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Celebrating Earth Day With Prophet Gypsy Robot

In honor of  Earth Day, we recently collaborated with Jamie Tubbs, founder of Chicago-based Prophet Gypsy Robot known for her love of repurposing + reusing materials, to create some limited edition Unison x PGR Woven Wall Hangings using our scrap fabric. We caught up with Jamie and asked her about background, process + what’s next for PGR.  Proceeds from sales will benefit Chicago Artists Coalition, check our her wall hangings here.

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1. What’s your background with textiles and how did you begin Prophet Gypsy Robot?

My mom was a seamstress when I was little and we always had tons of fabric and scraps around. She never bought something she could make, and she rarely couldn’t make something. But the cost of clothing production dropped so much and apparel got so much cheaper to buy than make. She switched careers but never stopped teaching us to make things. Homemade household goods have stayed more comparable to store prices, and when I got my first apartment I got into making things like pillow covers and curtains. 

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2. Where does the name Prophet Gypsy Robot come from?

It’s about my design aesthetic. The Gypsy part refers to color, texture, pattern, maximalism, baubles, beads, fluff and all the things. The Robot part refers to restrained color palettes, clean lines, minimalism, simplicity, deconstructed weaving like the technique “weft over” which shows up a lot in my work and I just learned is an actual legitimate thing weavers do.

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These two aesthetics are always competing for first place in my heart and they seem directly opposed. So my work explores trying to visually communicate both of those at once. The Gypsy and Robot overlap most naturally when it comes to the shared value of repurposing.  

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The Prophet part incorporates another huge part of who I am, someone who likes to declare good things through a megaphone about people and where we are all going together. So, PGR is this little robot like Wall-E who goes around with a flower crown, saving and reusing all the things, preaching a message about how valuable and capable and seen you are, and that when we do our best together we bring life from death. 

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3. What made you start working with repurposed materials specifically?

Reflex. I’ve been thinking about how lower economic classes have an incredible skill for reuse and repurposing that we can leverage and create new streams of income and value that the future needs from us. Something that is just natural to anyone who grew up with less resources will be an important skill going forward because we need to find creative ways to use our resources in a more sustainable way again.

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For the past little bit of history, wealth has meant being able to just throw stuff away and not think about it. The rich of the future will be people who find great value in using our resources in the most sustainable ways possible. That will be a huge part of what makes something beautiful and valuable. Hopefully that happens before we have no choice, which is why I want to show that we can elevate stuff that’s been thrown aside to something that people find truly valuable. 

4. How did you choose the particular Unison scrap fabrics for each weaving? Did the prints determine your weaving patterns?

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When I was looking through all the Unison remnants I was like, “I can’t believe this is my life right now”. That’s my version of living the dream- alone with piles and piles of scrap fabrics ready to be turned into something! I had about 10 directions I wanted to go but the color pallet I stuck with was for the season and what I’m into right now- oranges and pinks and tone-on-tone and florals. I wanted the weaving pattern to be really simple and for the pieces to be about showcasing the colors of the fabrics, so I did one clean, angled line. They look awesome hanging together with all those simple clean angles. 

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5. What other upcoming projects are you working on?

Too many, which is awesome! I’ve got the One of a Kind Show at the end of this month and after that I’m working with friend and fellow maker Joslyn Villalpando ( of J.Villa Workshops) on a project at her school about repurposing (so excited to make stuff with kids!). I’m going to be offering workshops on the West Side at a store called Creativita once I work out all the details.

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I’m most excited about starting on a series I have in my head using all sorts of working class uniforms, and incorporating techniques from the global working class like boro stitching. “Boro” means “tattered rags” and the technique was created by wives of fishermen who mended their work clothes in such a beautiful way that now it’s a world wide fashion element. 

Thanks Jamie! Shop the Unison x PGR Woven Wall Hangings here.

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Easter Table Styling With Janelle Gonyea

Easter is just around the corner and we asked stylist + designer, Janelle Gonyea to give us her take on spring table styling in all things Unison + her favorite florals. Here’s Janelle:

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For spring tables, I like to keep things light and unfussy. We had a chance to do elaborate and celebratory formal tables in the late fall and winter. Spring feels more like a light-hearted, cozy gathering with great style but minimal extravagance. (Shop Eve Chrome Flatware + Corelle Dinnerware)

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I tend to keep the place settings light, with clear glassware for a cool beverage like juice, mimosas, or spritzers. I lean toward pastel color palettes, or something clean and bright like whites, yellows, and greens. 

