interior designInteriorssneak peeks

sneak peek: dolan geiman

by anne

it won’t take you long to figure out that dolan geiman‘s chicago place isn’t what we typically feature in our sneak peeks. but looking through his images and reading through his descriptions felt like i was unlocking a treasure chest full of great stories and memories into the world of dolan geiman. it’s funny to think about where everything we own comes from and the stories behind it. and it’s very clear from dolan’s work how his surroundings inspire him. be sure to click here for more full-sized images, with complete descriptions, and you can find more of his work here (psst…there’s a sale!) and his blog here with all sorts of fun stuff he has in the works. [thanks dolan and ali!]anne

[Above: This is the area I refer to as “the waiting room”.  This is where my pal Chris Nightengale, fashion photographer extraordinaire, does some of his shoots. The mint colored chest of drawers is entirely metal and was a gift from my friend Denny, who always has been a wonderful inspiration in my life. He lugged this heavy thing to me when I was down on my luck and living in an unheated rat-hole apartment in Virginia. Now it looks a little better, as does my luck.  I found the globe in a dumpster in Charleston, South Caroline, and the artwork, Jazz Atlas (2008), is one of my collage constructions made from magazines I found in old farm houses. [Photo credit: David Schalliol]

Yours truly at work. . . This is the Art Machine. There is a long story behind the Art Machine, but essentially I made this out of old doors and found objects from a soon-to-be-demolished house I was living in when I first moved to Chicago.  Hockshop refers to the name of my previous studio and gallery in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. Under the moniker Hockshop, the Art Machine debuted in Chicago during a yacht-based art show organized by Bridge Magazine (now called Bridge Art Fair, they produce expositions in London, Miami, New York, and elsewhere). The top of the Art Machine is an old canvas tent that my granddad used when hunting in Canada and which I screenprinted with various images. The little squares of metal on the front are hand-cut signs I grabbed in a scrap yard in Stuarts Draft, Virginia. The little Panel Paintings, on the wall behind the Art Machine, are the staple of my art business. I make about 1000 of these things a year, out of recycled wood, recycled paint, and water-based silkscreen ink.  This is my carnival area, I like to say, because the combination of the Art Machine and the Panel Paintings presents a nice sideshow feel. [Photo credit: David Schalliol]

This is a cabin-like installation just inside the front entrance of my studio.  I created this out of salvaged wood, found billboards, and old signs I’ve found along the road driving to and from art fairs. The raw wood slats were given to me by my pals over at Circa Ceramics who were using them as shelving. I found the deer head while exploring an abandoned barn in Ohio. I saw one of the antlers sticking out of the floorboards. The rusted milk can was used by my dad when he milked cows as a kid. The old glass bottles adorning my bottle tree surfaced outside my warehouse building when the City dug up the cobblestone street in preparation for resurfacing the road. The green bucket is full of shotgun shells I gathered from a shooting range in southern Illinois. The buoys have been collected from various coastal towns including Key West, Cape Cod, and New Orleans. I grabbed the screen door from an abandoned general store in Virginia, and I bought the lentil above the door at a yard sale here in Chicago for only five dollars. I’ve started collecting green and greenish-blue boxes from abandoned warehouses here in Chicago. [Photo credit: David Schalliol]

This is the back side of the entryway installation.  This is where I feel most like a mad scientist. And yes, in case you’re wondering, there is a whiskey flask in the bottom drawer. I found the chair in an old farm house in North Carolina and screenprinted the back and seat myself. The desk was left in the basement of my last apartment and could kill an elephant if it fell on it. I had to use a truck jack and three retired football players to transport the desk when we moved into this space. The framed oil painting on the floor was hanging in my grandma’s den when I was a kid. She was trying to throw it out when I intercepted it.  The red dolly in the corner I bartered from an old (semi) drunk barber for two six-packs of Old Style beer. I think he got the better deal, but at least it looks cool. I snagged the green metal hanging light from a warehouse here in Chicago. Above my desk is one of my inspiration clotheslines. I’ve found this is the best way for me to display various ideas and my notes to myself. The little white paintbrush holder sitting on my desk with the face on it is a ceramic mug made by my pal Ed Brownlee. Ed is about two pints away from being mistaken for a criminal, but he’s a damn good artist and has an enormous heart. [Photo credit: David Schalliol]

Our building has a green roof, which Ali helped plant, and this is where the plants were stored before they were given the outdoor penthouse suite. The equipment featured in the photo is one of our landlord’s lathes; he collects old, industrial machinery amongst other things.

