: Memoirs of Faith Ringgold

by Faith Ringgold

Faith Ringgold is a painter, mixed media sculptor, performance artist, teacher, and writer known for the painted and story quilts that blend her diverse skills into a unique art form. She is also lauded for her own award winning children’s books as well as her vivid and engaging illustrations for the books of others. In We Flew Over the Bridge Ringgold shares a life story full of struggle and prejudice as well as triumph and love. Carrie Rickey of the Philadelphia Inquirer summarizes the underlying theme beautifully; “Bridging is the major motif of Ringgold’s life. . . . She is a bridge between the Harlem Renaissance and the civil rights era. She is a bridge between her mother’s applied art of fashion design and her own fine art of painting and story quilts. She is a bridge between the black power movement and the women’s movement. And she is a bridge between the abstract art that dominated the ‘60s and the issue-oriented art that connected with viewers’ hearts—and lives.”

Diane Arbus

by Patricia Bosworth

Diane Arbus was an American photographer known for her controversial photos of marginalized populations, including carnival performers, nudists, those with dwarfism, strippers, and middle-class families. She was especially interested in capturing people who were actively creating their own identities, and in capturing them in their own environments. Her ambitious and highly productive career is overshadowed by her suicide in 1971, and Bosworth captures the complexity and intensity of her life in this comprehensive biography.

Ninth Street Women: Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler: Five Painters and the Movement That Changed Modern Art

by Mary Gabriel

Ninth Street Women chronicles five iconic women who made a space for themselves in the overwhelmingly male-dominated space of twentieth-century abstract painting. Gabriel presents vivid portraits of each artist, outlining just why their work is so groundbreaking. This is five biographies for the price of one, and provides an excellent scaffolding for understanding the core dynamics of abstract modern art. Ann Landi of the Wall Street Journal praised the portraits; “Ninth Street Women is like a great, sprawling Russian novel, filled with memorable characters and sharply etched scenes. It’s no mean feat to breathe life into five very different and very brave women, none of whom gave a whit about conventional mores. But Ms. Gabriel fleshes out her portraits with intimate details, astute analyses of the art and good old-fashioned storytelling.”

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Staple Items of a Designer

The Smart List is a monthly list of multi-media recommendations on everything design, curated by Interwoven Design. In this issue we share the design staples that our team would never be without. These are objects that we carry around and use constantly. If by some tragedy they are not available, we get sad. If we find a store that sells them, we get happy. It is not a coincidence that most of them are office supplies, as getting our thoughts on paper is critical to the design process. We love tools that are a delight to use, and these are some of our favorites.

The Smart List: Designer Staples
The Smart List: Designer Staples

Muji Gel Ink Ballpoint Pens

Muji’s Gel Ink Ballpoint Pens are available in a range of tip sizes and a rainbow of colors. At $1.50 each they are an incredible value, featuring smooth writing action, quick-drying ink, and great consistency of color. Get one each of the rainbow and black packs and you’ll be set to sketch your design heart out.

Fieldnotes Notepads

The Field Notes co-founder Aaron Draplin was inspired by promotional memo books that were sent to American farmers by agricultural companies throughout the 20th century, collecting hundreds of these vintage booklets bursting with the charm of old school graphic design. The brand is always releasing limited edition books and changing up their diverse offerings. We like the classic small and medium sizes but find the style that works for you. We always have one of these in our bags or in our pockets, ready to take notes or do a quick sketch at all times!

Neiko Digital Caliper

The Neiko Digital Caliper is our first, our last, our everything. A designer is lost without a precise measuring tool, and this is our caliper of choice. Convert between measuring modes rapidly with one button, measure with accuracy up to 0.001” / 0.02mm, measure interior, exterior, and depth dimensions easily with the various probes, and read the results easily on the large LCD screen. Trust us, once you have this baby, you’ll want to measure everything.

iPhone (duh?)

This one kind of goes without saying in the design industry, and there are really good reasons why. The iPhone has superb customer support, gets the best apps first, makes digital payments fast and easy, and pairs beautifully with other Apple products. It has great, intuitive user interface and incredible hardware and software integration compared to Android alternatives, which is the benefit of Apple owning the entire device. Oh, and it’s effortless to upgrade operating systems. Solid camera and video specs, too. If you don’t have one and it seems like we’re judging you…we are sorry in advance.

Funky Sneakers

We especially love funky sneakers for summer so pick your poison, the market is overflowing with fun trainers. Our favorite brands at the moment are embracing sustainability and highlighting the climate crisis, including Thousand Fell, the first recyclable sneaker, and the Adidas x Allbirds collaboration made in part with recycled materials for a low carbon footprint. Bonus item if you need them: funky glasses!

Sticky Notes, Highlighters & Sharpies!

The design industry must be one of the largest consumers of Post-Its in the world. Most of the designers we know look like they are single-handedly keeping sticky notes in business, and we are no exception (especially the orange ones!). While we love a good digital tool, there is no substitute for good old markers and stickies when it comes to brainstorming, concept development, mind-mapping, and so much more. The abundant volumes of Sharpies in our lives is a sight to behold…and yes, we need them all. You know how some people can’t be without lip balm? We are like that with Sharpies. To a non-designer it might seem like we have a problem but other designers don’t bat an eye. They get it.

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LGBTQ+ Smart List: Pride Edition

The Smart List is a monthly list of multi-media recommendations on everything design, curated by Interwoven Design. At Interwoven we support and celebrate diversity in all its forms, and Pride Month gives us the perfect opportunity to engage with and be allies for the LGBTQ+ community. In NYC we are especially spoiled with chances to learn and play this month. Coming up: an epic march, an astonishing art exhibit by an artist with no arms, and a queer film event for horror fans.

