OH BOY ARTIFACtS
What we make
Creating Artifacts is a deep dive into utility and beauty; neither holds a higher station because both are interdependent. No item is downgraded for being ordinary. For each product the form is pared down to suit its primary function. A hefty book of perforated, French-folded sheets of double-face gift wrap is easily at home on your coffee table. Six patterns—filigree and fine stripes—alternate throughout the book, which keeps 24 sheets of gift wrap in pristine condition with only a 9 × 12–inch footprint (less if you slip it onto your bookshelf). Similarly, a book of 36 greeting cards, patterned on the exposed side and blank within, detach along their perforation. The books also sport dust jackets, “a bespoke suit coat,” says Salanitro, “worn inside out.”
If we redefine beauty to include the process of the making, people might reconsider how they define and respond to the finer things: a glazed clay figurine by a child or, for our part, a notebook. Is a notebook of enough significance to be called beautiful? If you bring craft into the equation, if you bring the user and their contribution into the equation, absolutely.
“The idea of clashing came to me from years back, when I was practicing architecture,” says Salanitro. “Every morning I passed by a square off Kearny Street, where a group of Chinese women regularly practiced tai chi. I remember pink bags of Napa cabbage and bok choy resting on the ground beside them as they changed position, revealing mismatched socks. Their dress was entirely random: shirt, pants, sweater—all clashing. Years later we were in the initial phase of designing the first Artifacts line, the notebook and a less grand version of the book of gift wrap, and it seemed very ordinary—until I made the connection. The image of the Chinese women came back to me; that was when everything started falling into place. The gift wrap book wasn’t enough; there had to be more layers, more components: packing paper, sealing tape, ribbon, cards, gift tags. The key was to take matching out of the equation. I thought instead to make everything clash—that it should all clash exquisitely.”
WHERE WE CAME FROM
In December 1999, Appleton Paper approached Salanitro’s San Francisco–based design firm, looking to team up on a holiday promotion. The result was a modest bound book of gift wrap. The promotion sparked in Salanitro a desire to design free of layers of input and see how the firm's ideas fared in the marketplace. He wanted to exhibit a designer’s capacity to work ahead of the pack and influence rather than follow trends. Oh Boy Artifacts was born.
“It’s a whole system—you can mix and match any parts of the system, and it works,” said AIGA Medalist Kit Hinrichs, speaking in his capacity as a judge for HOW magazine’s International Design Competition, which called Oh Boy Artifacts “an outstanding achievement” among thousands of entries. “This is one of the few times when the designer has put his money where his mouth is,” said Hinrichs. “So many times we talk about how a job should be produced, but these guys have invested in it.”
Artifacts premiered its 64 varied designs—12 laboriously randomized patterns and solid fields of color layered freely onto nine form factors—in the curated Accent on Design section at the San Francisco International Gift Fair in spring 2001. Enthusiastic audiences greeted the product—retailers, peers, the press, and the public at large.
That fall, at its New York International Gift Fair premiere, Artifacts became the first-ever freshman awarded the Best in Show prize. Similarly, two weeks later Salanitro accepted two more Best in Show trophies at London’s exclusive Top Drawer show. Upon his return from the UK, 250 retailers carried the line. Artifacts introduced another 39 designs 18 months after the first collection premiered. In less than two years, it extended its reach to include more than 350 retailers throughout the United States and Europe.
What others say
Tastemaker Tom Ford calls the line “Great. Really great!”
Kim Cattrall, Sex and the City says it’s “Fabulous!”
“Quite beautiful and very handy,” says Stephen Sondheim.
The collections on display here were favored wares of The Art Institute of Chicago; Harrods and Harvey Nichols, London; Soolip, Los Angeles; Kate’s Paperie, Kate Spade, MoMA, Moss, and Prada, New York; Colette, Paris; and Gump’s, San Francisco, among nearly 350 other retailers internationally.
Oh Boy Artifacts has been featured in more than 50 periodicals and volumes. It was honored with a National Silver ADDY, which ranks it among the most favored top 0.5 percentile of entrants (more than 50,000 nationwide); the line has been recognized with 10 Best in Show awards. In all, Artifacts holds 50 distinctions, among them the AAF Regional ADDY Best in Show and Gold Certificate of Excellence winner; the Admark ADDY Silver Certificate of Excellence winner; the One Show Silver Award winner; Print’s 2002 Regional Design Competition Best in Show winner; and the 36th Annual West Coast Show Silver Award winner.