This is my little shrine to Johnny Cash. On the day Johnny Cash passed away, I was getting ready for an opening at Unit B Gallery, formerly in Chicago and now in Austin. The work I was showing was loaded with connotations of death and resurrection and was called the Tombsigns of St Emmeline. The synchronicity of the event was really overwhelming and would have seemed spooky, except that I seem to attract energy like that and I am open to it. The week before I was eating pizza in St Louis and some kid was skateboarding nearby with a boom box and he was playing Johnny Cash’s last recording. When I asked him about it, he said he didn’t know it was Johnny Cash, and that he had just found the tape under a tree and liked the sound. I found the whiskey jug on the bottle tree in the dirt behind the warehouse. The butterflies are screenprinted on wood and were part of a spring window display for a local shoe store . . . I use one corner of the studio for staging photos, both for Etsy and for print brochures. The mantel was a gift from a T-shirt printer (48 Industries) in the building, a fellow scavenger. [Photo credit: David Schalliol]

Stuff I love: plastic dice, old painted nail, orange train ticket to California (1898), list of numbers in Spanish, green feed tag, hand-drawn family album for collage, Virginia text from a high school Math book cover. [Photo credit: David Schalliol]

In this entryway installation close-up, the fresh eggs (fresh eyes) sign was a studio warming gift passed on to me from my buddy, artist Michael Merck, who grabbed it from a little Mexican street cart.  I found the paintbrush hanging on a hook in a bathroom of a warehouse I was occupying while living in Virginia. It’s the only paintbrush I own that’s never been used for painting.  Below the brush is a catfish sinker I bought when I went fishing in Kentucky last year.  The rooster painting, Dirt Road Series IX, is one of my own, silkscreen and acrylic on recycled wood available here. He’s a good pet and doesn’t eat food or make any noise.  He just sits there lookin’ pretty. The books to the left of the rooster are my sketchbooks.  I use old books for my sketchbooks, pasting ideas and collage materials into the existing pages, instead of buying new white-paged, sterile sketchbooks. I think it’s important to be surrounded by many different textures, so I started collecting the softballs over the past four or five years. Almost every time I make a trip down to a river, I find softballs stuck in leftover flood debris and so I started saving them in this locker room bin. If you like metal baskets like this one, you can find some here. The blue oar is a mystery. I found it one night in the middle of the road while I was driving through West Virginia. The strange part was that one end of the oar was tied to a tennis shoe.  I kept the oar; the shoe didn’t fit, so I left it. Above the fresh eggs (fresh eyes) sign is a wooden gun I made from a piece of billboard I found in Indiana and then adorned with little metal objects from an old trade school parking lot. Finally, the rooster painting is sitting on an old hen crate, used by my granddad to take chickens to market. Ali won’t let me get chickens yet, but I’m working on it. [Photo credit: Kara Elliott-Ortega]

Included in this shot are an Ed Brownlee mug (paintbrush holder), comic book collage materials, old picture frames found in a barn in Kentucky, a bluebird collage in progress, and a couple print proofs. Used paint cans, thrift store mugs, and Quaker Oats bins are used to hold brushes, pens, and markers.[Photo credit: Kara Elliott-Ortega]

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  • great sneak peek! what a funny picture where the beautiful old lathe is surrounded by trays of plants, a very eclectic space indeed.

  • Wow! I am completely fascinated by Dolan! I’m adding him to my list of people I’d like to have over for tea.
    I love his space, and that every single piece has a story and a soul behind it. How lovely to be surrounded by so many treasures.

  • oh my! I would LOVE to have enough space to do this. Long time reader, first time commenter. This is the reason I create. Go, salvaged art!

  • Dolan and Ali here from dolangeiman.com (http://dolangeiman.com). We wish to extend our gratitude to Anne and Grace for touring our studio with us, virtually, and sharing our space with the rest of Design*Sponge. I hope everyone is enjoying the tour. For a little more back story and a few additional photos, here is a Flickr set (http://www.flickr.com/photos/dolangeiman/sets/72157609068984971/) we created specifically for the Sneak Peek.