Pride March

June 26, 2022 at 12pm

The annual NYC Pride March is organized by the non profit Heritage of Pride, which produces a wide range of events throughout Pride Month, with the Pride March as the crown jewel. Photos can’t do it justice and we love to be in the thick of it. Every year the events are held in honor of the Stonewall Uprising in 1969, the moment in civil rights history responsible for the modern Gay Rights movement. Check out the full calendar of events for even more opportunities to support the community or be one of the thousands to volunteer and make it all possible.

Lorenza Böttner: Requiem for the Norm

April 14th – August 15, 2022

The Leslie Lohman Museum of Art will show the Lorenza Böttner: Requiem for the Norm exhibit all summer. Böttner was an artist who lost both arms when young. She began to identify as female in art school, where she painted hundreds of paintings with her mouth and feet in addition to experimenting with street art, dance, photography, and more. Her work is playful and grounded in a sensual appreciation and central presence of the body.

PRIDE: Photographs of Stonewall and Beyond by Fred W. McDarrah

The Museum of New York City will host an exhibit of the photographs of Fred W. McDarrah. McDarrah was a critical voice covering important political events of the 60s and 70s for The Village Voice, including the civil and gay rights movements and the historic Stonewall Uprising. McDarrah was avid in his documentation, accumulating an astonishing archive of American political history.

*While this exhibit has ended, the Museum of New York City always has wonderful gems of New York history on display.

Queer|Art|Film Club

June 28th, 2022 at 8pm

Author Torrey Peters presents Let the Right One In, a digital zoom event in which she will share the significance of the 2008 Swedish horror film on her life and her work. “I finally came out,” she shared, “and I watched it again, and it seemed like yet another film all together–a film about xenophobia and the abject.”

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NYC Murals & Graffiti

The Smart List is a monthly list of multi-media recommendations on everything design, curated by Interwoven Design. At Interwoven we always have our eyes open for unexpected design moments as we make our way around New York City. Here are some of our favorite spots to appreciate public art. Take a tour of some of the best graffiti and street art in NYC, with featured work ranging from Harlem to Chinatown.

Crack is Wack by Keith Haring

East Harlem E. 128th St. and Harlem River Drive

Throughout his career as a street artist in the 1980s Haring dedicated time to public works, many of which held social messages. Crack is Wack is a mural inspired by the effects of the crack epidemic on New York City. Though it was originally unsanctioned it was later placed under the jurisdiction of the city.

Monkey Bar, Hotel Elysee

60 E. 54th St.

Monkey Bar opened inside the Hotel Elysee in the late 1930s. It was originally a classic piano bar but was christened ‘Monkey Bar’ in the 50s when caricaturist Charlie Wala hand painted murals of monkeys on all of the walls. The impressive history of the bar includes such regulars as Babe Ruth, Ava Gardner, and Tennessee Williams.

Hammer Boy by Banksy

Broadway & W. 79th St.

British street artist Banksy is known for his graffiti street art all over the world. He incorporates everyday objects in the streetscape into his compositions, creating playful and provocative vignettes. Hammer Boy is an ideal example of this technique, the silhouette of a young child swings a sledgehammer at the fire hydrant installed in the street.

Graffiti Hall of Fame

East Harlem 1587 Madison Ave.

Harlem community leader Ray “Sting Ray” Rodriguez established the walls of the Jackie Robinson Educational Complex’s schoolyard as the Graffiti Hall of Fame, home to outstanding street art for more than 30 years.  The motto of the schoolyard is “Strictly Kings or Better,” and the pieces on display are of the highest quality.

Bushwick Collective

Bushwick St. Nicholas Ave.

The Bushwick Collective is a graffiti and street art project created by artists from all over the world. They are especially known for their annual block party in August, at which thousands come together for food, dancing, and incredible street art.

Rice Terraces by Dasic Fernandez

Doyer St.

Rice Terraces is a vibrant work of street art that is actually on the streets themselves, brightening Chinatown Manhattan’s Open Street and encouraging community engagement. The colorful layers are inspired by Chinese rice cultivation terraces, bringing a classic element of the Chinese landscape into the urban environment.

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Virtual Events 2022

The Smart List is a monthly list of multi-media recommendations on everything design, curated by Interwoven Design. In this issue we share the virtual events we have on our calendars for 2022. We love to have a mix of virtual and in-person events in play, and there are more available now than ever. The virtual events are available to a wide-range of attendees, and anyone interested can join, no matter where they are in the world. While some require registering to reserve a space, these events are free to the public.

The Smart List: Virtual Events 2022
The Smart List: Virtual Events 2022

Virtual MOCA Book Club

April 26th

MOCA has a wide range of virtual programming, including lectures, tours, and artist interviews. The Book Club is no longer active but check out their archives to experience many of their events at your own pace.

Cooper Hewitt Virtual Talk: Deep Breaths – Designing on the Front Lines

April 8th

This virtual talk at the Cooper Hewitt will be a discussion about the sudden need for rapid innovation in PPE brought on by the pandemic, especially given the global shortages that were experienced. Experts will weigh in on the current state of PPE design.

What’s a Feminist Picture? MoMA Lecture

April 14th

This lecture and panel discussion is offered in MoMA’s wonderful virtual programming. This will be one of their Forums on Contemporary Photography, a loose platform for free-form critical discussions about photography today. The discussion is paired with a new photography exhibit that is “an invitation to look at pictures through a contemporary feminist lens; it affirms the capacity of artists to assert their political motivations and proposes unexpected connections that mount a challenge to convention.”

New Museum Live Virtual Tour: “Faith Ringgold: American People”

May 8th – 14th

This live, forty-five minute virtual tour will walk through the “Faith Ringgold American People” exhibit, covering the artwork itself, exclusive digital content, and biographic insights into the artists practice and significance in the field.

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