Featured Artisan Spotlight: Douglas Slagle, DarkWaterEngineWorks
Posted by ArtFireContent on 04/20/2011 at 10:45:51
Please start by telling us a little about yourself and your studio.
The first thing I can clearly remember making was a “film projector,” made out of an empty Tide box; the cardboard tube from a paper towel role and lots of masking tape. That was at age five. It’s been nonstop since then. While in grade-school I was routinely in trouble for drawing too much in class, until 5th grade when Mrs. Robertson realized I retained much more information while drawing than not. She spread the word and things got easier after that.
Around the same time I found several engineering drawing books in our basement and taught myself to render 3 dimensional objects from them. My favorite time to practice this was while sitting with my parents in church. At first my mom was frustrated, but eventually just brought small notebooks and pencils with her, so that I wouldn’t draw in the hymnals or on the backs of the offertory envelopes.
In the thirty-five years since that “projector” I can honestly say that not a single month has gone by in which I wasn’t making or drawing something. I can’t really separate the creative process from my sense of self. Saying that artistic or creative expression is “important” to me would be like saying that my leg is important to me, or is a passion of mine.
The Dark Water Engine Works studio is populated with pieces I hope are utterly unique. It’s an expression of my own personal aesthetic and a desire to always try new things, to continue learning and never to settle into any particular medium or discipline. It’s a goal of mine to change peoples’ perceptions about what materials are capable of being beautiful and worth deeper consideration. I hope to do this while maintaining a very discernible overall look and feel to the works available.
Where do you live and what is it like?
I live in San Antonio Texas. San Antonio is a very strange city to me. San Antonio’s main industries are tourism, the military, medical research and finance. Being from Michigan, born and bred in the buckle of the “Rust Belt,” these industries seem jarringly detached and insubstantial to me. The city itself has very little personality, which still surprises me and has little in the way of inspiration.
Having said that, outside the city is the rest of Texas, which oozes history and character. The surrounding hill country is one of my favorite areas ever and is my chief hunting ground for unique materials, colors and inspiration. Texans are some of the warmest and most genuine people I’ve ever met and you can’t throw a chunk of limestone without hitting someone with a great story, or three. Still, this is not my home and I hope to return to the North someday. I love the open, rolling landscape of Texas but I have what feels almost like a biological need to return to the land of cold, rusty metal and factory-scapes.
Where did you learn your medium?
I attended Kendall Collage of Art and Design, in Grand Rapids Michigan and received a BFA in illustration. Since then, I have worked very hard to not have a particular medium. An illustrator must be capable of using a wide variety of mediums to satisfy the needs of a client or project. Building on that idea, I’ve tried to amass experience in anything and everything, which can help me create what I see in my head. Ideally I’d like to be able to work in any medium, whether it’s oils or electronics, in order to never have lack of ability be a barrier to realizing an idea.
Why do you think that buying and selling handmade products benefits society?
Handmade items, whether bought or sold, connect people in important tangible ways, which mass produced, or manufactured products never can. The latter must, by nature, appeal to the widest possible audience and in doing so, be homogenized and anonymous. This is true regardless of their quality or value. However, an item made by one person's creativity or ingenuity will reach out, in a very personal way, to a much smaller audience or even a single person. That connection is intimate.
We’re all looking for connections to other people in one form or another. An object resulting from someone’s passion, vision or whimsy can be a surprisingly direct connection. For me personally there is an additional layer of importance to many of the items I’ve listed on ArtFire, as well as those I plan on listing. In using re-purposed and upcycled materials I hope to call attention to the potential of all the materials we as consumers have collected and now consider junk or useless. It takes an individual's insight to see the beauty, or expose it, in these materials and that an idea, housed in a lamp or votive holder, can be transmitted to another person.