Furniture Designers Dazzle at NYCxDesign

Student and alumni exhibitions in NYC

The annual International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), which has faced the pandemic-related challenges that continue to sweep the globe, came back strong this May and joined forces with WantedDesign, a platform dedicated to promoting design and fostering the local and international creative community. Held in New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Center from May 15–17, 2022, the much-anticipated event spotlighted top international makers and emerging talents including 12 Furniture Design students from RISD who presented their work in a group show called Embodied & Imbued.

As Furniture Design Department Head Chris Specce 01 ID notes, “the collection of chairs, tables, hooks, textiles and other furnishings play with your expectations in surprising ways. Dust Chair [by grad student Bill Carroll MFA 23 FD] is made of compressed dust among other materials, and a chair [by Spenser Atlas MFA 23 FD] combines Baltic birch plywood and laminate to create the illusion of a drawing represented in three dimensions.” Carroll recently learned that his piece (pictured below) won the WantedDesign Best of Students prize sponsored by Italian housewares firm Alessi.

Top to bottom: the award-winning Dust Chair by Bill Carroll MFA 23 FD, Low Caned Lounge by Grace Elwood 22 FD and Vessels of Spring by Isabel Yang 23 FD.

While the chair is perhaps the most elemental form of furniture, the RISD booth also drew in buyers and other industry professionals with shelving units, quilts and funky ceramic candleholders by rising senior Isabel Yang 23 FD 23 FD. She created her Vessels of Spring by combining hand manipulation methods with the slip-casting process in order to produce a cohesive body of work inspired by a dream.

I-Beam Bookshelf by rising senior Jan Rybczynski 23 FD was made to evoke “the inherent strength of steel and the fluidity of welding and fabricating metal structures and [to embody] a piece of furniture void of the visual artifacts of production.” Fellow undergrad Louise Ferlet 22 FD focused on ergonomics with her Metal Lounge, whose “triangular backrest comes in snug between the shoulder blades to counteract the habitual computer posture.”

Anna Dawson MFA 22 FD says her eye-catching, fiberglass Swell Wall Hooks “were inspired by soft swells perfect for a long surf and ventilation ducting found poking out of industrial buildings.” Dawson is one of three current RISD grad students who were invited to show work individually as part of the fair’s Launchpad site, which helps young designers make industry connections. Shannon Rose Jones MFA 22 FD, whose work is inspired by the landscape of the American Midwest, and the prolific Maxwell Taylor-Milner MFA 22 FD are the other two.

Launchpad exhibitor Maxwell Taylor-Milner MFA 22 FD discusses his work on view with RISD President Crystal Williams and Furniture Design Department Head Christopher Specce 01 ID.

A small group of young makers was also invited to present their collections to industry professionals as part of the Emerging Designers Showcase. Assistant Professor Amy Devers MFA 01 FD, who helped to develop the program, describes it as “a pipeline for exposing emerging designers to industry professionals, allowing them to garner feedback and—with luck—leading to future collaborations and professional pathways.”

This year, double major Sam Northcut 23 FD/PR snagged one of the coveted spots. Northcut showed a handmade quilt top of dyed kozo and gampi paper at the RISD booth. The piece, they explain, “explores the idea of inherited friendship and platonic love. Through the color choices, this quilt top shows two distinct bodies, earthly and celestial, that represent my mother and her friend who passed away.”

Elsewhere in the Javits Center, multiple RISD alums also showed their latest collections, including Winston Cuevas 15 ID, Ayumi Kodama MFA 20 FD, Xuelun Li MFA 19 FD, Kainan Liu MFA 20 FD and Eduardo Terranova MArch 06.

Mushroom Biomorphic Seating System by Yuya Zhou MFA 23 FD and Room Divider by Lisa Sacco MFA 23 FD are among the pieces created as part of RISD’s collaboration with Cappellini USA.

And finally, Giulio Cappellini and Anthony Lebron of iconic furniture design firm Cappellini USA worked with first-year RISD Furniture Design grad students this semester on the highly experimental Cappellini Dream Project. Assisted by Devers and Graduate Program Director Patricia Johnson, the group looked to the future of sustainably produced seating systems for public spaces, offering adaptability, comfort, technology, integrated systems and privacy.

“The project promoted expansive design thinking and presented an opportunity for each student to begin developing a unique design language,” says Johnson. “By the end of the spring semester, they had a better understanding of their relationship to design and were able to clearly communicate their ideas and aesthetics.”

Simone Solondz

Check out all of the work included in Embodied & Imbued at