Author: Candy Phelps

ertainment Editor at Isthmus

Jessica Steinhoff


Jessica Steinhoff is anything but ordinary. She doesn’t own a car, but she does own a piano. She was writing professionally at age 14. This classically trained violinist also enjoys listening to noise music that — in her words — sounds like bacon frying. Besides her dual first love of music and words, she is a photographer, a gardener, a cook, a traveler, and a communitarian.

As the Arts & Entertainment Editor at Isthmus, she carefully documents the Madison art scene, and she also shapes it. Through writing and relationships, she endeavors to stitch together the distinct pieces of Madison’s art scene into one whole patchwork design for the benefit of artists, art lovers and the community at large. Through her inquisitive nature, voracious research and clever writing, she infuses new ideas from around the globe into Madison.

Jessica’s life seems to be a creative journey toward the unconventional. If it weren’t for her modest character and serious case of stage fright, she would no doubt be the one in the spotlight.  So, I was excited when I had the opportunity to turn the tables: interviewer becomes interviewee. Here is a glimpse into the fascinating life Jessica Steinhoff:

Jessica Steinhoff – Arts & Entertainment Editor at Isthmus

I’ve been there in this position for over a little over a year, but I was a freelance arts writer for almost 4 years before that, and I did some writing for Isthmus while I was in college before then.

At the UW I majored in journalism and political science and then I went out to New York and studied at NYU. That’s where I really got immersed in the gallery scene. And that’s where I really learned a lot about visual arts because that’s where the center of the American scene is.

How has art shaped your life?

In so many ways. I guess I’ll just give you a couple of snippets. I got really interested in photography in college. This was right when digital cameras were starting to get popular, but I really wanted to learn how to use a film camera. My dad gave me this camera that’s significantly older than I am. So I started taking it out and trying to figure out how to use this contraption with film in it and seeing what I could capture. But then digital got really popular and I sort of switched over to that. But through photography I’ve met a lot of people who I really like and whose work I admire. That branched out to meeting people who paint and who sculpt and do all sorts of other artistic things.

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View works by Jessica Steinhoff:


During that time were you still focused on writing?

Yes. I’ve been writing professionally since I was 14 years old. I had kind of a silly job with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. They had me review movies and write about fashion from a teen’s perspective. And I wrote about the awkwardness of being in high school, sort of like the essay version of “Freaks and Geeks.” I loved it, and I met some really incredible editors. So I was pretty determined that I wanted to do a journalism program once I graduated high school. I’ve been a musician for a long time too, so I kind of felt like I had to choose between those two things…which wasn’t that hard because I have a bit of a stage fright problem. I like to create the music more than I like performing it. Also I realized I could write about music too and merge those two passions. I am a classically trained in violin and piano. I’m also interested in the mandolin but I don’t how to play very well yet. And I taught myself a little guitar at one point, but that skill has kind of withered. I’d like to pick it up again.

Do you still play?

I bought a house recently, so I finally have a piano. I haven’t had one of my own for a long time. So I’ve been playing again but I’m really rusty. I’ve been playing some ragtime piano and some easy versions of George Gershwin songs. As far as violin goes, that was always my main instrument and the one I was good at. I did a lot of classical works, I’ve played in the Milwaukee Symphony and toured a little bit with that group. So sometimes I’ll dig up the old repertoire and play. I’m really interested in other things the violin can do. I’m interested in fiddling and how people explore different branches of Americana using the fiddle. I like Irish and Scottish style fiddling. I’d like to develop that skill more. Maybe that’s what I’ll be doing when I’m 80. I also listen to a lot of rock and roll and noise music, stuff that sounds like bacon frying. Totally different than what I play.

So you don’t sit in your car and listen to the symphony?

Well, I don’t have a car. As far as classical music goes, I really like chamber music and smaller ensembles especially romantic works. And then I’m always curious to see what really contemporary composers are doing with avant-garde stuff and things that bleed into the jazz genre. Or people who are making their own instruments and composing for them.

ertainment Editor at Isthmus

How long have you lived in Madison?

This is my third time living in Madison. I’m a boomerang person. My first time here was in college as an undergrad, and then I moved back to Milwaukee and did some grad studies there. Then I moved all around, including New York City. I was there for almost 4 years. Then I moved back to Madison in 2008. Then I was here until 2010 and then I moved to Chicago working for Groupon writing jokes. Then I had the opportunity to apply for the job I have now, and to my pleasant surprise, I got it.

You’re obviously an expert in the Madison art scene. What have you observed about the Madison art scene, especially compared to what you’ve seen in New York, Milwaukee and Chicago?

Madison is its own special place. I would never want to compare it to New York or Chicago. It has special characteristics that those places don’t have. Madison is very community oriented, which I love. You can see that reflected in a lot of the art. There seems to be a real trend in terms of visual artists in making work about the environment. One of my big goals in my job has been to help foster community even more. People often complain about bubbles in the art scene. So I see my role as someone who can help bring those people together and spur discussion or at least help them become aware of each other.

If you could change something about the Madison art scene, what would it be?   

I’d like there to be less fear. It’s not uncommon to be intimidated by things like classical music, dance or visual art. I think there is a tendency for people to avoid those things because they feel like they don’t know how to talk about them as deeply as they’d like to. They don’t want to feel silly. Art is really for everyone. Even I you’re just a true beginner at observing a certain art form, there’s something in it for you still. You have to start somewhere.

What do you think makes someone an artist?

There are definitely art lovers and artists. Those two groups often overlap. Part of being an artist is having a certain type of curiosity, asking questions about the world we live in. I’m really interested in how the mind works. I studied psychology for a while in school. I’m interested in perception and different things going on in the brain that can shape that. People who are thinkers can be artists. Some people just have a visceral approach or a natural gift for color or they instinctively know how to frame a photo. I think art lovers are equally important. It’s not just the pieces on their own, it’s everyone talking about them.

Describe your contributions to “Chromatic: The Crossroads of Color and Music”

This is one of the projects I’m really proud of. So I wrote this chapter about synesthesia, which is this situation going on in the brain where two senses kind of get blended together.  So someone might be reading and the letter C might appear to them as yellow. It’s not exactly seeing it, it’s sensing it in a way. It’s hard to describe, which is why I took on the project because it was just so challenging. Some people sort of see things when they hear music. So I interviewed a lot of people with that type of synesthesia, and then I talked to neuroscientists.

I’ve been a contributor to “Alarm” Magazine for many years. They branched out and started publishing books and design magazines. So this started out as a cover story for the magazine, but then it became a book chapter.

Name 3 adjectives that describe your personality.

Curious, community-minded and creative.

[quote float=”right”]”I think there is a tendency for people to avoid visual arts, classical music and dance because they feel like they don’t know how to talk about them as deeply as they’d like to. They don’t want to feel silly. But art is really for everyone.”[/quote]

What makes you feel young?

