Collaborator: Skylab Architecture

Daniel Meyers is Design Director at Skylab Architecture, our partner in designing and developing The Artisans Cup exhibition experience. He’s an Architect, but his experience hasn’t been limited to Architecture. He’s spent a significant percentage of his career as a Creative Director in the Agency world, leading teams working in architecture and interiors, exhibition design, immersive digital environments, urban planning and industrial design, retail, and advertising. We’re thrilled to be working with Daniel and the rest of the team at Skylab in creating a stunning and memorable experience for The Artisans Cup. We asked him a few questions about his background and process, as well as how the art of Bonsai has influenced and inspired him. Here’s what he had to say.

What do you do?
I’m really fortunate to do what I do, and work with this incredibly talented team. I work with people that shape contemporary places and create narrative environments. Our practice is pretty omnivorous – we’re interested in any project that presents the opportunity to make an experience of unique quality and character for people, and allows us to contribute to cultural discourse in our own small way. As a result we wear a lot of hats! 

How did you get started?
I didn’t know it at the time, but I got started in design when I was a kid; I obsessively drew all kinds of machines, took apart every mechanical object in my house, made needless repairs and alterations to my cars, painted and sculpted, played music, wrote. Eventually, I went to grad school for architecture in my late 20’s. In the interim period I had served in the Navy, trained and then practiced as a guitar maker, took an undergraduate degree in Medieval English literature, and played in a bunch of mediocre art rock bands. It took me a really long time to put all the dots together, to realize that this schizophrenia was actually just design! 

What excites you most about The Artisans Cup?
The Artisans Cup is a celebration of a stunning and venerable art form, but also an expression of the emerging and unique practice of American Bonsai. This balance between deep respect for a great tradition, and the optimism, courage, and rigor required to try something new, is something we always aspire to in our own work. It’s a real honor to be working in this context, and humbling to learn about all of the great artists practicing in this medium.

What initially drew you to The Artisans Cup? What made you want to partner with us?
We were drawn by several things: first the ridiculously talented and humble people involved in the Cup, second the trees themselves – these living compositions are so architectural! The art form itself, that way it’s being practiced by these emerging practitioners – it just floored us.

Who has had the biggest influence in your career (living or dead)?
I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to intersect with a lot of great teachers and collaborators over the years, and of course I have my little list of favorite historical icons – but the honest answer is that my partner Traci Sym (who also happens to be Experience Design Director at Skylab and is also on the team working on the Artisans Cup) has been by far the biggest influence on me as a practitioner. Among other things, Traci is a trained actor, and her temporal, human-centered perspective on art and design has been, and continues to be, a revelation for a guy trained in a discipline that can sometimes be pretty old-fashioned.

Tell me about your creative process.
Tiptoeing along the ridge that separates the valleys of too much structure and too much freedom? Process is fluid, and evolves, so of course this question is always impossible to answer – but we try to exploit the opportunities that present themselves at the intersection of rigor and free expression. The path that gets us there is fluid, and depends a lot on the problem that we’ve been presented.

Where do you find inspiration?
We look to patterns in nature; we look to human behavior; we look to the sciences and to art. The world is overflowing with an embarrassing abundance of beauty, structure, incongruities, and serendipity. That, and Tumblr. 

Does your work often involve collaboration? What’s your perspective on collaboration?
All creative work is collaborative, period. Individual artistic processes obviously flow from an individual’s unique and authentic experience of the world, and to some degree are therefore unique expressions. But to go from experiencing to expressing involves the contributions of other humans – even if only as receivers of the message – 100% of the time. Design even more so. Learning to dance the dance with others is what a life’s work in design is all about, and the joy of making things is amplified by doing it with a like-minded team. 

Have the principles of the art of Bonsai influenced you since working with The Artisans Cup? How?
Leaning about Bonsai has been a really humbling and gratifying experience. The lessons embedded in the process of Bonsai – the conversation in time between the artist and the tree, the symbolic language of an art that speaks to our manipulation of nature in an age that is all about the nature-culture nexus – are intense. I’m not sure I understand fully just yet how this experience will shape our work to come, but I’m sure that it will.

Follow Daniel and Skylab Architecture on Instagram.