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Spring is one of my favorite seasons for flowers. Everything is coming to life, the palettes are in full splendor, and the scents are intoxicating. This is when we see delicate blossoms like muscari and hellebore, bright playful flowers like daffodils and tulips, and pretty beauties with lovely scents like lilacs and hyacinth.

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I think Spring has the widest range of interesting flowers to choose from. While I love to go to my local florists and encourage them to work their magic, there is also something nice about picking up a few small bunches of sweet flowers and having some fun yourself. (Shop Gather Vases)

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For this table, I used a mix of lush blossoms and accompanying texture, to help pull the whole table palette together. I chose flowers to complement the table linen, using pale pinks and grey, with a splash of red. (Shop Brass Finish Bowl)

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I wanted the texture to mimic the speckling of the linen, so I leaned toward fillers with small, delicate pieces, and allowed the bright red ranunculus and pink hyacinth to stand out focused in the middle of the table. (Shop Squiggles Tablecloth + Napkins + Fino Tumblers)

Watch Janelle’s table come to life in this handy GIF:

Thanks for all tips + tricks Janelle, we can’t wait to style our own Easter tables!

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Brand Spotlight: Toyo Sasaki Glassware

Here at Unison we truly value the brands we work with and strive to showcase products that combine equal parts expert design + function. Today we’re spotlighting Japan-based Toyo Sasaki Glassware, a brand we’ve had a lasting relationship with and whose products continue to be a customer favorite.

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The Toyo Tumber Collection is available in 3 sizes with a matching pitcher, and is incredibly versatile. Serve anything from wine to cocktails or refreshing juices in these customer favorites.

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The Toyo Tumblers pair great with the Cubes Drink Rocks from Areaware, cooling down your cocktail without diluting your expertly mixed concoction.

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The Fino Tumblers have a simple-meets-exciting silhouette and are made using a patented glass-strengthening technique called Hard Strong®. This technique is synonymous with safety + durability, making this delicately designed glassware shatterproof and perfect for the dishwasher.

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The Rout Etch Collection fuses a clean-lined modern look with a fluid texture at the base and is available in a double old-fashioned, high ball and ice bucket. It’s a great addition to your home bar cart.

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Cheers to one of our favorite brands! Shop our full line of glassware from Toyo Sasaki here.

 

 

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#ALittleFuller: Alex Fuller’s New Addition

We recently caught up with Chicago Designer + Unison Collaborator Alex Fuller to talk about his new baby boy Owen, becoming a parent and his upcoming design projects.

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It’s been a real joy to see you now as an adoring father. Tell us how life is going now with a tiny version of yourselves in your lives? 

Life is much fuller! See what I did there?! Sharing our world with Owen and teaching him about all the things we love and cherish is my favorite part of being a parent. Honestly, it’s every emotion all at the same time and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Well, maybe with 1 more hour of sleep a night.

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Owen is probably soaking up all the good art and design in your home. Are there places in Chicago you like to bring him to for more inspiration?

I love bringing him to the Smart Museum on the University of Chicago campus. It’s a perfectly curated collection of art that spans the big movements with nice little rotating exhibits. And it’s tiny and free! (Shop ABC print here)

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Now that you have a little one in your home, has that made you look at your space differently and how you use it? 

We have always been very aware of creating a livable space. We love the reductive nature of modernism but it must feel warm and inviting. And yes, child-proofing is also a real concern now.

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Looks like you probably love to share music with Owen. What does he like best? Are you surprised? 

We play so much different music all the time so it’s hard to tell. When Jessa was pregnant it was a lot of old reggae tunes. I think that chilled them both out. This week it’s Yo Yo Ma, Dirty Projectors and Chance the Rapper. I hope he develops a love for all music! (Shop Shapes Gray Baby Bedding here)

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You use your last name (Fuller) a lot in your Instagram hashtags – in fact your handle is fullfullerfullest. We love #alittlefuller to describe the ones with Owen. As he grows, do you expect to come up with more of them?

I’m sure! It’s too easy! We also love messing with his name. We like to say, “HellOwen, where ya gOwen?!

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Anything new on the horizon with your own work?

I’m actually working on my first font called, Fuller (of course). I’m also focusing more on my art book publishing project, 5 x 7 — 5x7books.com. We are participating in the Toronto Art Book Fair in June and launching a pop-up shop this Fall in Chicago. On top of that, i’m always exploring furniture and product ideas!

Thanks Alex + Jessa! Check out the full line of Alex Fuller’s products for Unison here.

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Unison In Process: Inside The Humboldt Collection

Historic Inspiration for a Reimagined Bedding Collection

On the near-west side of Chicago lies a community that represents the very fabric of America—interwoven cultures marked by dynamic social change and overlapping styles, all evolving and thriving amidst a backdrop that’s notable as much for its historic landmarks as its decidedly urban charm.