Being outside and exploring. If I go to the arboretum and I discover a tree I’ve never seen before, I get really excited and I feel like a little kid and I want to tell everyone about it. Also dancing. There’s just something about it.

Do you dance out while you’re covering shows, or do you mean dancing in your kitchen?

I will dance anywhere if given the opportunity and if I don’t feel too stupid doing it. You kind of have to be brave to be the person out in the crowd moving around if no one else really is. And I can’t say I’m brave enough to always be that person, but I think about it a lot. And yes, I also dance in my kitchen.

What makes you feel old?

I interview a lot of people, and it’s really fun to interview people who are younger than me and people who have grown up having the Internet their entire lives. For example, people who don’t remember thick newspapers that are actually in print. That is interesting to me but it also makes me feel old. I like certain things that are old fashioned too and have a little bit of nostalgia for those types of things.

What was the first tape / record / 8-track / CD you remember buying?

One of the first ones that I bought myself was Mariah Carey’s “Music Box.” I really liked her cover of “Without You,” which I later discovered was a song by Bad Finger, kind of a power pop group that was popular in the 70’s. They’re bassist is actually from Madison. I sort of have a thing for Bad Finger; they’re a guilty pleasure. But I don’t listen to Mariah that much anymore.

What is the best gift you’ve ever received?

I have this uncle who lives in upstate New York. He used to live in New York City where he designed high end gardens. So he’s this really interesting creative person who works with plants, which I also love. When I was a kid one year he sent me a rose bush to plant, and it was called a Pretty Jessica. It was such a wonderful thing to send a little girl, and I’ve been able to watch it grow in my parents’ yard most of my life.

Name the top 3 things you would take with you on a desert island?

I would definitely like to write some music if I were on a desert island and I find that easiest to do on a piano. I don’t know how I would get a piano onto a desert island. Maybe an airdrop or something? Some kind of writing instrument, and I’m hoping I could find something that’s sort of paper like to write on because I don’t want to use up my third one. If I could bring a friend or family member or a pet with me that would be great, but if that’s not allowed, maybe a photo album.

If you could interview anyone in the world for The Isthmus, who would it be?

Some of the people that I look up to are the hardest to interview. I absolutely love Morissey. He recently released his autobiography, and I would love to talk to him. He’s just so fascinating.

What is the best part about your job?

I get to work with words and I get to work with people. It’s a nice well-rounded combination. And the thing I love the most is that I get to create something new every week. Every Wednesday once we’ve submitted the next issue of the paper, I feel really good. I feel really privileged being able to work in some facet of the arts.

What is the worst part about your job?

There’s never enough time to do everything I want to do. I’ve got a lot of ideas and there’s never enough resources to make them happen, especially time.

What do plan to be doing when you are 80 years old? 

One thing I’ve wanted to do in retirement is teach English in another country. I’ve always wanted to go to Japan. I’m fascinated with the pop culture there. I’m fortunate to have been able to go travel in Europe. I got to go to Berlin, which is just an amazing city artistically.

If you were an animal, what would you be?

I think I’d like to be something that can both swim and fly, so some kind of beautiful sea bird or a graceful bird like a crane. Or some kind of fish or whale that can swim deep in the ocean and see things that humans don’t get to see.

Social Media, Chicken Feed & Plein Air Painting…

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Courtney Scanlan, 23, is taking the Paoli art scene into the world of social media one gallery at a time.

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Zazen Gallery
6896 Paoli Rd
Paoli, WI 53508

Cluck the Chicken Store
6904 Paoli Road,
Paoli, WI 53508


Courtney is currently running the social media marketing campaigns for both Zazen Gallery and Cluck the Chicken Store in Paoli, WI. She’s also working with the Paoli merchant’s association in helping draw a younger crowd to the town, which has long been known as an artist community.

Zazen Gallery is owned by Richard Judd, a renown furniture designer whose work includes seats and tables made of beautifully bent wood. Cluck the Chicken Store is not only a chicken supply store, but also an art gallery. (See below for more information). The two businesses are next door neighbors.

Courtney’s professional career started much like many of her generation. She graduated college from Truman State University in Missouri with an English degree and didn’t have a job or much money. So she moved back to her hometown of Monticello and started hitting the streets trying to garner some experience. She sent emails to every art gallery in Paoli.

Susan Troller, left, is owner of Cluck the Chicken Store, a chicken supply store that is also an art gallery. Courtney Scanlan, right, works at Cluck and the Zazen Gallery next door, helping with social media marketing for both businesses.

Susan Troller, left, is owner of Cluck the Chicken Store, a chicken supply store that is also an art gallery. Courtney Scanlan, right, works at Cluck and the Zazen Gallery next door, helping with social media marketing for both businesses.


“I loved working at my school art gallery. That enlightening process and watching people be inspired was amazing,” Courtney said. “I told Richard I would work for free, but he decided to hire me.”

Courtney realized during an internship that a lot of artists and creative people are struggling to keep up with marketing themselves, and many of them are not taking advantage of various social media such as Facebook, Instagram and e-newsletter campaigns. She hopes to user her experience and continue in artists management.

“I’m really interested in taking the load off these people so they can focus on their craft,” Courtney said. “They don’t teach in art school how to get your work in a gallery. It takes a lot of stamina, and there are so many factors involved.”

Zazen Gallery has been open for 15 years, and Richard Judd has been making furniture for 30. His pieces are so beautiful one would hate to actually use them as furniture. The gallery also features a variety of artwork, including other woodwork and furniture, paintings, glasswork, pottery and more. Judd has his woodworking studio behind the gallery.

Cluck the Chicken Store‎

The chicks

The chicks: Lola, Dorothy Vader and Friendly

I have three chickens of my own, so Cluck the Chicken Store is an amazing gem for supplies, information and best of all, a place where you can “talk chicken” without people thinking you are ridiculous. While the store doesn’t actually sell chickens or eggs, when I visited, the store had three “tween” chicks inside and a few adult hens outside just for fun.

Susan Troller, owner of Cluck, was inspired to start the store in 2012 while doing book readings from “CLUCK, From Jungle Fowl to City Chicks,” a book of stories and essays Sue wrote with the artist Sue Medaris.

The store sells everything from beautiful and quirky chicken-related art and jewelry to chicken supplies such as food and pre-built coops.

2“I have always loved the decorative arts,” Susan said. “And I thought, maybe you can have an art gallery and a feed store at the same time.”

Cluck carries the work of many local artists in the form of painting, pottery, jewelry and more. Most of the art is chicken or farm centric. Together with Zazen Gallery, they are hosting a double artist reception Oct. 25, which features the work of local painters Cynthia Quinn and Jan Norsetter. “They both have such beautiful work, and they’re both really well respected with a lot of fans,” Susan said.

