MSDS style


Bet­ween them they em­bo­dy the Ca­na­dian new wave. At the head of MSDS Jes­si­ca Na­ka­ni­shi and Jo­na­than Sa­bine are sur­fing on a de­si­gn wave that com­bines a mi­ni­ma­list ap­proach and an avant-garde aes­the­tic. We met them in their Toronto stu­dio in the middle of two dif­ferent worlds.

Jes­si­ca exudes a thought­ful calm­ness, Jo­na­than a conscien­tious co­ol­ness. She is of Ja­pa­nese ori­gin, whe­reas he has En­glish, Nor­we­gian and West In­dian roots. The duo dis­cre­te­ly fol­lows a crea­tive path that takes them from Toronto to Co­pen­ha­gen and back again, from one North to ano­ther as it were. Their stu­dio, MSDS, all brick walls and a pale- co­lou­red in­te­rior, is lo­ca­ted in a for­mer toy fac­to­ry in The Junc­tion, one of Toronto’s hip­pest dis­tricts. Lines and ma­te­rials set the tone in this in­dus­trial space where pro­to­types seem to just float. Since we first met du­ring Toronto de­si­gn week in Ja­nua­ry 2015 eve­ry­thing has ac­ce­le­ra­ted for the two de­si­gners. Af­ter a first col­lec­tion of plea­ted ter­ra­cot­ta vases for Um­bra Shift, they have crea­ted a range of fu­tu­ris­tic lights for Da­nish brand WOUD, a conver­tible ca­bi­net for Bruun Munch. Some other new, Ca­na­dian-made pieces are al­so on the cards in Scan­di­na­via. This year, the ope­ning of the Toronto De­si­gn Off­site Fes­ti­val took place in the of­fices of Sho­pi­fy, which were de­si­gned by MSDS to look like an as­sem­bly of contai­ners

and geo­me­tric ele­ments. MSDS is a role mo­del for ma­ny young Ca­na­dian de­si­gners who are strug­gling to break through in the context of a ra­ther conser­va­tive lo­cal scene.The stu­dio, crea­ted in 2010, has an al­most sym­bio­tic ap­proach to de­si­gn that is at­trac­ting more and more in­ter­est from Nor­dic com­pa­nies on a quest to find es­sen­tial de­si­gns. One such example is ‘An­nu­lar’, the duo’s cei­ling light whose light source is not in­side its cone-sha­ped shade as you would ex­pect but, thanks to the pos­si­bi­li­ties of LED tech­no­lo­gy, set around its ou­ter rim. “We like to play with the pos­si­bi­li­ties of ma­te­rials by using all the new tech­no­lo­gies that are wi­thin our reach,” Jes­si­ca points out. Fol­lo­wing the same lo­gic, the ‘Source Ma­te­rials’ col­lec­tion, which was pre­sen­ted at Stock­holm fur­ni­ture show last Fe­brua­ry, ex­plores the ma­te­rials and he­ri­tage of the crafts­men of yes­te­ryear. A single ma­te­rial ( sto­ne­ware, alu­mi­nium, wood or com­po­site) is used for each piece and conveys the ob­ject, lamp, table or chair’s ori­gi­nal concept. For example in their ‘An­ces­tor Chair’, Jes­si­ca and Jo­na­than re­fe­ren­ced an ear­ly 17th cen­tu­ry chair de­si­gn that pre­dates the ico­nic Wind­sor chair. “This chair that pre­dates the Wind­sor mo­del was de­si­gned to be ea­sy to make,” Jo­na­than ex­plains, “It was spa­ring in its use of parts and fixings and was made from simple com­po­nents. We thought that its spartan as­pect was in fact ve­ry contem­po­ra­ry. Our in­ter­pre­ta­tion, which we in­ten­ded as a tri­bute, re­tains ma­ny of the chair’s main fea­tures and much of its cha­rac­ter.” The chair dis­plays a for­mal sim­pli­ci­ty that is in the same vein as the work of contem­po­ra­ry de­si­gn’s foun­ders: for sure, these are two ta­len­ted de­si­gners you should keep your eye on!

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