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Centered around a sprawling, 207-acre park, the Humboldt Park neighborhood is one part fast-paced cultural hub, one part serene oasis in the midst of the modern bustle. It’s simultaneously classic and modern, diverse and determined, everlasting and yet always somehow new.

What could be better inspiration than that?

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Named for this historic community in our own beloved hometown, our Humboldt bedding collection is designed to reflect the area’s longevity and beautiful wear.

Inspired by the hand-woven look, unique texture, and 2-sided pattern of classic madras plaids, this bedding is as casually chic as a fresh-air picnic. Unison co-founder Robert Segal parlayed this inspiration into his original drawing for the pattern, and production designer Erica Lubetsky then translated that drawing into an engineered plaid.

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The result was a simpler, sleeker pattern—more modern in tone. Then, we scaled it up for a strong, graphic punch and got ready to convert the carefully considered design into a textile.

First, material: we selected yarn-dyed cotton in an oxford weave, to showcase the delicate blending of colors.

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The linens have a basket weave construction, which creates a checkerboard effect with white, producing a softer tone that is perfectly suited to a mellow-cool bedroom. To get the contrast just where we wanted it, we selected darker, more saturated yarns that would blend into the perfect finished hue.

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As a final detail, we engineered each side of the duvet with a lighter blue, asymmetrical stripe on one side, so that when the bed is made with covers turned back, a stripe appears on each end.

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Looks like you might actually start to enjoy making your bed in the morning.

Shop Humboldt Bedding 20% Off now thru 02/26, shop the White Sale here.

 

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Stylist Feature: Janelle Gonyea

At our recent store event: Well-Fashioned Feast, we asked stylist extraordinaire Janelle Gonyea to bring her table styling tips and tricks to assist Unison customers with their own holiday entertaining. We chatted with Janelle about her background, style inspiration and how she entertains in her own home.

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Tell us a little bit about your background and how you became interested in styling:

I have always been interested in telling stories through creating beautiful color palettes and styled vignettes. I have an arts education, and that has informed much of my creative career. I began as an illustrator and graphic designer drawing and arranging items on a page. From there I moved onto arranging flowers and have since eased into styling objects in space.

My love for styling arose out of a fascination with storytelling. You see a scene and wonder what is happening there, and the objects begin to give you pieces of that story. It can take you back in time, recall a memory, or inform a brand’s aesthetic and lifestyle.

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We especially loved the handmade elements you added to the table, particularly your illustrations. Is that something you often incorporate into your table styling?

I certainly do! Adding handmade elements to styling gives it a more personal touch and adds more life to the table or scene. I think if it can be handmade, it should be! My education was in illustration, so it’s a skill that I love to embellish with when appropriate.

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How did the Unison products inspire you in creating your tablescapes?

Unison products are incredibly inspiring, especially because you really cannot go wrong with any combination. They defy rules, and encourage you to play. I adore the minimal patterns and limited color palettes, because they provide a foundation for incorporating your own style. By mixing and matching details you can be playful, dramatic, quirky, or romantic. 

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Styling for the holidays with Unison products gave me a chance to explore all of the pieces of place settings that I may not use on a regular basis.  I love having an opportunity to be expansive and really embrace table settings for multiple courses. Their cast iron collection was incredibly enticing, and I could just picture one at each place setting overflowing with an earthy homemade individual pot pie or ginger pear crisp!

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What was your main goal in executing each of your table settings? Do you often have an overarching concept for your tables that dictates your styling?

My main goal was to showcase various place settings and creative ways to play with napkin placement while adding personal elements. While some people tend to worry about them, I don’t believe in following all the rules. That being said, I wanted to provide a range in settings from basic to formal because the holidays tend to bring together traditions and honoring many generations.

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When styling tables, I am often drawn to particular palettes or ambiguous concepts like “desert landscape” or “wintry mountain” and build out from there. Florals always play a huge role, and I am still a fan of family style tablescaping and long communal tables. They’re more interactive and allow you to really play with settings and accompanying details.

What is your general philosophy regarding entertaining? Do you like to entertain within your own home as well?

I love bringing people together and sharing a meal over delightful conversation. With entertaining, I think atmosphere plays a huge role, and I like to create tablescapes that would set someone at ease and make them feel welcome. Recently I held a gathering on the night of a Supermoon, so I used a deep indigo runner accompanied by marble cake stands, milky white platters, speckled blue bowls and lunaria flowers. 

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Do you have any additional tips for last minute holiday entertaining prep?

