L.A. firm Commune leaves fingerprints across Japan for a cause


When the L.A. design firm Commune shared photos of its new pop-up in Japan -- a traveling shop and cafe featuring collaborations with Heath Ceramics and”Beginners” director and artist Mike Mills, among others -- what initially caught our eye weren’t Mills’ limited-edition prints, which are great, but rather a series of fingerprint graphics lining one wall.

It turns out the prints in question belong to the thumb of Bauhaus artist Herbert Bayer. Commune uses the thumbprint as a maker’s mark, its signature “for anything we do that is handcrafted,” Roman Alonso, a partner in the firm, said via email in response to our inquiry. “It’s our homage to the Bauhaus school, which is always a source of inspiration.”

Earlier this year, Karim Rashid deployed his fingerprint as a graphic pattern for a BoConcept rug. We asked artist Judith Seng about her use of a fingerprint motif for her porcelain Fingerbowl. Responding by email from Berlin, where she is based, Seng said she conceived her piece as a rapid prototyping project for a most personal gift, something that literally has your three-dimensional personal stamp. Her artist’s statement further explains: “To consciously give somebody one’s personal fingerprint is a matter of trust and empathy.”


The sentiment rings true with Commune’s pop-up, from which all profits will be donated to recovery efforts related to the March 2011 tsunami in Japan, a spokeswoman said. The firm, which designed the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs and more recently the Ammo restaurant at the Hammer Museum in L.A. and new Heath factory in San Francisco, teamed up with the Japanese design studio Playmountain for the pop-up. It opened in Tokyo, just finished a run in Osaka and is scheduled to open Wednesday in Kagoshima.

What’s being sold in the pop-ups also is available here in the States. The thumbprints -- each letterpressed in Japan -- are being sold on Commune’s site, as are Mills’ series of five prints. In photos we also spied Commune’s line for Heath as well as the stained glass lanterns of Steve Halterman (whose Joshua Tree home we happened to profile earlier this year).

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