The theme is Whole Fresh Local Farmscapes & Landscapes. Cynithia’s work will be at Cluck and Jan’s at Zazen. Together the businesses are trying to make art more accessible and less intimidating for people.

“It’s just this wonderful camaraderie between businesses,” Susan said about Zazen. “There’s a lot of shared sentiment and encouragement between us. I’ve always admired Richard’s work. He’s such a good furniture maker, designer and such a nice guy. We’re good neighbors.”

Susan saw how effective Courtney was for Zazen Gallery, so she also hired her to help with social media marketing for Cluck.

“The traditional marketing comes easily to me.” Susan said. “But with social media, you have to have a really strong message. You have to know how to use it effectively, and it has to be beautiful.”

Whole Fresh Local Farmscapes & Landscapes: A Celebration of Wisconsin’s Rural Heritage

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For more information, visit:


Cluck the Chicken Store will display a selection of Cynthia’s work – not just chickens – starting October 25 with an artist’s reception at the store. The focus of the work will be farm and pastoral scenes from Wisconsin’s remarkable rural heritage. If you have seen Cynthia’s work at the Overture Center for the Arts, the Pyle Center, Olbrich Gardens, the Racine Art Museum, the DiRicci Gallery at Edgewood College, or the Steinhauer Trust Gallery at the UW Arboretum, you know she is accomplished at everything from landscapes to still life to animal — and human — portraits. The evening will also include a showing of paintings in a similar vein by Jan Norsetter at ZaZen Gallery next door. Jan Norsetter of Verona paints mostly plein air landscapes and still lifes.

Refreshments will be served. Gallery hopping encourage. Twice as interesting, twice as lovely — all on the same remarkable night.



Arts and Jewish Culture

The Madison Jewish Artists’ Laboratory Seeks Participants for an Initiative in the Arts and Jewish Culture

For many Jews, the arts can serve as a common denominator regardless of their degree of belief, cultural literacy, or religious affiliation. The UW-Madison Hillel at the Barbara Hochberg Center for Jewish Student Life, The Conney Project on Jewish Arts (an initiative of the Mosse/Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Wisconsin), The Sabes JCC of Minneapolis, and The Harry & Rose Samson Jewish Community Center in Milwaukee, are collaborating on a new initiative to assist Jewish artists and the regional Jewish community in finding meaning, community, identity, and spirituality through the arts thanks to the support of the Covenant Foundation. During the 2013-2014 program year, this project will take place in Madison, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis.

The Regional Artists’ Laboratory seeks to enrich two populations in our region: artists who may or may not already be drawn to art as an expression of their Jewish identity, and the Jewish public at large. We seek to create two interrelated programs: 1) An Artists’ Laboratory in which artists will combine the study of Jewish texts, both traditional and non-traditional, with their own creation of works of art that intersect with those texts; and 2) An Artists-in-Residence program for emerging artists that will interact with both the Laboratory and the Jewish community. Both aspects of the program will connect with an annual exhibit/showcase for the artists’ work. In all cases, we will seek artists from across disciplines, including visual art, theater, music, dance, literature, and beyond.

The Program in Madison
The project is intended to bring together local artists in all media to engage in conversations about contemporary art practice and to study both traditional Jewish texts and modern non-religious texts. Participants will consider and discuss what it means to be an artist who is Jewish and/or a Jewish artist, and will create work relating to a central theme in order to elevate the understanding of both art and Judaism.

The Laboratory will meet twice monthly at UW Hillel, Barbara Hochberg Center for Jewish Student Life, beginning in October 2013 and ending in May 2014. Each two-hour session will engage the artists in an exploration of the Jewish experience, and will serve as a forum for their own work. Participants in the lab will be able to showcase their work in a lab show built around our theme light and based on projects they work on independently during the year. The spring exhibit/showcase will open on Thursday, May 1, 2014.

Session dates are as follows. All sessions are on Thursdays from 6-8PM.
October 24
November 7,21
December 5
January 23, 30
February 6,20
March 6, 27
April 3, 24, Artists’ Retreat TBD

The Theme
The theme for the 2013-2014 program for all three locations is: Light.

In discussions facilitated by Rabbi Andrea Steinberger and Associate Curator at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, Leah Kolb, participants will consider how the intersections of Jewish life and the arts advance new understandings of the culture of Jewishness; help to uncover new hybrid identities; and simultaneously solidify traditional ideas of Jewish practice. A central goal of our project will be to make our discussions relevant to the broadest possible community.

The Facilitators
Leah Kolb is the associate curator at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. She received a BA in history, and a master’s degree in archival studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has worked on numerous curatorial projects and organized several exhibitions, some recent favorites include: I Dream Too Much: Paintings by Leslie Smith III, Structural Films, and Cecelia Condit: Within a Stone’s Throw. Leah is thrilled to be a part of the Jewish Artists Laboratory and looks forward to combining her enthusiasm for art and art history with her love of all things Jewish.

Andrea Steinberger has served as the rabbi at the Hillel at the University of Wisconsin, Madison at the Barbara Hochberg Center for Jewish Student Life since 1999. She received a BA in Psychology from Northwestern University and a Master of Arts in Hebrew Letters and rabbinical ordination from the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. She works with UW students through teaching, holiday programming, alternative break programs and trips, and one-on-one conversations. She participates in regular dialogue, projects and programs in the Madison Jewish community and at state-wide events in the larger community.

The program includes artists’ residencies for emerging artists in any medium. The Residency Program will provide a $1,000 stipend for two artists who will participate in the Laboratory and who will contribute, through their art, to the Madison Jewish community. For an application for this program, contact Jennifer Jennings (see below).

For more information and to apply to the Madison Jewish Artists’ Laboratory, contact Jennifer Jennings at or (608) 256-8361 ext. 702. Or visit us online at

Each applicant will participate in a short phone conversation regarding the Artists’ Laboratory upon receipt of their application.

Applications are due by Thursday, October 10, 2013. A $36 course fee is required. Subsidies are available upon request.

Click here to apply:

Central Library Opens with a Bang: Stacked

Madison Central LibraryMy library is hipper than your library, now say the people of Madison to, well, pretty much everyone else.

The grand opening of the Central Library in Madison was kicked off Sept. 19. with Stacked, an event featuring art, music, performers, adult beverages and warm gooey cookies. It was a major party in the stacks — a game changer pushing the envelope of what library space is used for. Dozens if not hundreds of people stood in line to get into Stacked, but presale ticket owners got to go to the front of the line.

Library Art GalleryThe event was a huge hit, and the highlight was the space itself. Uber contemporary and artsy design is the hallmark of the new library. Wall to ceiling to floor white makes the gray Dell computers seem out of place on the individual work stations.


The top floor features a full art gallery, the bottom level has amazing little reading pods. There is a green screen room, a 3-D printer and so much more. It is a multi-media paradise.