I would say not to worry too much about the “rules” and just have fun with it. Be yourself and embrace your unique style. Beyond the essentials of table settings from lovely shops like Unison, consider adding a simple name tag for seating or drink labels. Handmade elements are always nice, and adding a small vase of flowers gives your table a warming touch.

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Textiles are a great way to lay a foundation for color, and have a transformative effect on any table setting. A simple white, black or grey plate set can look fun and quirky on a Market Plaid tablecloth or deep and dramatic on the Garland Wine Tablecloth. Holidays are the time to bring out all of the special details you might not use on a daily basis!

See more styling from Janelle Gonyea here

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ART + FUNCTION + FANCY NAILS = THE MANY TALENTS OF HILLERY SPROATT

There’s a face you should know this fall: Hillery Sproatt. This fine artist, Unison collaborator and, as chance has it, nail artist. Her unique aesthetic is coming to life at Unison in a few ways this season, and we couldn’t be more excited.

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In anticipation of the Instagram takeover and nail event she’s doing for us — look for them on September 16-18 and October 22, respectively — here’s a quick insider’s look at Hillery’s world.

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The Bedding Collaboration

Our new Heirloom collection of bedding features a graphic derived from a painting Hillery created years ago when she lived in Grand Rapids. The Poppy duvet cover, which features a vibrant splash of blooms, was actually taken from just a small portion of Hillery’s original work. “The original had a lot of other little things going on … even horseback riders,” she says.

Hillery, who has a Fine Arts Degree from Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, is known for filling her work with tiny, engaging details. It’s a nod to life’s little things that sometimes may go unseen or unremembered. “I like to fill the paper with small moments to get lost in,” she says.

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A believer in “everything matters,” Hillery also loves experimenting with balance and harmony. “I enjoy the relationships between objects and how they look together,” she says. “I’m always moving things around to see how they change when they are next to each other. I stay away from symmetry … nothing too matchy-matchy.”

Pull together your own unmatched but highly artistic scheme by shopping the Heirloom collection here.

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The Instagram Takeover

When Hillery takes over @unisonhome on Instagram on September 16-18, you can expect a look inside her home, which doubles as her studio. Based in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago, she takes an organic approach to decorating her space, filling it with modern objects (including Unison table runners and pillows) where they simply feel right.

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Shop Baker’s Stripe Dishtowel and Bottlit Spice Containers. (pictured above)

At home and through her work, Hillery admits to being mindful without over-thinking things. “I don’t sketch or plan anything out before I do it, I just sit down and go,” says Hillery. “It’s actually very meditative.”

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The Nail Event

On October 22, Hillery will sit down with guests for 30 minutes to do nail art at our Unison store. The event is for everyone — men and kids, too! Expect multi-colored designs that are mini paintings in and of themselves. Hillery doesn’t have a plan before she dives in. That’s part of the fun.

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“I usually respond to the way the person presents her or himself, and ask about their favorite colors,” she says. “But mostly it’s all about play. The nail art is an extension of my paintings, and isn’t so much about beauty, but inspiring somebody.”

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To make an appointment for the nail event, email events@unisonhome.com.

 

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Food + Design = A Very Appetizing Instagram Takeover

See What Elise Metzger of Filigree Suppers Dished Out On @unisonhome

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Brita Olsen + Elise Metzger of Filigree Suppers

This past weekend, our Instagram feed became pretty appetizing. No wonder — it was taken over by Elise Metzger, founder of Filigree Suppers, a pop-up supper club that celebrates American design.

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We turned some of our modern servingware over to Elise and she posted photos of it styled with her culinary creations. It captured the spirit of food + design + entertaining. We saw tomatoes take a starring role on a gridded serving tray, watermelon slices pop on a modern round platter, and cream chill in Biobu cups. It was a weekend that we hope made you savor summer and all of its sights and flavors.

We love Elise’s design sensibility and fun loving attitude. Get to know her a bit more in our quick Q&A.

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Unison: This was a fun partnership! What do you think are some similarities between Filigree Suppers and Unison?

Elise: We are all about being playful and quirky, but creating a balance of textures and colors. A lot of our aesthetic is informed by the products that we love and use in our personal lives, and each supper is a way to explore different aspects of our collective and individual styles. I think if Unison and Filigree were a cocktail, it would be a French 75. Classic elements for sure, but still lively and with bubbles, of course!

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Unison: How did the Unison products inspire you in creating your posts/dishes?

Elise: I like to use a lot of contrast when thinking about the relationship between food and the plate. Because the products were mostly black and white, I tried to stick within a relatively edited palette to give focus to the playfulness of the product. I used a lot of warm and bright hues/food, like salmon and watermelon.

