Here is an interview to the wonderful Matthew Shlian, who is a papel engineer.
With his talent and passion, I am not surprised about his success, and I thought you’d be interested to know how to become a papel engineer.
How do you define your work?
It is paper – I manipulate it
How did you begin? Was it hard?
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 created 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.
Have you ever discouraged?
Sure, who hasn’t? It’s hard to make a life in the arts.
Which would be your ideal project? Do you have such one?
I like projects with freedom and those with restrictions. My favorites are when the client sets up a good question and lets me solve it without getting in the way.
How your ideas come up? Which ones are your sources of inspiration? Are you influenced by anyone?
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.
Have you ever had a mentor that has supported and guided you?
Of course. I have had amazing teachers that have taught me how to be an artist through mentorship. Shout outs to Jim Royle, George Hrycun, Anne Currier.
What is the philosophy of your firm?
It’s great, now do it again.
What is beauty for you?
Everything is beautiful if you look at it in the right way. “Seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees.”
Tell us how a normal day in your work is
Get up, shower, eat, go to studio- work all morning, emails at lunchtime- meetings in afternoons, errands. Go home. Repeat.
Which is the most difficult from your work?
Dealing with people. I’d rather be making work.
Which one has been your biggest success?
I was on sesame street last month. That was pretty big.