Most people intuit that buying from a farmers market will support the local people and the community. Take the same idea, turn up the scale, apply it to local design, and you have UNIQUE NYC, a design show set to grace the Chelsea arts district this weekend, Nov. 17–18.
Sonja Rasula first conceived of an independent design show, Unique in LA, in 2008. With the focus on designs made in America, the show was meant to popularize locally made art and design. At the same time it supports local communities, small businesses—and ultimately, the U.S. economy.
Growing up in Echo Park, Los Angeles, Rasula said she was very community minded and learned to prioritize investing in the local environment.
After studying journalism in school, Rasula began as a writer and magazine editor focused on design, style, and architecture. As soon as the first thought of a design show arose, “It seemed like an obvious thing to do,” said Rasula.
Not only would the project combine her skills, she thought, it would also benefit communities around America by bringing together a growing number of likeminded individuals.
Local furniture designer Stephane Hubert will participate in this weekend’s UNIQUE NYC. Hubert, along with his wife and business partner Jaime Panoff, minimize the impact on the environment by salvaging or purchasing materials from neighboring companies, rather than buy from overseas.
“We try to work with the community of artists around us and collaborate with other nearby designers and vendors,” said Panoff.
Many of Hubert’s recent projects have made use of downed trees from storms or materials from dismantled NYC buildings. Panoff explained that her husband turns the found materials into beautiful pieces for people to enjoy in their homes.
Most participants in the show recognize that mass-produced, overseas goods reduce demand for unique, locally designed goods, resulting in fewer opportunities for young Americans to innovate and less creative expression in the world.
When you buy from local designers you might end up with something unique that better expresses you, rather than a mass-produced design sense, said Rasula. “It will encourage quality over quantity,” she added.
“I think art should be a communication between the maker and the person who lives with that,” said jewelry designer Penelope Rakov.
“On certain people, certain pieces, they come alive and that is a real reward for me,” said Rakov, who grew up in central New York, in the small town of Manlius.
Over the past 16 years Rakov has studied, developed, and refined her ability to design and create fine art jewelry. Her jewelry is based in the Murrini tradition. Murrini is a glass craft that involves heating glass to extreme temperatures, and then stretching and slicing it to reveal intricately colored patterns similar to the look of a sushi role.
Rakov was also drawn to the show for its ethics. “The money is going back into the immediate society their involved in; That’s important to me,” said Rakov.
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