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Dan Schneiger, Sculptor and Furniture Maker, Miami
Tell us about what you do?
“First and foremost I’m a sculptor. Everything I make, from monumental wall sculptures to stylish table lamps, is a one-of-a-kind sculpture that explores the synthesis between art and architecture and the tension between technology and handcraft. My work ranges from wall and free-standing sculptures to objects for the home including tables and lighting all in my signature neo-brutalist style.”
What was the first thing you ever created?
“I don’t remember the first thing I ever created because all I ever did as a child was draw and make things with my hands. I do remember the first piece of art I ever sold, I was probably seven years old and had taken to decorating wood scraps from my mother’s art studio in abstract day-glo patterns. At some point I set up a card table on the sidewalk in front of our house and attempted to sell my little painted sculptures to passersby. I’ll never forget when a guy on a bike stopped and gave me a dollar for a piece that had a hole in it that fit nicely on one of his handle-bars. He made a big fuss over it and insisted I take a dollar for it when I was only asking a quarter! That was the first, and last time, anyone has offered me more than I was asking for a piece of my work.”
Why is it imperative for you to create?
“Although I have always painted and sculpted, I was an architect for almost 20 years before I transitioned to creating art full-time. The profession of architecture used to involve the making of models and mock-ups, but now, so much of the “making” of architecture has been lost as computer generated drawings and modeling programs have become the primary design tools of the profession. It took a while, but I finally realized that using my hands to manipulate raw materials into complete objects of beauty is what satisfies me most.”
Where do you go - physically, mentally or virtually - to ignite your creativity?
“Because so much of my time is spent in my studio in Miami, I find that my senses become hyper engaged when I’m somewhere unfamiliar and foreign to what I’m accustomed to. My most prolific periods in my studio are typically the month or two after I return from a major trip to a foreign country. That’s why I have always considered my sculptures to be the work of an artist, architect and traveller.”
What are three things you do to stay sane?
“There are really two (legal) things that I do almost every day to keep myself sane. I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but I’m a “napper.” I love to take a 30-minute nap at the end of most workdays. Secondly, because we live in Miami where we have summer weather all year, I love to float in our pool on warm evenings and watch the stars and the moon. Last night, while staring up at the sky I had the added bonus of listening to a family of owls call to each other from the trees. You would never know that you were in the middle of a fast-growing, international city.”
What are you excited about right now?
“COLOUR. I’ve spent so much of my career as an artist focused on form and space which lend themselves to light and shadow, black and white. I feel like color is a whole new world that I’m just beginning to explore.”
Where do you work from?
“I am fortunate enough to have my studio attached to the home I share with my husband and our two dogs in Miami.”
What do you love most about your work space?
“My studio is split between indoor and outdoor workspaces. My favorite moment of the day is when I arrive in my studio, open the windows and raise the giant overhead door to a private tropical garden full of butterflies, lizards and the occasional snake! It’s not uncommon to find a beautiful 4-5 foot Eastern Racer (snake) coiled up in a shady corner of my studio which definitely keeps me on my toes!”
Where does your process begin?
“An important part of my process is that I typically hold-off on the physical act of making until I have spent weeks or months thinking and really, meditating on how a new piece will be constructed and what it will look like when complete. I’m a night owl and typically do my best creative thinking late in the evening. I keep a sketch pad next to my bed because I often am inspired by something I imagine in that dreamy, floaty time just before falling asleep. Typically, when I begin the actual physical act of creating a new piece, it’s an almost cathartic experience. I need to get the image out of my head and make it real.”
Biggest obstacle you face whilst creating?
What are you working on?
“Right now I’m focused on creating new lighting. Being quarantined at home has caused me to think more domestically. I think that while we’re all stuck at home due to Coronavirus, many people are beginning to view their homes as places of sanctuary
to be filled with beautiful, meaningful objects that bring them joy rather than
just a place to live.”
What do you listen to while you work?
“I go in phases of listening to different types of music. Currently, I’m listening to the house music I heard when I was going to clubs in Chicago in the early 1990s. Most often, I listen to a lot of alternative music from the 80s and 90s including the Style Council, New Order, the Ocean Blue, the Replacements and Husker Du.”
Favourite tool to work with?
“My hands are the primary tool that I work with. Everything else is secondary. I have always been very aware of the hand-made quality of certain objects and how that quality can elevate even a mundane or utilitarian object to a work of art. Most recently though, much to my husband’s chagrin, the cheese grater I snuck out of the kitchen has been really fun to play with.”
What colour makes your heart sing?
“It changes from time to time. Lately I’ve been really infatuated with a specific color of the sky when the sun sets in Miami, the moment just before it gets dark. There is a soft, powdery pale pink hue that lasts only for a minute or two, after the sun dips below the horizon. I’ve never seen this exact colour anywhere else and it makes
everything look gorgeous!”
Most loved scent?
“I have a 16 year-old Cocker Spaniel named Augie. While he is the sweetest, most handsome dog ever, he is also mostly blind, deaf and smells a lot like tortilla chips, regardless of whether or not he’s had a recent bath. It may not compare to sandalwood or freshly cut grass, but it’s definitely the most comforting scent I can think of.”
What word or phrase drives you nuts?
“Anything that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth. Don’t even get me started…”
What would like to see or hear more of in the world?
Best advice you’ve been given?
““Just walk up and introduce yourself…” I can still hear my Dad saying those words.”
Finally, please share what you are currently:
WATCHING: Mrs. America. It’s a dramatization of the women’s rights movement in the United States. Cate Blanchet plays conservative icon Phyllis Schlafley and Tracey Ullman plays Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique. It’s definitely worth a watch.
READING: There There by Tommy Orange
LISTENING: Late 80s house music
DOING: Working, working, working!