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FAQ

I get a lot of emails from people interested in my work and though I love hearing about projects and ideas I can’t always quickly respond.  Here are some answers to questions I receive most frequently.

How did you get started?

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

What types of glues and paper do you use?

I use a lot of different papers in my work depending on the project. I have been using an acid free archival paper from Neenah paper called Foxriver Coronado.  I use 100# text and 10pt cover weights.  You can get samples there too. I use PVA glue and needle point dispensers (#63297) from Rockler. I use a lot of Tyvek now in my work as well. I find it works well for its durability and ability to fold. 

What types of software/ tools do you use?

I use everything- bone folders, X-acto knives, creasing tools, AutoCAD R13 a Graphtec FC2250-ex (Marge) and a Graphtec FC4200-50 (Maria) flatbed plotter cutter.

Tell me about your process.

My process is extremely varied from piece to piece.  Often I start without a clear goal in mind, working within a series of limitations.  For example on one piece I'll only use curved folds, or make my lines this length or that angle etc.  Other times I begin with an idea for movement and try to achieve that shape or form somehow.  Along the way something usually goes wrong and a mistake becomes more interesting than the original idea and I work with that instead.  I'd say my starting point is curiosity; I have to make the work in order to understand it.  If I can completely visualize my final result I have no reason to make it- I need to be surprised.  

Can you show me how to make your art?

I cannot explain how I make my sculptures in a general sense- each one is different.  I don't share my diagrams or cut patterns.  I learned by taking things apart, doing things the “wrong way” and being curious.  Getting something wrong is way more important to learning than copying something perfectly. 

Where can I learn more about paper?

There are a few great books- for pleated systems check out Paul Jackson's Folding Techniques for designers and Complete Pleats.

For pop ups David A Carter has the Elements of Pop up.

I've used both for textbooks in class- students really enjoy them and they break things down fairly simply.

For more paper art check out the documentary "Between the Folds" by Vanessa Gould.

Do you teach workshops?

I have taught at many colleges and artist residencies both national and abroad.  If I have a workshop coming up I will post it on my Facebook and Instagram. If you’d like to bring me to your school for a talk or workshop please contact me here.

Tell me about your Inspiration.

I find inspiration in just about everything; Solar cell design, protein misfolding, Arabic tile patterning, systematic drawing, architecture, biomimetics, music etc.  I have a unique way of misunderstanding the world that helps me see things easily overlooked.  

People wise- I look to musicians, performers, writers, visual artists, producers, makers and thinkers… Brian Eno, Matthew Goulish and Lin Hixon, Simon McBurney, Christian Bök, Jonathan Blow, Chris Gethard, Annie Dillard, Kay Ryan, Annie Albers, El-P, Daniel Libeskind, Dondi White, Christina Cordova, Christian Marclay, Marian Bantjes, Tauba Auerbach, Elliott Earls, Ren Weschler, Buckminster Fuller, Anne Currier, George Hrycun, Edward R. Tufte, Nervous-System, Charles and Ray Eames etc. 

What is it like working with Scientists?

It's the best.  Here's a ten minute talk I gave at the National Academy of Science.

When and where were you born?

July 14th 1980 in Norwalk Connecticut.

Where did you study?

I have a BFA from Alfred University (2002) and a masters from Cranbrook Academy of Art (2006).

Hey Matt, can I use your artwork on this thing I'm working on?

That really depends on what it is. Please email me the details (what you want, what it is for, when you need it, what is the budget) I promise to respond as soon as I can. Please do not ask to use my artwork in exchange for exposure. That's sad and I won't respond.

Can I post about you on my blog?

Go for it! Please include a link to mattshlian.com  

Do you need an intern?

No I do not.

How do I pronounce Shlian?

Sh + line, one syllable.