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Design-driven Swiss watchmaker Rado served as the Official partner of two New York design events: NYCxDESIGN, New York City’s official celebration of the global design scene and WantedDesign. As part of this city-wide celebration of design, Rado launched the first-ever U.S. edition of the Rado Star Prize, which is held internationally to promote the work of young designers. The stateside edition of the Rado Star Prize focused on exploring the concept of lightness and “a lighter way of living” – a theme embodied by Rado’s latest lightweight and minimalist watch collections.

Beacon, NY-based designer, Kimberly Markel, was announced as the winner of first U.S. Rado Star Prize during the May 7th NYCxDESIGN ceremony which took place at WantedDesign Brooklyn at Industry City. Markel won the prize for her Glow Collection –  handcrafted from reclaimed plastic bonded with resin. This collection uses the unusual qualities of discarded plastics coming from soda bottles to styrofoam, lunch trays or eyeglasses, to make new pieces. The resulting aesthetic is soft looking, colorful, translucent, and imperfect. After a career in environmental policy, Markel worked at a foundry making large sculptures for artists like Jeff Koons. There, she started making her own work, and developing a process and material that would allow her to use existing materials in the objects she created, to truly have a lighter impact on the world. Not only was Markelthe winner of the Rado Star Prize U.S., but she also received the NYCxDESIGN award for Best Chair.

After this successful presence during NYCxDESIGN, Markel shared with WantedDesign a little bit more about her background and studio

NYCXDesign AWARDS and PARTY MOMA May 14, 2016 © Julienne Schaer
© Julienne Schaer

WD: Tell us a little bit about you: your multidisciplinary education, your background.
KM: My education is in public policy, specifically, in environmental policy. I did my undergrad and grad work at Carnegie Mellon. CMU supports interdisciplinary studies, and I combined my coursework with a number of art and design classes. Nothing exists in isolation and the university promotes that exploration.

WD: Your studio is based upstate New York in Beacon. Where are you from?
KM: I grew up in the Hudson valley, went to college in Pittsburgh and then spent time in a few different cities- Washington, DC, Baltimore, and Providence, all working in public policy at various government levels.
I wanted to work in the arts, so I returned to the Hudson Valley and took a job at an art foundry. The foundry was a feast for the eyes- Ursula von Rydingsvard, Matthew Barney, and Jeff Koons all made work there. I got a crash course in making things on a larger scale, specifically in mold-making and casting, and started to produce my own work on a larger, human-scale.

WD: Can you tell us more about the Glow collection?
KM: I have an inherent need to make things. When I started making more and more work, I couldn’t stop thinking about putting all of this new material in the world. I just couldn’t do it. I began experimenting with making composite type materials- ones that were made of mostly existing and end-of-life material.
Old plastics were really attractive to me, they had such beautiful qualities- translucency, color, and durability. I felt like I could help the material sort of transcend itself, and not just look and feel like old plastic.


WD: How do you see the next step for this collection? 
KM: I produce all the pieces myself in my studio. In thinking about producing in a larger quantity, I’d have to build more molds and have someone in the studio to help me with production. It’s an exciting problem to think about solving.

WD: Are you already working on a new collection, exploring maybe new material and process?
KM: I am working on a new collection! I’m happy with the aesthetic qualities I was able to achieve, but I can’t imagine not experimenting with other processes and materials. There’s so much existing material to experiment with.
One of the recycling companies I work with is very supportive of my work, and they send packages of material they’ve gathered and don’t know what to do with, hoping that I’ll find a way to use it. That’s exciting to me.

WD: After being the Rado Star Prize winner, exhibiting at WantedDesign Brooklyn and receiving the NYCxDESIGN Award for best chair, what is your dream scenario?
KM: My dream is pretty simple, to always do work that challenges me and somehow inspires others. I’m hoping that through this wonderful and generous support, I’m able to continue that work.

More information about Kim Markel

Ten finalists and the winner of the Rado Star Prize U.S. 2016, Kimberly Markel, were selected by a special jury comprised of members of NYCxDESIGN, WantedDesign, Rado, and members of the design and watch community, all presented at WantedDesign Brooklyn.
An additional prix du public winner, selected by online voting, will receive a Rado watch. Public vote is ending July 1stradostarprize.rado.com