In anticipation of the exhibition 40 under 40: Craft Futures, on view at the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum from July 20, 2012 – February 3, 2013, the museum asked the 40 artists featured to share personal videos of themselves with our audience. Here's what Daniel Michalik submitted—enjoy! Daniel Michalik Profile: Daniel Michalik, 2011 Digital video, color, sound, 3:38 Videography and Editing by Matthew Hanlon Music by Matt Moberg Courtesy of Matthew Hanlon
DANIEL MICHALIK: My name is Daniel Michalik. I’m a furniture and product designer. This is my studio. We’re in Bushwick, Brooklyn. I also teach product design at Parsons School for Design in Manhattan, and I have a two-year-old son.
I’ve always been making things. I remember having some friends, I grew up in kind of a small town in Massachusetts, and I remember having a friend who had a little wood shop in their barn, and making a little bookshelf to give my mom as a present for her birthday and I think I was maybe like seven and I distinctly remember that bookshelf and it was actually kind of cool because I don’t think I was trying to do anything as a kid, I just wanted to cobble stuff together.
It was actually my wife, who went to graduate school for a fine arts degree and seeing what she was doing and the environment she was in and all the other people around her that were doing all kinds of stuff is inspiring to me and I actually kinds got into it through her.
I actually make a lot of stuff myself. In other words, I have a line of furniture that we sell directly from the studio and through other retailers and the majority of it is actually made by me or one of my assistants here in the shop.
The old models of big centralized factories making products for cheap, putting them on boats and shipping them around the world, that’s never gonna die out completely, but it’s not going to be as dominant as it always has been. So, what does that mean? That means that there’s new opportunities opening up for how objects get made. I’m realizing that sometimes it is not just about the thing itself or like the finished product that gets made in the studio. I mean it is about that, that’s very inspiring, but everything else that surrounds it. All the stories in the cultures that are connected to all the stuff I find very inspiring too.
There’s not a lot of other people using this recycle cork material. That’s one thing that separates me from a lot of the other furniture designers, especially American furniture designers, because it’s a European product, so there’s not a lot of people here that are using it. It’s an amazing material. It does things, if you look at it from a scientific standpoint, it performs in ways that no other natural material does in terms of just its lightness, its buoyancy, the fact that it’s waterproof, the way that it bends and moves and it’s both cushioning and sturdy at the same time. It just offers possibilities that other materials don’t offer so I have fun because I feel like I’m always in a new territory and I’m always kind of discovering new stuff that maybe nobody else has ever discovered before.
Where I see my work going is I would like to explore new models of manufacturing, new ways of making things that are both healthier economically and healthier environmentally, but that respond to the way that culture is right now. The products that I make or the products that get made in our studio are going to reflect new models of manufacturing and making things. So that’s where I see it going.
Yeah I guess I’ve always been making things, but I have never just thought of myself as an artist with a capital “A” or anything like that.
Renwick Gallery (Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street NW)
40 under 40: Craft Futures features forty artists born since 1972, the year the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s contemporary craft and decorative arts program was established at its branch museum, the Renwick Gallery.