Matt Shlian

Paper Talk
Paper Talk
Matt Shlian

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Matthew Shlian is an artist/designer and founder of the Initiative Artist Studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His work extends from drawings to large scale installations to collaborations with leading scientists at the University of Michigan. His work for the National Science Foundation explores paper folding structures on the macro level translated to the nano-scale.

As a paper engineer, his work is rooted in print media, book arts and commercial design. Beginning with an initial fold, a single action causes a transfer of energy to subsequent folds, which ultimately manifest in drawings and three dimensional forms. In his studio, he is a collaborator, explorer and inventor. He begins with a system of folding and at a particular moment the material takes over. Guided by wonder, his work is made because he cannot visualize its final realization; in this way he comes to understanding through making.

Ara 142 is from the Eight Emperor Series of smaller works we talked about.

18 x 24 x ¾”, 2014

We also chat about the Unholy series which relates Matt’s work with a scientist doing Alzheimers research about protein aggregation and how clusters mis-fold.

Unholy 17 (Aggregation) 48 x 48.5, 2017

Unfolding is a new book – a complete retrospective of Matt’s work, documenting a decade of unrivaled and unexpected creativity.

Find out more about Matthew Shlian on his website.


Music featuring excerpts of Makin’ Paper folk song by Peter Thomas. Listen to the full song and find out about other paper and book arts folk songs.

Gary A. Hanson did the sound editing for this episode. He practices and refines his skills in audio production while making his own podcast I’ll Have a Beer and Talk, a show about tech news, culture, weird animal stories and of course, beer. Gary is also the Deckle in Pulp & Deckle, a Portland-based community hand papermaking studio.


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