Seeing Data as Something Beautiful

Maria Scileppi and Carhartt

Maria Scileppi and Carhartt

Maria Scileppi and Carhartt

Maria Scileppi and Carhartt

Maria Scileppi and Carhartt

Maria Scileppi and Carhartt

Maria Scileppi and Carhartt

Maria Scileppi and Carhartt

Maria Scileppi and Carhartt

Maria Scileppi and Carhartt

Maria is a dear friend of mine. When I first met her, she was the director of Chicago Portfolio School. She’s now on the path of a full time artist. That’s guts right there! She’s living at an artist co-op, Transamoeba, where she daily lives out her philosophy, “life is art.”

Maria’s work is in the geo-social realm. For the past few years, she has been visualizing communities with custom software and GPS data. Her goal is to reveal one-of-a-kind patterns shaped by a specific group of people in a particular moment of time. It’s exciting to see how it draws people together as they tell their individual stories and how they all fit together in the larger narrative.

I recently got the chance to help out on a project she did called Crossroads. Thirty-five Chicago residents participated in a daylong transmedia documentary based on their data. As per the stipulations, everyone went somewhere in the city they’d never been before and wrote a short story describing their adventures. All the participants’ movements were tracked and combined with their stories and photos. It all culminated into a happening, short film, prints, and a book.

The next project on Maria’s horizon is called Journey Home. Maria, Christopher Breedlove and Gordon Kummel, are going to visualize the emotional and physical journey to Black Rock City for Burning Man. People from all over the country will come together to contribute their metadata (their GPS data, pictures taken along the way, and the stories they write) combined to create a transmedia documentary. The final product will be a social app, a short film, prints, a book, and a happening.

If you’re going to Burning Man, you should be a part of Maria’s social art! This kind of thing has  never been done before- and it would be so exciting to get in on the forefront!

Check out Maria’s website here.

Nancy Pizarro-Witt of Circa Ceramics

Circa Ceramics and Carhartt

Circa Ceramics and Carhartt

Circa Ceramics and Carhartt

Circa Ceramics and Carhartt

Circa Ceramics and Carhartt

Circa Ceramics and Carhartt

Circa Ceramics and Carhartt

Circa Ceramics and Carhartt

Circa Ceramics and Carhartt

Circa Ceramics and Carhartt

Nancy and her husband, Andy, run Circa Ceramics in Chicago. I had so much fun visiting their studio. It’s such a loving family environment. Oliver, their son affectionately called Peanut by his mom, hangs out with his parents there quite a bit and keeps everyone entertained.

I got to watch the unique method Nancy uses to get screen prints onto their custom made pottery. Nancy and Andy’s work captures their fun and spunky personalities so well— be it a bowl with a whale on the side or a spoon rest imprinted with a happy sandwich. Laughter fills the studio— and there’s no doubt that translates into each piece. I have one of their Chicago flag mugs, and it’s one of my favorite things in my kitchen. I highly recommend it! It’s one of those mugs that makes you happy every time you use it.

An excerpt from the cheeky poster in Nancy’s studio, The Advantages of Being a Woman Artist:

“Working without the pressure of success.
Not having to be in shows with men.
Having an escape from the art world in your 4 free-lance jobs.
Knowing your career might pick up after you’re eighty.
Being reassured that whatever kind of art you make it will be labeled feminine.
Not being stuck in a tenured teaching position.
Seeing your ideas live on in the work of others.
Having the opportunity to choose between career and motherhood.
Not having to choke on those big cigars or paint in Italian suits.
Having more time to work after your mate dumps you for someone younger.
Being included in revised versions of art history.
Not having to undergo the embarrassment of being called a genius.”

—Guerrilla Girls

Shop Circa Ceramics here.

Sharon Burdett of Strand Design

Sharon Burdette and Carhartt

Sharon Burdette and Carhartt

Sharon Burdette and Carhartt

Sharon Burdette and Carhartt

Sharon Burdette and Carhartt

Sharon Burdette and Carhartt

Sharon Burdette and Carhartt

Sharon Burdette and Carhartt

Sharon Burdette and Carhartt

Sharon Burdette and Carhartt

It’s always exciting to find makers with products you love that are made in an environmentally conscious way. That’s why I was so stoked when I came across Strand Design. Sharon Burdett and her husband, Ted, own the studio located in the Randolph St. Market District of Chicago.

They are known for focusing on sustainability in all of their product development (including furniture, lighting, bags, and other well-designed odds and ends). Strand Design creations are made from salvaged lumber, urban lumber, locally manufactured materials, and re-purposed materials— which makes for guilt-free shopping!

It’s so encouraging to see business owners who are aware of the impact they have on the community around them. One of the Carhartt items Sharon is wearing in the photos above is a scarf imprinted with the following quote from Hamilton Carhartt:

“My business was not started to do the gainful thing alone, but the just and honest thing, gainful if possible.”

Sharon and Ted run their company with those very ideals in mind.

You can buy Strand products here.

The Tactile Aspect of Glass

Carrie Iverson and Carhartt

Carrie Iverson and Carhartt

Carrie Carrie Iverson and Carhartt and Carhartt

Carrie Iverson and Carhartt

Carrie Iverson and Carhartt

Carrie Iverson and Carhartt

Carrie Iverson and Carhartt

Carrie Iverson and Carhartt

Carrie Iverson and Carhartt

Carrie Iverson and Carhartt

If I had to think of one word to describe Carrie’s work, it would be haunting. Not in the terrifying sense of the word. It’s the kind of work that sticks with you, like a dream glued to the back of your eyelids. Much of her work revolves around the idea of a memory. I really connect with that description. Carrie’s pieces feel like a faint whisper of something you stored in the back corner of your mind.

Carrie is a printmaker, painter, and glassworker— all in one. Bullseye Glass Company in Portland currently represents her. I got to tag along one day at Shatter Glass Group in Chicago as she put the finishing touches on a piece she’d been working on.

It’s refreshing that Carrie doesn’t take a standoffish approach to her art. She explains that she loves “the tactile aspects of glass— how it encourages people to touch it. The quality of the material is interesting because it suggests glass’s more functional history— as every day objects that are meant to be touched and held and used.”

Check out Carrie’s work here.