The lighting in the library is masterfully done, with each individual shelve having it’s own light source.

Madison Central Library Design

The Bubbler Library Program

The Bubbler is the new art programing, brought to you by Trent Miller and others at the library, which will feature maker-focused programming model for all ages. Whether learning the basics of animation, screen printing, music, clothing design, dance, or painting (to name a few), The Bubbler’s hands-on pop-up workshops will introduce participants to a variety of local experts who will share their talents and physical resources.  The Bubbler experience promises to be current and dynamic, offering a wide range of lectures, demonstrations, and make-and-take workshops.

Madison Central Library

The new Madison Central Library is a community gem. I for one am proud and excited to have a such dynamic and progressive space. Here’s to all the folks at the library who made the event a success and all the donors who made it possible.

Kerri Shannon

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Kerri Shannon of KShan Jewels is an artist and a lifelong student. She is continually improving her art skills, studying different techniques and mediums as well as becoming educated in the business side of the art world. Kerri is also a student of life. She learns from life’s most difficult lessons and moves forward with self-knowledge, resiliency, and an inspiring positive attitude.

Kerri is a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend and a teacher. She’s quick to share her experience and knowledge with other artists and help others learn. She culls support and inspiration for her jewelry design from her teachers, other artists and especially from her close relationships with her family.

She’s a hometown Madisonian but is drawn to the lights and buzz of New York City. Like any true Italian, she likes to eat spaghetti for breakfast.

Her 3-d metal fabrication includes techniques such as riveting, soldering, texturizing, reticulation, Keum-boo, forging and more. You can see by the dozens of tools in her art studio that she is meticulous, driven and dedicated to her work. The gorgeous jewelry she makes speaks for itself. Read more about Kerri in part of my interview with her:

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Shop for Kerri’s jewelry on the Artery!


What advice would you give young artists?

I would advise young artists to get involved in local art groups. When you join the group, get on the committees, get on the board. You really get to know people well and the inner workings of non-profits. It’s fun! You get to know other artists and how you set up a show, and how you advertise and how you market. I was on the board at the Madison Art Guild. I was the secretary for 2 and a half years at the Art Guild. For 14 South Artists, I was co-chairman for the spring art shows. I also belong to (WAAC) Wisconsin Alliance of Artisan Crafts People. That’s another wonderful organization. And they have wonderful continuing education. All the groups do.

Also, I would advise that you should really try to get to a show before you apply to it to see if it’s the right venue for you. If you’re in the wrong venue, you’re not going to sell anything. See if it’s worth the effort and investment of your time and money.

Do you take your own photographs?

I have and my husband has taken some for the website. But for jurying purposes, I have them professionally photographed because it really makes the difference. You should get that done every 2 to 3 years.

DSC_0913How long have you been making art?

I’ve been involved in art my whole life. I used to do pen and pencil sketches and watercolors. And I also used to sketch all the time when I was a kid. In high school is when I really got into it. And I took some art classes in college. I graduated in occupational therapy. I specialized in pediatrics, so I still did a lot of the art and hands-on type things in my therapy. Then you have that time when you’re getting married and having kids. Then I didn’t start doing a lot of art again until the kids were a little older. Then I start with one thing, the stained glass, then it moved into the beading. And then the glass beads and the fusing. And then I dabbled in other things too. Those are just the things that I spent quite a bit of time learning the skills of how to do them.

It’s just amazing. You think you’re just making your art, right? There are so many other things you need to know. As you get involved more and more, you have to learn the business aspects of it, the marketing aspects of it and the social media aspects. So at times, I do this full time and sometimes part time. I did 12 shows a year a couple years ago and that was pretty much full time. But then I got injured, so that slowed me down a little bit.

How do your life experiences affect your art?

When you talk about life experience, like when you go on vacation and you see some breathtaking scenery or you’re in the city and you see some beautiful buildings, those things inspire me and get me excited. They make me think “OK what can I do with that?” How can I reinterpret that into a 3-dimensional object or a piece of metal? And the support of your family is a really important factor in doing something like this. And also other artists inspire me. Seeing other people’s work and seeing what trends are happening. It’s inspiring to have those bonds with artists. It gets you motivate and your creative juices flowing. It’s the same thing with great teachers. I’ve had some great teachers at Bead and Button in Milwaukee, people that have written books. And you learn so much because they all have different techniques and styles and they’ve been doing it for 40 years. It just opens your eyes to all the possibilities.

DSC_0848What do you think makes someone an artist?

I think an artist is someone who can look at some mundane an object, a leaf or whatever, and reinterpret it in a unique manner using whatever medium, paint, metal, even a poem, that other people can relate to. It’s someone who has an eye that looks at something in a unique way instead of mainstream. It’s just the way their brain works. That’s the difference between being a person who is an artist versus someone who just assembles jewelry. Anybody can go to Hobby Lobby and get the materials and instructions. That’s not an artist. That’s a person who enjoys doing crafts and someone who likes working with their hands. But that’s really not an artist unless they put some of their own style or perspective or interpretation into the work.

What have you observed about the Madison art scene or other Madison artists you have met?

Most of the artists I have met are very helpful toward each other, like giving advice on resources and what shows to do, where to buy materials, what clubs to belong to, marketing tools, photography, how to take credit cards, that kind of thing. I have learned so much from other artists. Madison is good in providing you great teachers and continuing education. They have a lot of really nice continuing education through UW and MATC.

Name 3 adjectives that describe your personality.

Energetic, creative and outgoing

What is your favorite beverage/food combination?

I could eat spaghetti every morning. I’m Italian. I love Italian food. I like spatini and spaghetti and if you pair that with a good wine. Also Ahi Tuna and white wine.

What makes you feel envy?

I try not to be envious of other people because everyone has their own issues. You think their lives are so much better is so much better than yours and then you find out that that’s not the case. My dad had a stroke several years and it just turned my life upside down. And I had to rethink things. So just be thankful for your health and your family and don’t take things for granted. Through life experiences, I have learned that you might see someone that has something you need or want, and then you find out that it’s all up here (points at her head). I try not to be envious because it’s kind of just a waste of energy.

What do you think your life will be like when you are 80 years old?

I will still be energetic and still creative and making my art and selling it. Just being healthy, happy and busy with family, friends and occupied.

What is your favorite place you have ever traveled?

The Cinque Terre in Italy. It’s a grouping of five small villages on the northern shores of the Mediterranean. I loved the lifestyle, the holiday. There’s no cell phones, no TV. It’s just family, and food and sun. And you relax and you just enjoy the moment. It’s absolutely gorgeous. And the history and the building are kind of tucked up into the hill. It’s amazing.

Do you believe there is life on other planets?

