Vancouver and Los Angeles have their differences: one city is known for its sprawling green spaces, laid-back lifestyle, and unrelenting rain, while the other boasts gorgeous beaches, an art-and-culture scene marked by glitz and glam, and, yes, almost 365 days of sunny skies. Design-wise, however, the two West Coast regions have a lot more in common than you’d think.
“In Los Angeles, there’s a real movement of people designing and making things locally,” Riley McFerrin, founder of the Railtown-based Hinterland Design, says by phone. “And we definitely have that in Vancouver, too.”
This emphasis on locally crafted, handmade objects will be spotlighted in The Mix: West Coast Best Coast, a feature at this year’s IDS Vancouver presented in partnership with the L.A. Design Festival and online magazine Design Milk that will see two Vancouver-based designers teaming up with a pair of L.A. makers for a series of one-of-a-kind installations and off-site talks. For the occasion, McFerrin is working with Bari Ziperstein, a multidisciplinary artist whose functional-ceramics line, BZippy & Co., is recognized in L.A. design circles and beyond for its space-age and architecturally inspired shapes, stunning details, and unexpected hues.
McFerrin admits that he’s been a fan of Ziperstein’s work since meeting her at a trade show in New York City years ago. He jumped at the opportunity to collaborate with the artist. “Her shapes and colour palette and the handmade quality of her stuff—which is both supermodern and a little bit hippie and a little bit of this ‘looking back’—is part of this whole handmade-modern resurgence that I feel like we fit into at Hinterland as well,” he explains.
McFerrin and Ziperstein are assembling two installations for IDS Vancouver: both will display the latter’s eccentric ceramics among the former’s contemporary solid-wood furnishings in a way that accentuates the diverse range of materials, patterns, and colours at play. Attendees will see tall sculptural vases—each inspired by the rugged brickwork of Brutalist architecture and drenched in intense ultramarine—from Ziperstein’s Klein Blue collection, while McFerrin will exhibit sheepskin-upholstered seats, copper-accented oak tables, and plush marshmallowlike benches from Hinterland that have been customized with a monochromatic palette.
By saturating many of his pieces in a single hue, McFerrin hopes to highlight the contrast in materials and textures while drawing attention to the organic nature of Ziperstein’s wares. “That’s what really drew me to her work,” he explains. “That stuff can be modern and feel contemporary and feel forward, while also being handmade and sustainable. And feeling like it’s got healthy vibes to it, instead of being shiny and plastic and made overseas.”
That homemade, one-of-a-kind element will also be evident in Vancouver-based designer Ben Barber’s collab with Leah Ring, founder of L.A. studio Another Human. The two furniture makers are known for their cheeky, almost childlike aesthetics and generous use of loud, punchy shades. Both draw inspiration from the Memphis Group, and employ unconventional materials like aluminum, acrylic, and metallic crinkle paper, too. “There are definitely similar languages being spoken,” Barber notes by phone, “and they come from a similar sort of playfulness.”
Expect Ring’s tubular bookshelves, chubby magazine racks, and see-through stools to look right at home alongside Barber’s spherical side tables, streamlined chairs, and signature copper-and-brass bullet bowls—many of them powder-coated in dreamy hues like bubblegum pink and teal. For Barber, the decision to incorporate such vivid tints is a personal—and emotional—one.
“A colour can make you feel a certain kind of way because of an experience you had as a child or just in day-to-day life,” he says. “Maybe your mom always wore pink, or you had a pink room or a blue wall.”
The Deep Cove–raised designer has built a neat niche for himself in the industry, thanks to sleek, minimalist objects that stand in stark contrast to the earthy, wood-heavy furnishings and décor items that many tend to associate with British Columbian design. It’s that distinct style that makes his work approachable, he says, and complementary to Ring’s. “I like things really clean and straight to the point. I’d rather avoid as much decorative elements as possible, so the buyer—the person who purchases the piece—gets to put more of themselves into it.”
In addition to unveiling collaborative installations both on the IDS Vancouver show floor and at their respective workshops, McFerrin and Barber will participate in talks conducted as part of the design fete’s Offsite program. McFerrin will welcome Ziperstein to his studio at 503 Railtown Street on Saturday (September 22), where the duo will discuss the influence of their surrounding environments on their material selections and creative processes, while Barber and Ring will meet at Parker Street Studios (114–1000 Parker Street) on September 23 to chat about the significance of colour and shape in their practices. Both talks will be moderated by Haily Zaki, founder of the L.A. Design Festival, and are open to IDS Vancouver attendees who purchase a wristband that allows them access to events, parties, and exhibitions happening outside IDS’s main hub.
McFerrin hopes that the Mix—and IDS Vancouver, as a whole—can help bring much-deserved recognition to the community of creative minds who are hard at work at home.
“It pains me to see how much modern design is being purchased from far-off places, instead of more people seeking out cool, local work,” states McFerrin. “And not just local work that’s small-town local, but local work that’s successful and well-known internationally.
IDS Vancouver takes place at the Vancouver Convention Centre’s West building and various Vancouver venues until Sunday (September 23).