    As Anne mentioned, we have a massive holiday sale going on right now, with store-wide discounts on all available works. All orders over $100 also include a free gift!

    * * * Mention DESIGN*SPONGE for an additional 10% off your order and free shipping on any order over $100 * * *

    Here is a direct link to our Etsy Holiday Sale Nov 12-Dec 20, 2008 (http://dolangeiman.etsy.com)

    Thanks for the warm comments we’ve received thus far and y’all are welcome to come visit the studio anytime.

    Dolan and Ali

  • Wow what a crazy awesome space. I don’t think I’d feel cool enough to stay there for any significant period of time, but it looks like an artistic genius’s abode.

  • Thank you for the introduction to Dolin’s work. I work in textiles but am inspired by work that grows out of discarded materials. I suppose it has some sort of relationship to patchwork. Anyway, I am also off to Chicago next week and have been hunting for interesting stops… this is a good start.

  • Dolan, your art reminds me of one of my drawing teachers in Iowa City, David Dunlap. Have you ever met him? If not, you should take a trip across the Mississippi sometime. You’d love him and he’d love you. :)

  • I have one of Dolan’s box prints, the Field Guide one with lots of birds. One of the awesome things about his magpie sensibility is finding something that’s “you” in each of his paintings or collages, like a prize–in my case, it’s the word “Tennessee,” the state where I’m from. I love the print and so does pretty much everyone I know.

    His etsy store is also the coolest I’ve ever shopped in; you get little bits and bobs with your package in the mail. I highly recommend it.

    Cheers to design*sponge for this awesome tour. I love all the sneak peeks, but it’s really refreshing to see a less conventional space.

  • I’m a huge fan of Mr. Geiman’s art, so I am just tickled to see the tour of his studio on here. Love his aesthetic, love his methods.

  • I usually don’t leave comments, but this sneak peek definitely warranted one. This is, hands down, my favorite Design*Sponge sneak peek ever. Thanks, Dolan and Ali, for sharing your magical space, and thanks to Grace for shepherding this forum for beautiful things and ideas, in which creative people can be continually inspired by one another.

  • Dolan’s studio reminds me of Birmingham and all the wonderful artists I knew there! There is something about southern artists and their spaces that is unique to the rest of the country.
    Even though he is in Chicago he has kept that feeling of home and the South to his space.
    Keep up the great work Dolan!

  • The comments from Dolan MAKE this sneak peek. Funny and interesting and really make the photos come alive. What great finds. One man’s junk…

  • Dolan is a Chicago gem. He has made some lovely things from rescued finds in our city and we love him here. Congratulations Dolan!!!!!!!!!!


  • Dolan Geiman is an awesome artist that has a specific personal authentic style. Due to the fact that I worked have been in his basement, every aspect of his artworks are so naturally raw, interesting in a unique way.

  • hey this stuff is sweet! really inspiring- as an artist myself I find this work to be especially motivating and inspiring! thanks for making awesome work Dolan!!!!

  • A true artist sees the value in junk!! You are a true artist, but that runs in the family doesn’t it? I am sure you could find some dandy bits and pieces on the E.S. of MD. Thanks for the great descriptions of your work. I am impressed!! Blessings on you.

  • i’m always amazed by the new works that this guy keeps pluggin out, keep up the good work! I would love to see another Design Sponge Feature later on! Lets keep this guy on the radar!

  • Wow! I bought some of Dolan’s collages when he was selling them on the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville in the early ’90s. So cool!

  • c’est merveilleux, je kiffe trops, je reve de m’installer ds votre fabuleux atelier !!!!
    est ce possible ? lol

  • what a small world! i found this website in the latest “week” and checked it out. who should i run across but our friend dolan! great to get a virtual tour of the studio. as repurposing artists ourselves,
    we know it’s going to be a good weekend when we end up at the same art fair, always love seeing dolan and ali and the amazing art.

  • so inspiring! i just had a look at your website and your artwork is really, really amazing. i might buy some paper prints for myself! :)