When the online magazine Sight Unseen curated a small show to run in tandem with New York Design Week 2011, they challenged a group of designers to fashion new objects and furnishings, strictly using raw materials from McMaster-Carr. For the uninitiated, McMaster-Carr is the Illinois-based equipment supplier of all things industrial: piping, tubing, plumbing pieces, hardware, hand tools, lighting and electrical parts, and so on.
The McMaster-Carr registry lists over 480,000 of rough-around-the-edges materials. Out of those thousands, Alissia Melka-Teichroew opted for leather strapping and copper-plated hardware that called to mind her father and the ranches in Minnesota and the Dakotas where he grew up. For the exhibit–dubbed McMasterPieces–Melka-Teichroew spun the leather and hardware into baskets and a tote bag. Now, two years later, the collection is being manufactured in Los Angeles.
Melka-Teichroew crafted the baskets and bags to emanate a kind of Old World aesthetic, like the durable pieces built by Shakers. But despite the texture and color palette, the Strap Collection touches on a more contemporary consumer trend: buying for longevity. Which isn’t to say the bounty of plastic wares at Target or on Amazon isn’t still needed, but, increasingly, today’s designers are prioritizing durability and staying power. There’s the new guard of heirloom-quality products, like Tom Dixon’s Eclectic line, and there’s tongue-in-cheek trends like couture versions of the brown paper lunch bag. The Strap Collection does a little bit of both: It turns a once-quaint basket into something that will certainly outlive wicker, and most definitely look better.