On Today’s Show: World Building with Alex McDowell; Focus on LA Designer Tanya Aguíñiga

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On this DnA, two Angelenos whose work re-imagines the world we live in: Alex McDowell and Tanya Aguíñiga .

Alex McDowell is a Production Designer and a professor at USC School of Cinematic Arts. His credits include Fight Club, Minority Report and the new Superman flick, Man of Steel (above). His 5D Institute is putting on “The Science of Fiction” at USC on April 13. Participants and experts will work to build an alternate visionary world, a “future reality that could lie just around the corner if only given the right impetus.” In our conversation, he talks about how the concept of world building can be explored beyond the imaginary world of film.


Also on the show, DJ (design journalist) Alissa Walker interviews LA designer Tanya Aguíñiga in her colorful Atwater Village studio. Located in a room at the Atwater Crossing complex, Aguíñiga’s workspace is an explosion of textures with coils of yarns, ropes and cables dripping down from every surface like stalactites. As part of her work, Aguíñiga travels around the world, learning traditional craft techniques. She discusses a recent trip to Chiapas, Mexico where she learned backstrap weaving, a full-body weaving technique that requires the weaver to be tethered to a tree, almost like performance art. In fact, she recently used it that way by backstrap weaving in a Beverly Hills parking space, a happening that was featured on KCET’s Artbound.


What’s most striking about Aguíñiga’s furniture, fashion and accessories is that they all have this playful, tactile sense to them, like her now-famous Felt Chair, a mundane metal folding chair encased with bright felted wool. At a show at JF Chen last summer (above), Aguíñiga showcased many of her furniture pieces which all show evidence of the handmade. She’s also using her aesthetic to create installations, like Sea Change: Tanya Aguiñiga’s Bluebelt Forest for the Laguna Art Museum where she is knitting and knotting a touchable, textile “coral reef.” Another wallhanging will go on display at the new Ace Hotel in downtown Los Angeles this fall.


Aguíñiga’s Rope Knot Bracelet, handmade right here in L.A., is this week’s DnA Design Pick. This chunky cuff is knotted using a traditional Turk’s Head knot, found in nautical applications, and is custom-dyed in KCRW colors, maroon and light plum. Pick up the Rope Knot Bracelet in the KCRW Store and proceeds will benefit KCRW. Aguíñiga also makes a matching necklace, made of unraveled cotton rope dip-dyed in two colors. You can buy that directly from tanyaaguíñiga.com.