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Daniel Shapiro makes transient sounds tangible in ‘The Rumpus Collection’
Daniel Shapiro at ICFF 2024
Image: Daniel Shapiro

Daniel Shapiro makes transient sounds tangible in ‘The Rumpus Collection’

The St. Louis-based ceramic artist uses sound patterns to derive the playful silhouettes of the collection comprising floor lamps, table lamps and a pendant.

by Anushka Sharma
Published on : Jun 21, 2024

The gentle chirping of birds, clamorous honking of cars, relentless finger-tapping on keyboards, blaring alarm clocks, whistles and erratic splutters in the kitchen, and a myriad of sounds that are so mundane, they evade notice—one encounters a wide spectrum of these each day. It is intriguing how a day can be traced in sound patterns, how each is surprisingly definitive and triggers a different response or a specific memory for each individual. Although most days pass with people taking little to no notice of waves that stimulate the auditory sense, what would ensue when they are rendered tangible?

“I was thinking about a new collection around the time that my son was born. I had taken videos of his birth and first moments and was editing them together to share with our family. While editing the videos, the sound wave pattern in the audio timeline jumped out at me. The way the sound waves moved up and down visually made an impression and stuck with me for a few weeks,” shares Daniel Shapiro, a ceramic artist based in St. Louis, United States, who crafts his newest body of work, The Rumpus Collection, mirroring the sound waves from his life.

The variety of lighting designs partaking in the ensemble are guided by and named after specific sounds such as boom, flutter and even whawha. The collection made its debut at ICFF 2024 alongside new pieces from the existing Splat and Squiggle collections, two wall pieces as well as the Parenthetical Chair.

Shapiro specialises in functional and sculptural works that stem from the imagination. Owing to his 15 years of experience in graphic design, his current creative approach is an amalgamation of the digital world and the organic medium of clay.

Expanding on what fuels his creative escapades, the artist relays, “For me, the defining element is shape. This newest collection that I showed at ICFF is the closest I have come to a clear articulation of meaning in shape.”

Despite incidental sounds leaving an impression on Shapiro, the core concept of The Rumpus Collection dawned upon him only when he was in his studio experimenting with forms. While tinkering with extrusions, arbitrary shapes and coils of clay that seemed to fall flat, the audio waves came back to him. So began the process of sculpting the mimetic forms of the collection that subsumed the qualities of sound patterns—straight lines represented silence while sinuous ones were attributed to the sampled audio forms.

“Once the concept was conceived, the real challenge was to create a process that would make these pieces a reality and could scale in size. Out of all the testing, the process that won out was to essentially build a sculpture around a sculpture,” Shapiro explains. Each object starts as a long clay column which is then sliced into sections, around which the extrusions are built. Once the piece goes through bisque fire, the central support structure is carefully removed, exposing the light-accommodating portion of the sculptural design.

The lighting collection comprises five designs: two floor lamps, two table lamps and a pendant. While the Rumble floor lamp draws inspiration from the sound waves of rocket launches, the Chirp floor lamp recalls serenading crickets on summer nights. In harmony with the visual language of their counterparts, the two table lamps titled Boom and Flutter mimic the sound waves of a thunderous rumble of a Midwest rainstorm and the fluttering wings of hummingbirds, respectively. The sole pendant partaking in the assortment is dubbed WhaWha, a playful reminiscence of the gentle cooing sounds of Shapiro’s newborn son. All the lamp designs feature 30 extruded patterns, precisely yoked with the help of laser guides.

His recent creations also include additions to the Splat collection: the Splat floor lamp and the Splat wall piece. The Squiggle collection expands further with the Squiggle column, Squiggle wall piece and the Tube table. A series of parenthesis-shaped stoneware tubes are stacked to conceive the Parenthetical Chair: a chair design inviting a moment of pause for the viewer and the user. Golden extrusions spill out from the edges of the furniture design as elements of surprise.

In Shapiro’s practice, one can discern the transformation of the mundane into the singular, perhaps even strange. Seemingly banal sounds from his life—crickets and hummingbirds outside his studio, the pitter-patter of rain, the cryptic murmurs of his newborn—become intangible muses that undergird a troupe of whimsical product designs vacillating between sculpture and functional art. In the process, he mummifies the ever-elusive sounds that pervade his life—opening up a new avenue in his oeuvre of ceramic art where sounds trickle into the physical realm as luminaires.

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