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Matthew Shlian * Interview

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Matthew Shlian is a paper engineer and his work is rooted in print media, book art and commercial design. Matthew frequently collaborates with scientists at the University of Michigan. Their investigations extend to visualizing cellular  division and solar cell developement.

Read our interview where he reveals a bit more about him-self.

A – Firstly, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am an artist, paper engineer, teacher and collaborator.  After graduating from Alfred University in 2002, I spent three years working as a paper engineer in the field of commercial design. There I made movable paper contraptions, from popup books to greeting cards to artist books and kinetic sculptures.  In 2006 I received my MFA from Cranbrook Academy of Art.  Currently I operate a design studio in Ann Arbor Michigan, teach Foundations and Paper Engineering at the University of Michigan and work as a visiting research scholar at the University’s Material Science department.

B · What’s your favourite part of the design process?

I like the beginning when nothing is known and anything is possible.

C · Please tell us more about your art and design background and what made you become an artist and designer?

I began as an undergrad: I originally went to school for ceramics, but realized early on that I was interested in everything. I studied, glass, painting, performance, sound and by the end I had a dual major in ceramics and print media.  I wasn’t making traditional print or ceramic work at that point.  Instead I would create large digital prints and using a series of cut scores and creases create large scale pop up spreads.  I was making these 4 foot v-folds or strut fold pieces.  I really had no idea what I was doing.  I wanted the work to be interactive and for the image to relate to the folds.  I loved the immediacy of paper as a medium.  I also loved the geometry. Figuring out the pieces was like solving a puzzle.  I’m a highly visual person; I have to see something to make sense of it.  One of my faculty advisers, Anne Currier, started buying me pop-up books and I started dissecting them and figuring out how they worked.  It took off from there.



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D · Where do you get inspiration?

I find inspiration in just about everything; Solar cell design, protein misfolding,  Arabic tile patterning, systematic drawing, architecture, biomimetics, music etc.  I have a unique way of misunderstanding the world that helps me see things easily overlooked. People wise- I look to musicians, performers, writers, artists, producers… Brian Eno, Matthew Goulish and Goat Island, El-P, Daniel Libeskind, Dondi White, Christian Marclay, Ren Weschler, Buckminster Fuller, George Hrycun, Edward R. Tufte, Charles and Ray Eames etc. On the paper scene, I’m in love with Lothar Meggendorfer, Vojtech Kubasta, and Noriko Ambe.
E · What was the movie or book that impressed you the most?
I really like watching documentaries, but to pick one that impressed me the most is impossible.  How about a list of 5- American Movie, Style Wars, The Burden of Dreams, Powers of Ten, Dark Days.  
F · Can you describe your style, how has that style developed over the years?
People write that my style is clean and minimal.  I’m not sure of either.  I like things messy when they need to be and complex when they need to be.  Making something look simple is not easy.


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G · What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on a new series for Ghostly International, some lighting, some packaging, new pieces for Eight Emperors.  I’m working alongside some scientists on an NSF grant folding things at a micro and nano scale that I cannot wait to share.

H · For you what makes a product rare?

It stands out.  We are a visual culture and see so much “stuff” in a day- it takes a lot to have traction in our minds and for us to remember it.  Making a passive experience into an active one certainly helps.

I · What would people be surprised to learn about you?

I’m terrible at math.

See him creating and talking about some pieces for Ghostly International

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