An Interview with Paper Guru Matthew Shlian
We met Matthew Shlian at Ted X in Ann Arbor and were immediately bowled over by his mind-boggling work with paper. An MFA graduate of Cranbrook Academy, Shlian divides his time between teaching at the University of Michigan, mocking up new-fangled packaging options for billion dollar blue-chips, and creating some of the most inspiring paper art around. We love his work and think you will, too.
There is immediacy to paper. You may take a sheet and begin to work, or plan something out methodically. It is a medium with a memory and one with which you can naturally create a dialogue.
Describe a perfect day in the studio.
I wake up early but not tired and walk to the studio. As I arrive there are packages of art supplies waiting for me which I cannot recall ordering. I make an egg bagel sandwich and hang out with Ira Glass for the next couple of hours while working on new ideas. I have a mild breakthrough on some piece which I know will lead to more work later on. My studio mates drop by in the afternoon, they have brought a bag of cider donuts and want to share.
What is your favorite tool of the trade?
In 2002 I purchased a Graphtec FC4200-50 Flatbed plotter cutter. It has a 17 x 23 in cutting surface with electrostatic adhesion. Her name is Maria.
What’s the worst paper cut you’ve ever gotten?
I got this gash from the edge of a roll of frosted Mylar that was more like a knife wound than paper cut. I probably should have gotten stitches.
Tell us your most memorable teaching experience.
A few weeks into my first semester teaching, one of my students was killed in an automobile accident. He was well liked in class and we all were completely devastated. We decided to create a memorial for our final class project. In a collaborative endeavor, the class collected and hand carved branches from the woods surrounding the college. The final addition to the memorial was a sapling from which the carved branches flowed.