I probably do deep down, but it’s not like in our life form. They obviously have a different life form because they have  different environment. There some kind of life form out there, but it’s not necessarily humanoid. There’s at least the possibility that there could be.

What is the most important lesson you have ever learned?

Like when you have an injury or somebody you love gets sick, you have to readjust your expectations. You have to reprioritize what’s important to you in order to negotiate the sadness, and then you have to get past that. Keeping an even keel is important. My art is very helpful in that.

Alisa Toninato

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Spending a couple hours with Alisa Toninato, owner of FeLion Studios in Madison, is pure delight. No story of hers is complete without grandiose hand gestures, captivating facial expressions and, if you’re lucky, a pretty darn good New York accent. I was giggling practically the whole time I was at her studio.

Besides being a total badass iron artist, she is also an inspiring entrepreneur. Her and her partner, Andrew, run the FeLion art studio as well as “Cook with Pride,” a commercial product line of state-shaped cast iron skillets. She forgoes conventional business wisdom and makes decisions based on her guts and intuition.

Alisa considers her mortality on almost a daily basis, always pays her rent on time, and loves to watch ferns grown.  She seems wise beyond her years and yet eternally youthful. Before art, her passion was horses, and she hopes to someday own some acreage and a couple horses in “her third life,” (which to her means when she’s 60). “That’s my only plan,” she says.

Read a part of her interview below, and be sure to check out her Kickstarter project (running July 1 – 30th).

[box float=”right”] Find out more about Alisa Toninato

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[/box]I know you used Kickstarter to fund part of your “Made in America” work. What are your general thoughts on Kickstarter as a way to fund art projects?

I’m a huge fan of it. I feel like Kickstarter and crowd funding in general is pretty close to the new norm for anybody like a start-up, entrepreneur or artists. The convention to take out a loan isn’t realistic anymore. They have made it such a pain in the ass to take out a loan and jump through the hoops. And if you are a company that has an idea and it’s is growing really fast, you don’t have time to wait 2 years on a product development because things move so quickly.

The DIY scene is more than an underground now, and Kickstarter is the public platform for people to share their ideas and inspiration. And people on a human level really gravitate towards it.

I think it’s really saturated right now, but it’s amazing.

Why we’re launching the Kickstarter project is to help fund the new state in the commercial series. And that’s going to be New York. We’re working with a new manufacturer for that, Lodge Manufacturers. They’re down in Tennessee. They’re kind of the cast iron cookware company. That’s what they do. So they really have it down. They’re such an awesome company. They’re the only American company doing cast iron cookware.  So we’re hooking up with them. And to do minimum runs with them is really high. We couldn’t front that money. It’s a pretty giant chunk of change, which is why it’s stressful for me.  It’s kind of one of those things, we don’t really want to take out a loan / (slash) we can’t.

So the earlier ones were produced elsewhere?
So these ones: Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois, were produced up at Kaukauna, WI. There’s a foundry called Roloff Manufacturing. They’re a little company; they’re really awesome. They do smaller runs and smaller pieces. They tend to take their time and like to invest in unique projects and things that are a little more high maintenance. So they’ve been really awesome and we’re going to stay with them. They’re our guys for those 3. And then everything’s moving on after that so we don’t bog them down.


Name 3 adjectives that describe your personality.
So my positive attributes are that I’m pretty passionate, and very tenacious and relatively fun. Relatively fun.  There’s sometimes when I’m all business. It’s like a work hard / play hard kind of thing. My negative: I’m very critical, stubborn and nervous. Yeah that’s not good.

What is your first memory?
Orange shag carpeting in my house.  I think I was 2. And my brother breaking a violin string. I have all these very visceral memories, like tangible, tactile memories of this house, maybe because I was crawling around so much. I remember my mom had a violin and my brother was pretending like he knows how to play and I’m laughing. And then the string broke and it coiled up, and I was terrified, like “You’re in so much trouble! We’re both in big trouble!”

Did you get in trouble?

No, my mom was like, “It’s OK. You can restring these.” My mom’s very cool. She’s amazing actually. She’s very intuitive.

What is the best gift (or one of the best gifts) you have ever received?

So I’m a big fan of experience gifts. Like people give you stuff that’s not tangible. My mom had given me season tickets for the orchestra in Milwaukee. It was the coolest! What a unique gift. I brought a different friend every time. I love Milwaukee.

What is your favorite plant or flower?
Ferns definitely. We have a whole bunch of them in the back yard and I love watching them grow, how they just unravel themselves. I want a whole yard of ferns.

What makes you sad?
I think in general, I can hardly watch movies. Movies are the most powerful things for me. Not that they ALL make me sad, but when there’s an injustice or a bullying movie.

And getting yelled at. it doesn’t really happen that often, but when it does, I’m just crushed. I’m like “What did I do wrong? I just try to do good all the time.”  And that’s why it’s great to work for yourself. If you screw up you already know, you don’t need anyone yelling at you. Self-criticism is hard enough.

a-helmetsHow often do you think about your mortality?
Every day. Seriously. I’m such a hyperchondriac. I was getting all these headaches, and started thinking, “What if it might be a blood clot.” Andrew, my boyfriend said “I think that half your body would go limp.” And when they say that, I start really paying attention to half my body and think there’s something tingling. I might be losing feeling. It’s probably not healthy how much I think about it. I think I even dream about how I’m going to die. It’s always a car accident or a bridge went out. Or like propane bottles exploding. These are internal fears.

Were you voted “most likely to X” in high school?
Actually it was “artist.” I was like, “How did they know that?” because I didn’t do a lot of art in high school. My last two years were my inaugural years of getting into a visual arts practice. Because I was riding horses all up to that point. My whole family thought I was going to be an equine vet.

What is something in your home you can’t live without?
I think I could live without a lot of things. The one thing that came to mind is my computer, which has all of my visual history. It’s almost like a sketchbook at this point. Everyone asks “Why don’t you just back it up?” Well, because I don’t back up very diligently. If that got lost, I would be devastated but of course I could keep living.

What rule do you always follow no matter what?
I always pay rent on time. I freak out if I don’t have my finances in order. I have an amazing credit score.

If you could have any job in the world (other than being an artist), what would it be?
I would probably be working with horses. I’d probably just be mucking stalls. Taking horses out. Riding them. You know, the good life. Horses were my first passion. They taught me a  lot of things about intuition. I think that was my first lesson in listening without language. So it was a really powerful connection for me. Or a musician.

Do you have plans to buy a horse?
We (meaning my partner Andrew and I) both would love to live in the countryside on some acreage and property. It would be like a live/work situation. I think eventually, I would totally have 2 horses. But that’s an investment. You really need to have a lifestyle where you can be at home a lot. We travel a lot now. So I think it will be my third life. Are you on your second one now or just your first? My first one still. I’m just 30. But I think that it’s going to go until 40 and then something’s going to change. And I’ll have a second career, and when I’m 60 I’ll get my horses. That’s my only plan.

