Dreamers + Doers highlights emerging artists, entrepreneurs, and up-and-coming ones to watch. Whether it’s starting a new business, creating something beautiful, or just daring to do things differently, we stand behind those taking steps toward something new.
This week we're featuring Bryan Metzdorf, Display Artist at Space Ninety 8 in Williamsburg, who worked for UO in Chicago, Boston, and NYC's Soho store before moving to Brooklyn. From conceiving, constructing, and problem-solving his way through huge installation projects to simply discovering unexpected potential and inspiration in places we would have never thought to look, we're hard-pressed to find something Bryan can't do. We paid a visit to Metzdorf's studio to talk about his art background, creative insatiability, and how he finds beauty in simply looking at things differently.
How did this all start?
I have always wanted to be an artist of some type. Growing up I never thought about doing anything else. I went to The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and focused on design. However it was a pretty conceptual and multi-disciplinary school, so I was exposed to many creative outlets. After graduating I worked for several artists, designers, and architects in Chicago, again gaining experience in different creative jobs, and methods and scales of production.
At the same time I was also working with some friends from school to design objects, and put together events and exhibitions. Needing something a little more steady than the freelance I was doing at the time I applied for a Display Artist position at Urban Outfitters, as it seemed like a job where I could use many of the skills I had picked up, and — most importantly — be creative every day.
Can you share some sources of everyday inspiration?
I have always had a pretty insatiable visual appetite, and I’m really inspired by seeing new things, or old things in a new way. When it gets down to specifics, it is a little tricky: I am kind of all over the place, but also very particular. I know very quickly what I like and don’t like, but I’m a big believer that with the right context almost anything can be beautiful or interesting.
I find inspiration in everything from vernacular buildings to The Memphis Group to fashion design to mineral samples to industrial parts to certain lighting conditions, and on and on. Probably easier to just share my tumblr
How would a good friend describe your aesthetic?
(As described by actual friends:) Geometric, playful, cerebral, elevated, modern, geologic
Offer two pieces of advice to your 20-year-old self.
Stick with it…
above: Bryan's installation for the Space Ninety 8 A Poster A Day pop-up.
Your job as a display artist involves a healthy amount of problem-solving—conceptualizing and executing ideas within a limited space. Can you share some stories about particularly challenging projects you figured out or perhaps ones you are most proud of?
A recent pop-up involved showing 40 large prints in a 10 x 20 foot space (and we wanted to keep the largest wall empty). I came up with some simple “J” shaped fixtures that were placed on an angles, and utilized double sided plastic sleeves, which allowed enough viewing room all around to properly display this artists project. I think the project turned out really well, the artists aesthetic was translated to the overall space, so she was pleased, and even with 40 posters in such a small space it didn’t feel crowded or overwhelming.
Walk us through a typical day-in-the-life
Read on the train, coffee, answer emails, source materials, order materials, drawing, prototype, more emails, lunch, research, computer modeling, emails, beer after work, read on the train, cook and eat with my girlfriend, look for something new to listen to, try to work on my own stuff, play with our cat, sleep…
What are five other things you are interested in right now?
1. I’m still relatively new to NYC, so NYC, and other mega cities like Hong Kong, and Mexico City.
2. Materials that play with light and reflectivity.
3. Strange interiors from the 60s, 70s and 80s.
4. People's interaction with nature / natural geometry and patterns.
5. Making pickles.
Complete the thought:
I like it when… it all comes together
I never want to be asked… where do your ideas come from?
Success is… when it all comes together
My biggest fear is… it not coming together
I’d like to be… finished
I’m secretly obsessed with… flowers
The most fun I ever had… maybe riding (and crashing) a moped on an island in the South China Sea
I am looking for… I’m just looking…
My style icon is… creative people throughout history
I dread… being bored
I recommend… trying new things
I couldn’t live without… traveling
See the past videos in our Dreamers + Doers series here: