Tag: Madison artists

sound sculpture piece by Enrique Rueda

Enrique Rueda Sculpts Sound

sound sculptures being playedThe space between art and music is filled

by Sherry BonDurant, writer for The Artery

I was immediately intrigued when I discovered the artist I was going to interview creates sound sculptures. I wasn’t familiar with them other than what I had seen on The Artery’s website. I learned about Enrique Rueda’s passion for sound sculptures as I sat down with him in his studio. Enrique constructs striking wood sculptures that produce melodious sounds. I feel fortunate to have experienced a personal interaction with some of these beauties, and was able to create some pleasant sounds myself even though I haven’t played an instrument in years. I’m ready to see Enrique perform a live show, and I bet you will be too after reading this.

 View Enrique Rueda’s Artery Shop!

sound sculpture cello

You can purchase this gorgeous sound sculpture, “Amazon Cello” in a secure transaction via The Artery! Click on the image for more information.

Wood and strings with electronic pick up

Wood and strings with electronic pick up

Wood and strings with electronic pick up

sound sculptur

sound sculptur

How did you get started constructing sound sculptures?

Working on my Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Wisconsin, I met professor “Skip” Johnson, a well-known artist in the U.S. He inspired me to use skills I already had, making all types of traditional musical instruments, and apply them to making wood sculptures. Since I am also a musician, it was easy to figure out that I wanted those sculptures to produce interesting sounds. Little by little I started identifying my work with the ideas behind Sound Sculpture as an art form, and I have been doing that for the past 30 years. Every piece I create is unique, since I don’t like to repeat a design. It takes me about 2-3 months to fully finish a piece and be happy with the outcome.


sound1What exactly is a sound sculpture and where did they originate from?

Sound sculptures as an art form, fill the space between a sculpture and a musical instrument. They are more than a sculpture because in the hands of a musician, they are capable of producing interesting sounds. They differ from musical instruments, because they are unique like sculptures, and not objects with a standard shape, as musical instruments need to be. With this in mind, we can say that the origin of sound sculpture is parallel to human development. Sound sculpture actually started when the first human groups created devices to produce sound. For example, if we look at ancient African art, we will see many interesting objects that look like musical instruments, but have a very unique shape. They can be drums, harps or flutes, but they are all different. Many other cultures all over the world have created objects like that, that we can call sound sculptures.


sound3Do people typically buy them to use as an instrument or as an art display?

Because they are sold in a gallery setting, most collectors buy them as unique sculpture pieces. I do not mind that, but I work at making them good sound makers as well, in case a curious musician wants to try them.


What motivates you during the design process?

My motivation to make the sculptures comes from my curiosity about how they will sound and how they will be played. It is something very unique to musical instruments, that they need a talented human being to extract the sound and create music. Without that they will just be sculptures or copies of sculptures. The human interaction then becomes another element of the whole design that is very interesting to me and takes my pieces into the realm of performance art.


sound sculpture piece by Enrique RuedaDid you create any pieces that you actually play?

Yes, all of my pieces can be played and produce interesting sounds. I often perform with them in openings as well as record CDs that I later sell. This is something that is very important to me. My reward for creating them is to use them. I have a few friends in town that have purchased pieces from me, and they have specifically told me that I can borrow them whenever I want for a performance. I have taken them up on their offer many times.


Is it possible for an entire band to perform using sound sculptures?

Yes, it is! I have performed live with friends all using sound sculptures, sometimes in my own openings and other times in formal concerts. We performed with the name of “Artsemble” as one of the groups for the opening of the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison. We used all sound sculptures, made by me or other member of the group.


Do you still perform live and/or sell CD’s?

Yes, I perform often. I play a few traditional instruments and have two different bands with friends. One is Xtring Quartet (http://xtring.com), we play traditional music from the Andean regions in Colombia. Also, with another band, Cuicani (http://cuicani.com), we play a variety of Latin American music, including Andean music from Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, and Chile


Has anyone ever asked you to create a sound sculpture that they designed? Do you take special requests?

Yes, I build pieces on customer’s request. Not from their own design, but rather a variation of design from something I made before.

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

Support the FeLion Kickstarter Project!


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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!

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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 www.ericgermanart.com [/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…