About Art & Madison:

furnaceHow long have you been making art?
My background was an artist working with very non-sellable artworks. Very installation-based, ephemeral, kinetic. I was way different back in the day. I was way more interested in these crazy weird stuff — that didn’t sell. And as I evolved and getting into the iron scene, it was kind of a natural step away from building performative sculptures. Iron work is kind of a dance. You work with a lot of people. It’s a spectacle. Building your own crew and your own furnaces is very close to what I was already doing before. And when I went into foundry work and developed this product line out of it, it just sort of took its own spin. I was open to different opportunities. I didn’t have any plans. I didn’t have a straightforward, conventional entrance into the business world. So I moved forward using my guts and intuition as a guide. There’s a negative connotation into not having a business plan.  Some people see that kind of flakey or very lucky. And there is a lot of luck involved, but I think it has to do with being very honest and open and aware of opportunities when they come and being ready to pounce on them.

What have you observed about the Madison art scene or other Madison artists you have met?
I’ve been here for 3 years. Moving to Madison was really foreign to me. I’ve traveled a lot, but Madison was so radically different than Milwaukee. It was really hard to swallow it right away. My impression wasn’t very fair.

I think Madison really needs someone to initiate conversation about art. Somebody to hold the public’s hand and show them this is who is here doing stuff. Because my first impression of Madison was that there is no buzz, like where is the scene? It’s been 3 years, and I’m just now starting to meet people. I’m realizing that there are artists, there are amazing people, they’re just buried. They’re in their own studio or their basements. It just doesn’t have the same accessibility as Milwaukee did.

I think it comes down to Madison’s real estate for holding studio spaces that are affordable and conducive to art just isn’t happening right now. I think there are a lot of squatters who have money in the buildings that are really awesome for that but they’re just waiting for them to flip on the market or something. Madison doesn’t have the industrial spaces to host really open spaces and cultivate that community. There aren’t even really a lot of galleries here. There’s no place for artists to convene. There’s no conversation happening because there’s no space for that to happen.

I really revered in Milwaukee because there was a lot of cross pollination from the dance world, performance, film, music, art. It would create these visible hot spots. There was a lot of public access to it. I don’t know what the solution would be for Madison.

What are your views on Sector 67 and your experience with the DIY scene here?
Sector 67: They are my heroes. They are the best thing to happen to me in the Madison scene. That community is extremely unique and prolific. It hosts technicians, engineers, artists, programmers, software people. All of that comes together there because they have that community space. There’s sort of this energy there like you have an idea, you do it, and you move it off the table for the next person to come along. You’re almost pushed by the momentum of that space to finish stuff. It’s such a good thing. There’s so much camaraderie and so many varieties of intellect there. Everyone has the interest to share their experience with you. When I built the map, I used their facility to build that last 28 states. They master new things really quickly. They’re hackers and makers. They’re big movers and shakers in town.

How did you get to be on the Martha Stewart show and what was it like?
I had an Etsy site a long time ago. And they found me through Etsy. They wanted to do a cast iron show and they had emailed me and wanted me to ship the piece out like 7 days later. I was like, uh, “Maybe a picture?” Do you realize it’s 600 pounds and it’s 10 feet by 7 feet and breaks down to into like a trillion pieces? And they were like, “Yeah, so?” At first I told them I couldn’t make that 6-day turnaround. It was all on us to get it out there. They were not able to foot the bill for guests on the show.

But it was an opportunity and I said “We have to make this happen.” It costs you money to say no. We’re going, we’re figuring it out.

It was so off the hook. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Then when we went back the second time, in Fall as an American Made honoree, that they covered EVERY expense. It was quite amazing !

Click here to listen to Alisa talk about the Martha Stewart Show

Heylon Wolter

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Heylon Wolter is your quintessential “starving artist” but certainly not for a lack of talent or ambition. Heylon, 26, currently has 4 jobs and is so busy working to pay the bills, he doesn’t have any spare time to promote his art or find the kind of work he is really passionate about. Heylon is a dedicated comic artist who sacrificed a lot to put himself through art school, including having no choice but to live out of his car and couch surf for a semester. Although he says he would rather be poor and doing something he loves than miserable and making a ton of money, Heylon is the kind of guy who really deserves to make it big in the comic world. The graphic novel he is working on with a friend – Apricity – could be the thing that launches his career to the next level.

Heylon was named by his father after Van Halen (Heylon doesn’t know if he was trying to be extra eccentric or if his dad was just a bad speller). He is interested in his pirate ancestry and loves the smell of homemade cookies. Read more from our interview with Heylon and check out his website for more amazing comic art!

[box float=”right”] How to contact Heylon Wolter:


Why did you move from Janesville to Madison?
I moved up to Madison to get an education. And to get out of the house. My mom was always saying, “I know you’re good art and everything, but you should find a backup. So IT was my backup, but I found out that I’d rather be poor doing art than be miserable doing something that will pay well. I was homeless for a semester. I did have a place at my parents’ in Janesville, but I wouldn’t have been able to go to school and drive back every day. So I lived in my car in Madison during the week and went back on the weekends. It paid off because I graduated. It took an extra year to get through school but I got through it. It was a big sacrifice but it was worth it.

comic0When did you get into comic art?
My mom always supported our creativity. Whenever we had a drawing she was interested in it. My brother was actually the one who got me into comic books. Gen 13 and X-Men were the titles that we really got into. It’s always been a big part of my life.  I’ve always drawn. Always. And I always got my comics at Kryptonite (Kryptonite Kollectibles in Janesville.) And I ended up getting a job there.

What is your favorite place in the world?
New Orleans. Because that’s where my ancestry knowledge kind of starts. My great great great grandfather was a pirate who sailed under Laffitte. He was from Italy. He was kicked out of Italy and was sent to the same island as Napolean. From there he became a pirate and he came to America. And here’s the badass part, during the War of 1812, Andrew Jackson offered to pardon all pirates who would help end the war because they didn’t have a large enough Navy. They helped to defend America. My grandmother was the one who found out originally. And from then it’s been kind of a teamwork thing, discovering new information.

apricity-comicWhat was the first tape/record/CD you remember buying?
I don’t want to talk about the first album because it’s kind of embarrassing. (Badgering from me) It was the “Batman Forever” soundtrack. It was a tape and I think I was 8 or 10.

What is your favorite smell?
My all-time favorite smell my girlfriend can definitely tell you – is homemade cookies. I’m a sucker for home baked cookies.

What makes you angry?
My biggest pet peeve is people saying they are going to be somewhere and then just blow it off like it’s no big deal.

