The Queue: Daniel Michalik
Get to know the people featured in the pages of our magazine as they share what's inspiring them right now.
A biweekly roundup for and by the craft community, The Queue introduces you to the artists, curators, organizers, and more featured in the pages of American Craft magazine. Our Winter 2023 issue is centered on the theme inhabit and is out now! In The Queue, we invite the inspiring individuals featured in this issue to share personally about their lives and work as well as what's inspiring them right now.
Daniel Michalik is a Brooklyn-based furniture designer and Parsons School of Design professor who works extensively in cork. Twenty years deep into his fascination with the material, he has constructed furniture of every shape and configuration from cork and even outfitted a Google store with it. Recently, he visited Portugal to research cork’s possibilities as a sustainable material. Claire Voon wrote about his work in “Buoyant and Bold” in the Winter 2023 issue of American Craft.
How do you describe your work or practice in 50 words or less?
My creative practice is rooted in integration. This includes experimenting with cork toward the realization of useful objects and interior spaces. It also includes traveling to the forests that produce this amazing material and learning about these systems so we can rethink the way we use materials in general.
What are you working on right now?
I’m just back from a six-month sabbatical, in which I was a Visiting Researcher at Central Saint Martins in London, and made five trips to Portugal to research the entire system of cork, from regenerative agriculture to circular manufacturing. I’m currently building an online journal and ultimately a book on the incredible history and future of this material. I’m also integrating this narrative into my studio practice, making a series of 12 cork stools and small chairs. Each of these objects will highlight and communicate a distinct aspect of the unique cultural history and material quality of cork.
Can you tell us about other craft artists who use cork in innovative ways?
Cork is becoming more acceptable as a material for design and craft, which is nice to see. Recently, the most exciting project that really taps into how cork behaves differently might be the Made in Situ collection by Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance. And the 2019 Corks collection by Jasper Morrison at Kasmin Gallery was a knockout!
If you could make any item out of cork, what would it be and why?
A house! Inside and outside, furniture and all. Cork is impermeable to moisture, fire resistant, and a super effective insulator, but it maintains a warm temperate and soft texture. An entire dwelling could be made of cork. It would be natural, healthy, recyclable, repairable, and would float (for whatever that’s worth).
What’s one of your go-to / favorite tools in your tool kit that the world should know about?
In the corner of my studio stands the mold for the Cortiça chaise, built over an all-nighter back in 2004. It’s roughly the size and weight of a refrigerator. It’s covered in layers of tape and marks from dozens of uses forming the piece. It’s a weird object that tells the history of years of practice.
If today you could have any craft artist’s work for your home or studio, whose would it be and why?
So many and so hard to decide! I’m a huge fan of Kwangho Lee and all his wild material experiments in furniture, but especially his enameled copper pieces. Also, we have one moiré print by Pat Kim but I could have a whole wall full of them!
Which artists, craft exhibitions, or projects do you think the world should know about, and why?
In London I saw Hew Locke’s The Procession at the Tate Britain. It was life-altering in its narrative depth, technical prowess, and raw presentation of history. Please go! It’s up through January 2023.
Inspired by the people featured in The Queue?
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