“I think people in the design community need to abide by trend, and the only thing I’m concerned about is making someone laugh.”
– Joseph Algieri
All images courtesy of Joseph Algieri
Organic forms, bright colours, and an appreciation for the outrageous characterise Brooklyn, New York-based designer Joseph Algieri‘s playful vision for collectible design. Though educated as an industrial designer, Algieri prefers a hands-on approach to creation, experimenting with materials – from delicate clay to expandable foam – to develop pieces which challenge common assumptions. In his practice, foams typically used in construction settings become lamps with undulating surfaces dotted with bulbs and extruded clay forms become planters and lamps with uniquely textured surfaces. He seeks to raise questions and doubts, push the limits of his chosen media, and draw a joyful laugh out of audiences who encounter his pieces.
In his latest work, Algieri continues his experimental approach with a series of “pleated” ceramic lamps. In this series, the designer contends with a faulty clay extruder, leaning into the unusual forms of clay produced to create their tactile bodies. Their unrepeatable, flora-like frills illustrate the eccentric, one-of-a-kind quality of Algieri’s design process and speak to the unconventional narrative of their creation. Fired and finished with brightly coloured automotive paint, the lamps offer a new take on collectible ceramic design.
How have you employed your background in industrial design with your very hands-on ceramic practice?
The education that I received was more about execution and storytelling that brought you to an end result (product). I enjoy taking all of those skills and allow my hands to tell the story, as opposed to having something industrially made.
You’ve previously spoken about your work as “[addressing] the lack of comedy that exists in the design world”. Which pieces from your practice do you think illustrate this approach to design best?
The “Testa D’Moro” I made for a show in 2018 is a pretty solid example of that. The larger wiggly cigarettes, the exploding foam. The prerequisite of the work is more about exuding an erratic personality into a physical object. Another good example would be all of the foam lamps, the intense colors, the arrangement of bulbs. Having 15 sockets in a tiny lamp is outrageous, and I love it. I think people in the design community need to abide by trend, and the only thing I’m concerned about is making someone laugh.
With this approach in mind, what type of reaction do you anticipate from audiences when they encounter your work?
I want someone to be blown away and see something they haven’t before. I think the use of materials also makes someone question what the pieces are since foam is so foreign to people. With the ceramic work, I really enjoy pushing the structural limits and see how whimsy something so delicate can be.
Your work with ceramics and foam are playful, colourful, and tactile. Where do you draw inspiration from when developing these pieces?
The inspiration is everywhere. It’s on the street. It’s an obnoxious logo; a bizarre assemblage of objects; an outfit; a nicely plated dish. For me, when it comes to finding something I like and want to embody, I don’t have to look far.
What was the main inspiration behind your new collection of “Pleated Lamps”?
All of the extrusions in the newer collection is from just frustration of having a faulty clay extruder. When I would have the clay come out of the die, the sides had gaps and caused all of these insane looking pieces of clay to fly out of the machine. The collection is an accident in a way; it happened from me not tightening bolts tight enough.
How, if at all, does this new collection build on your previous collections? How does it differ?
It’s a departure for sure, but I think the eccentricness and energy ties it back to most of my previous work. You can see the drama in the work that also exists elsewhere. It has the ephemeral quality – that moment of extrusion, that drip of foam – stuck in time that I’ve always enjoyed.
© Heidi Lee
Joseph Algieri is a ceramicist, lighting and home designer. Based in New York, his practice has spanned several different types of media, notably expandable foams and clay. Joseph’s work relies heavily on deconstructing and dissolving form, repetition, and expanding upon materials to their limit in a comedic fashion.
His work has gained recognition from T Magazine to Architectural Digest, along with a growing audience of art lovers and designers combined.