If you had to choose one, would you rather be rich while you are alive or famous after you die?
Leave a legacy. I always want to leave a legacy. I want to inspire people to do more. That was the one thing with comic books to me, they were always inspirational and inspired me to draw. The context of being famous   –  whether it’s comic books or not – I don’t really care. One of my favorite musicians had said that he doesn’t necessarily want to inspire other musicians. I mean it’s fine if he does. But he thinks it would be really cool if his song is playing in a kitchen and some chef made up some this brand new phenomenal recipe. So the flow of inspiration, getting people to challenge themselves and find that spark within themselves to do more.

comic-3What would your 15-year-old self think of you?
He’d think I’m awesome. My skill set has totally evolved. I remember looking at comic books when I was that age and thinking “God I wish I could draw like that” and now I can. And the only thing I’m not doing is the comic book itself. And I would be doing that if I wasn’t so worried about where my next rent check is coming from.

What kind of shampoo do you use?
My girlfriend works at a salon, so whatever she buys me. It’s Redken actually.

Have you noticed a difference in your hair since you started using fancy shampoo?
Yes actually.

Name one of your guilty pleasures besides using Redken shampoo:
It’s that I’m a gamer. I play a lot of games, I know a lot about games. It’s just kind of something I fell into. A lot of professionals look down on gamers.

What rule do you enjoy breaking?
I don’t know…all of them. If there is a rule I always question “why.” I had a discussion the other day with someone about traffic laws and he was like “This rule is dumb,” and I was like, “Well that actually makes a lot of sense.” So I’m perfectly fine following that law.

What is your favorite pair of shoes you have ever owned?
It’s a brand called Magnum. They are like police shoes. The ones that I got in high school were my first pair of combat boots and they lasted me four years. And they were stealth. That was the name they were. And when I was a kid, I always love sneaking around. So I’d sneak around my house and everything, and the boots were really stealthy. They were quiet and lightweight. Actually in high school I ran the mile in them when I forgot my tennis shoes once.

What makes someone an artist?
It’s hard to say what makes someone an artist. I guess it’s like the difference between an artist and a designer. A designer serves a purpose. An artist questions a purpose.

Tami Reschke

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Tami Reschke is a hugger not a hand-shaker. To meet her is like taking a dip in a cool lake on a hot summer day: refreshing, fun and invigorating. You almost hope by wearing a piece of her unique hand-crafted jewelry, you might become a happier and more charming person. Her infectious enthusiasm for art and life comes out in her jewelry with funk and flair that totally shouts “Madison made”. When she went to a recent high school reunion, her classmates kept asking her “When did you get so cool?” She is really cool.

Owner of The Bohemian Bauble, she’s been in the local art seen for nearly 2 decades and is a hard-working member of the art fair community, going to 42 shows last year alone. One of her guilty pleasures is eating SpahgettiO’s with meatballs — a meal that grosses other people out but makes her remember simpler times of her childhood. Her work recently garnered a RAWARD as Madison’s Accessory Designer of the Year by RAW. Read more about Tami and The Bohemian Bauble in part of my interview with her:

What have you observed about the Madison art scene or other Madison artists you have met?
I do think that Madison has a vibrant of art community. There are loads and loads of artists in the community. And we can always use more shows. It’s kind of a tough scene too because it’s kind of competitive. There are so many jewelry artists.

Do you think the ubiquity of Madison artists is something that’s been happening more recently or has it always been like that?
I think it’s happening more now and I’m not sure why. Maybe I’m just hyper aware of it now. It’s probably the easiest craft to pick up. As far as not a ton of tools, the materials (depending on what you are using) are not necessarily uber expensive, and you don’t have to be ridiculously skilled at it.

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Learn More About Tami’s Jewelry:


You had a shop, where was that at?
It was two blocks down the street. It was called The Bohemian Bauble. It was open for six years. It was my jewelry and I still had a full-time job when my kids were young. So in order to keep my doors open, I had other artists show their stuff and work in the shop, so it was kind of like a co-op. And it worked for six years. It did get to be a little too much for me. And the economy tanking in 2008 did not help at all. So I closed the doors in January 2011 and decided just to go back and doing art fairs and home shows. But then I got laid off of October of 2011, and looked at it as…this is finally…I need to take the leap now. So I took the leap and I’ve been doing jewelry full time ever since. And I love it.

Still they don’t make it easy for you to own your own business. I was able to do it because I was married. But I just did my taxes and the self employment tax KILLED me. It’s really, really hard to make a living owning your own little small business, especially if you’re making all your own products. They could give those people a little bit more of a brake.

What are your thoughts on Etsy?
I am not an Etsy fan. There was another jewelry artist who was making earrings that were similar to mine. But hers were $14 and mine are $24. And we’re using the same materials. You have to raise your prices when it is your income and it’s what you do. And most of the people at art fairs are just doing it on the side. There aren’t as many artists that have the opportunity to be doing it full time. So that really does cause a conundrum when you’re mixed with the people who doing it as a side thing. Unless you totally want to concentrate on fine art shows.

(Tami’s home is laden with funky designs and unique art). Are some of the other art pieces you have around things that you did?
No, my friends did most of them. I try and do almost all of my shopping at the art fairs I go to or at local stores that only carry local artists. I’m a big believer in that.

(I told her about how I am contantly losing one of every pair of earrings I own)
Well that’s one of the reasons why I use lever backs. They are so safe. And that’s another reason why it’s great to know the artist where you got them from. I had a woman recently who came to me and said she lost one of her earrings. And the earring that she bought from me was literally 6 years old. But I still had the beads and was able to make her another one.

necklacesHow would you describe your art to someone who can’t see?
I would say that it’s colorful, shiny and it has textures and layers. And some beads you just want to suck on. Some of them look like candy. And they beg to be touched.

Is this style of jewelry always what you’ve been doing?
No, my family loves to pull out some of my early stuff. And it’s really embarrassing. No it evolves all the time. Even from year to year. It’s constantly changing. I try to always learn new techniques.

What is your favorite place in the world?
Well I have to say I haven’t been many places. I’m a small town girl. I’m from my Racine. I got voted at my senior breakfast in high school “The Most Likely To Never Leave Home.” It was a pretty accurate award. And I remember when I went back to my high school reunion at 20 years, people kept saying to me “When did you get so cool?” Because I wasn’t that cool in high school. I was kind of more of a follower than a leader in high school. It took me a long time to grow into myself.

Did you find that your art has been a big part of your growth?
Yes totally. When I opened the shop it changed my life dramatically.

But if I had to say what my favorite place is would be Canyon Park, which is a property that my friend owns in Dodgeville. It’s 44 acres and it’s got a canyon and a waterfall and a pond. It’s absolutely beautiful. My husband and I got married there.

Name 3 adjectives that describe your personality.
Energetic, Tenacious, and Honest.

Name one of your guilty pleasures.
SpaghettiO’s with meatballs. I still eat them. I crave them sometimes. It grosses people out. It’s one of those comfort foods for me because I would eat it when I was a little kid.