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Unison: What was your main goal in executing the Instagram takeover?

Elise: I think that it’s fun to be conscious of plating food, even if it’s just for yourself or your family. It certainly doesn’t happen every meal of the day, but I wanted the ease of that to come across in the posts.

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Unison: What is your general philosophy regarding entertaining?

Elise: Pay attention to as many details as possible – napkins, decor, seating chart – until guests arrive. This isn’t always easy while hosting, and I could certainly improve on this, but it’s more important to give guests the attention they deserve than to fret about everything going perfectly. Also, make a mood board! Really, there’s no better way to explore your own theme than to do this exercise. Think of it as your entertaining strategy. It allows you to be really flexible (and probably have more fun!) when making decisions.

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Filigree came together over the course of six months. I was taking a pottery class and wanted to have a dinner where everything at the table was local and handmade. (The first dinner was at Ovation in the West Loop, where even the tables are hand made!) Brita Olsen, my business partner, and I both loved to throw dinner parties, and had been doing so together for quite some time. We decided to team up to be able to do it with more frequency, and to bring our love of food and design into the fold.

Unison was one of our first collaborators and participated in the first supper in February 2015. It was a natural fit for Filigree, being a design centric, locally owned business. We always look forward to our collaborations together!

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Unison: We can’t let you leave without sharing a recipe. Got a good one for us?

Elise: This is just as delicious the night you make it as it is cold the next day on top of a salad. I’ve been using it for over a decade, and I’m sure many people use it, but it’s classic and reliable.

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SalmonRecipeThanks, Elise! And happy cooking, everyone! Learn more about Elise and Filigree Suppers here

 

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Himmeli: Art in Another Dimension

For anyone who has ever gazed at the night sky and outlined the forms of constellations in your mind’s eye, you’ve already begun to experience the quintessentially Finnish art form known as a himmeli.

Originally crafted as Christmas decorations, the first himmeli—a Finnish adapted name derived from the Swedish words for sky or heaven—were created centuries ago by Finnish peasants. At the time, women in small villages expertly threaded lengths of straw to form decorative geometric shapes reminiscent of the constellations, or of what some believed to be signs from heaven.

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Once complete, the himmelis were hung above the festive meal table at Christmastime, decorating the inside of the villagers’ tupas or log homes.

“By their ordered nature, these balanced constructions invoke the image of cosmic constellations that suspended and slowly moving in regulated courses, make rhythmic patterns in the sky, impelled to do so by an unseen will. The celestial connection is not fortuitous: it is believed that himmelis were inspired by the story of the appearance of the glittering star that announced the birth of Christ.” *

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In the 1950s, artist Saara Hopea-Untracht began crafting numerous himmelis, “as these constructions well suited her propensity for geometric design forms.” *

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And her standout pieces influenced Unison’s own Alicia Rosauer in creating our himmeli pattern.

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Set on versatile gray, our table and kitchen linens are as festive for the holidays as they are ready for spring, summer, or fall. And stain-resistant cotton sateen keeps messes at bay, leaving the himmeli pattern at center stage.

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Over the years, different artisans have put their own spin on the making of himmelis. Some have mixed the time-honored form with modern-day materials, such as the Prisma pieces in our current collection, which could hang above any table or stand alone as a piece of art.

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Whether you believe in the himmelis’ mystical powers, as did the Finnish villagers of old, or are simply captivated by the rich history and striking, airy geometry of these many-faceted shapes, a splash of himmeli design is sure to add a new dimension to your home.

* Source: Saara Hopea-Untracht: Life and Work. Written by Oppi Untracht 1988 ISBN 951-0-14377-4

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Designer’s Eye: Inspiration for Sonia Knit

Robert Segal, Co-Founder/Designer about his inspiration for the Sonia design:

“I was inspired by artist and textile designer Sonia Delaunay, who was amongst the avant grade movement of the 1920’s- 1930’s in Paris. I love how she applied her bold abstract painting style to fashion. Delaunay really transcended pattern that enveloped the human form and dresses. Her style had great spontaneity and rhythm bringing the geometry to life, which is not easy to do. Her style was a forerunner to that of Marimekko later in the 1950’s.”

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“I became aware of her work through a book given to me by family friend and designer Torben Orskov when I was in high school. It was a real eye opener for me and own work at the time. Seeing how a painting could adapt to a textile and that form and color could be the strong message behind a design. I always had a desire to make a pattern that captured this feeling and in this case of  the Sonia design, I used cut paper to make the composition/ color blocking effect. The final outcome was Alicia and I creating a bit more structure and composition for the knit blanket. As a blanket, I love how it can read differently just by the way it is folded or draped on a chair.”

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