There is a specter haunting the world - the idea of a single meaning for each object, for each act, for each symbol. It flattens us all. Few things are so simple as to be simplistic, and our many complications will always lack enough precision for us to be sure. Things aren’t delusions, they exist - it’s just that we can never build containers large or strong enough to fully contain them - the signified keep spilling out.
I see and read about people earnestly working to develop solutions to a variety of problems, thinking through research and observation, using creativity and critical thinking to change the world. And the solutions create more problems, allowing our species to keep up this work forever. I work in an adjacent space - where the function of our work is primarily to provoke an aesthetic, emotional response. I teach people how to design and build things that the world doesn’t need, or doesn’t know it needs, but may want.
What can we make?
How should it look?
Where will we get new information to bring into it?
How will we build it? What are the relationships between material, process and form?
What do these objects mean? What is the nature and what are the consequences of originality?
What will happen to this thing when we’re finished? How is it shaped by our time and place and people?
How will it, in turn, shape them?
Who will understand and appreciate any of this stuff?
How do we evaluate our processes or work products and how can they be improved?
I teach people how to think through design problems, but the ones that I get the most excited about are those between the extremes of conceptual and functional: problems of form, material, abstraction. My studio work is how I walk some of those margins.
Cut, form, connect, cast metal, hold it up to the light, see the light bend where it shouldn’t, file, check again. Read, sketch, talk, make models, tear it all apart and start over. Plot points, connect with splines, save, skin with surfaces, join and mesh, render, reduce to filament and resin, change material, refine, critique, repeat. Double-click, clutch and place components, wire them together, bake the ghosts of insects. Observe, brainstorm, doodle, name, plan, grow, sand, polish, plate... I think, therefore I make (mistakes.)
I am a poet of post-products; building up and storing away my little plastic phrases and polymer sketches; heaping up gold and words to fill an ever inflating void. I keep in close contact with illusions of common-sense, with straight-forwardness, with that practical world-as-it-needs-to-be so that I can pack it all into new objects. I pay a special kind of close attention to the seams between fabricated elements, checking the consistency of the gap and the character of the edges, so that I can communicate that information to others, so that we know what kinds of things have already been done and can think into what may be a next step.
Phil Renato is a third generation metalworker. Instead of a building automotive assembly lines, as his millwright father and grandfather did, he designs and produces one-of-a-kind objects of significantly less practical use. He has the luxury of making things that haven't yet been made and which he hopes will teach him something, which he hopes will help him teach his students how to approach their interests, problems and futures. He works digitally - with binary computers and human fingers. He works with contemporary processes and materials, most of which are slight variations of traditional processes and materials. He is a poet of post-products; building up and storing away little plastic phrases which he molds into things, filling an ever-inflating void. He keeps in close contact with illusions of common-sense, with straight-forwardness, with that practical world-as-it-needs-to-be so that he can pack it all into ever-new objects. He pays a special kind of close attention to the seams between fabricated elements, checking the consistency of the gap and the character of the edges, just as an industrial mechanic might. Not because the machine needs to be just so in order to produce widgets with interchangeable parts, but because that’s the only way the nonsense makes any sense to him.