What was the first tape/record/CD you remember buying?
Barry Manilow (cringing). I loved him! It was a 45. I don’t remember which song it was because I had them all. I probably had every single he had.

Do you still listen to Barry Manilow?
No not by choice. I mean maybe once in a while it would be fun to hear “Copa Cabana.” But not deliberately.

dogWhat is your favorite smell?
The smell of the dogs. I love the way my dogs smell. They both sleep under the covers. They’re rooters. Sometimes I just like to lift up the blanket (she takes in a dramatic sniff of air). I love the way their feet smell, their muzzles smell. I love dogs.

What makes you angry?
Being treated unfairly or unjustly.

Is that something you feel like happens often for you?
No but when it does I get really pissed and I don’t let it go.

What would your 15-year-old self think of you?
Probably not much. I kind of remember being kind of crabby and having an attitude a lot when I was 15. You know you’re kind of hormonal. It’s a bad age for girls. I wasn’t pleasant. I probably was with my friends but not with adults.

What kind of shampoo do you use?
Paul Mitchell Tea Tree. And that’s because we have kids and lice is RAMPANT in schools, and tea tree really helps fighting off lice. I keep posting it on Facebook to the other moms. Get some tea tree shampoo!

What rule do you enjoy breaking?
When I get up in the middle of the night to let Leeroy out, I like to eat cookies. Like at 2am. Have a cookie at 2am. That’s something you’re not supposed to do, but I enjoy it.

What is your favorite pair of shoes you have ever owned?
When I was a kid, my sister gave me a pair of plastic clogs. They were purple on top and orange on the bottom. And they had holes in them where the top met the bottom all the way around so they were great for like splashing around in puddles on a rainy day.

Eric German

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Eric German takes creativity to a whole new level. His art blends a childlike, magical spectacle, cutting-edge engineering technology with a touch of retro psychedelic to create a totally unique kind of work unlike anything I have ever seen. A dedicated mixed media artist, he spends most of his time at his favorite place in the world is — his studio at Art In on Washington. He uses a combination of high-tech 3-dimensional printing with good ol’ Mod Podge and neon construction paper to create some seriously original work. He is currently searching for the perfect venue to display his art.

He describes himself as “obsessive,” and you can tell he takes his art seriously. He’s intelligent and conscientious with a self-deprecating sense of humor and a weakness for video games. He does not enjoy breaking rules. His car engine occasionally stops when he is in the middle of turning left. Guilty pleasures include eating a big bowl of cereal directly before bed. Here is some more of my interview with him:

How did you get into the 3-d printing? Were other people doing that, or was it just something that you thought would complement what you were already doing?
It was an elective at this school. Everybody else in the class was a design major, industrial design, or furniture design, these sort of things. And I was designing objects that don’t have utilitarian purpose.

[box float=”right”] How to contact Eric German [/box]

Did you ever have any interest in engineering?
I guess I had more of an interest in how these different ways of representing space. I was interested in engineering drawings and architectural drawings and different graphic projection methods. And then I did a class in 3-d modeling which is on the computer. These are 3-d prints that were produced on a 3-d printer.

Before I was just doing drawings on flat paper. And then in the 3-d modeling environment on the computer, you’re translating your drawings into 3-dimensional space so it becomes a digital representation. And then the 3-d printers let you fabricate these out of plastic so you get a real thing. It’s really cool.

The 3-d printing is used commercially in industrial design and engineering fields where you’re prototyping anything you see like scissors, paint brushes or power tools.

german-8Obviously everything is bright colors and really vivid. Is that a permanent choice or do you have other things you plan to do?
Yeah, it’s pretty much all rainbow, keyed up, loud colors … a little bit too loud. That’s a reference to video games like Mario Kart like the rainbow level. It’s loud and the shapes are rounded corners and soft. It’s sort of like a retro, video game, kid rainbow aesthetic.

What is your favorite place in the world?
I would say right here right now because this is where I get to make all this stuff.

This photo was taken at the Madison Gallery Night on May 3,  when Eric had his full Rainbow Factory installation set up. People were "oohing" and "aahhing" the second they stepped into the studio.

This photo was taken at the Madison Gallery Night on May 3, when Eric had his full Rainbow Factory installation set up. People were “oohing” and “aahhing” the second they stepped into the space.

What makes you angry?
Like everything. I almost had to cancel this morning because I went outside and slipped on the ice and landed right on my hand. I thought it was broken. It’s not and I can move it around. But I was just furious. And then my car, every time you’re at a stoplight and you go left, it quits. The RPMs are going like this and the car’s not going.

What is the best advice you have ever received?
I guess the idea there is to put it in perspective. You break something, an art piece or a computer part or something, it’s really not the end of the world. So keep things in perspective.

If you had to choose one, would you rather be rich while you are alive or famous after you die?
Rich while I’m alive. Maybe not rich, you know, maybe just enough money to buy a 3-D printer.

What rule do you enjoy breaking?
None of them. I actually like to have rules. I feel really guilty when I break one.

What would your 15-year-old self think of you?
Well I just turned 30 like a couple days ago. And you kind of realize that, when you’re 15, you think that you’re going to be like a “real live adult” when you’re 30. Yeah, not a real thing.

So do you still feel like a kid?
No I mean I think that the 15-year-old Eric would think that this stuff (points to art) is kind of cool…but all the other stuff like your car not working, your career hasn’t happened yet, whatever that is.

german-artcartWhat do you think makes someone an artist?
Just saying that you’re one is kind of the thing. The question is, “Can you have too many artists in a culture?” Probably not. But you know with the creative websites and the ubiquity of creative software and Apple’s marketing campaign that everyone can be a creative, I mean that’s something that I think about. It seems like there is a lot of marketing that sort of convinces everyone that they are creative. Like the rise of the Creative Class or the Maker Class.

Are you trying to sell this work?
No, I’m not pushing any commercial sales right now. It’s all just being incubated here in this space. Right now I’m building this body of work and I’m kind of shopping for a gallery or exhibition space. Some place appropriate that I can kind of take over the space too. I’m actually this winter spending more time making the work and worrying about putting it out in the world a little bit later.

After moving from Grand Rapids, what are your initial thoughts on the Madison art scene?
The Chasen Museum has a pretty good collection, and I like their programming so far. And I really like MMOCA’s programming. And there’s lots of spaces that are orbiting around the University. I like seeing stuff that grad students are making and the faculty shows too. So there’s a lot of different art spaces, but I think it’s still lacking with really exciting, creative menus and programming that are independent.

I think this stuff would look best in a shop window on a little stage. Well you know where they put the dummies with all the clothes on them. Or it could work in a gallery. I guess I’m looking for more of a raw space so I can sort of make a mess, I mean not make a mess, but not have to worry about putting a few holes in the walls…