Specimen Products

About My Co-op Experience

I’m a junior undergraduate focusing my studies in the Painting and Drawing and Sound departments. I owe it completely to Co-op for finding my internship with Specimen Products. I simply got an email from Co-op advertising their program, as all students occasionally do, and saw on their list of featured internships an opportunity to work for Specimen. I inquired and got the job shortly thereafter. Prior to that, I had given up looking for an internship on my own after many unresponsive cold-calls.

I make Hornlings, Hornlets, and Leader Horns, which are mounted atop various speakers. They distort the sound of the speakers by channeling the air that goes into them a certain way. The number of tasks involved in making the horns is seemingly limitless. While there are four or five main steps in creating a horn—cutting, bending, seaming, tamping, etc.—each is a group of many other more specific tasks, which in turn are each groups of yet more specific tasks, and on and on. It’s the splendor of handcraft.

Interns at Specimen work for three months and may be given the opportunity to work as an apprentice afterward, depending on their interest and performance. An apprenticeship leads to a paying position. Quality work produces a satisfactory outcome.

What I Learned from My Co-op Experience

I work with all members of Specimen in various parts of the shop, depending on my current duty. It’s an easy-going environment and everyone is very personable and friendly. This reflects the attitude of my supervisor and the slow and careful nature of the work. For me, such monotony is a chance for contemplation. My internship has only reinforced its value as a key ingredient to my own success.

My supervisor has a keen interest in my performance, what skills I have brought and how well I improve. This experience has turned my attention away from the novelty of artistic ideas and more to the quality of production. The company’s audacity to invest so much in the multiplication and perfection of a material is alone impressive.

My internship hasn’t changed my goals, but it has opened new doors. After school I plan to work independently and across many fields. This internship may lead to an apprenticeship, and beyond that a paid position, but the experience alone will help me with tapping innumerable opportunities in the future.

About the Employer

Specimen Products creates custom instruments, amplifiers, and horn speakers by hand in a warehouse on the West Side of Chicago. First opened more than 20 years ago by SAIC alumnus Ian Schneller, the company has drawn the interest and patronage of famous clients including Jack White and Andrew Bird, who has played numerous shows with the speakers at high-profile venues and events including Carnegie Hall, Chicago’s Lyric Opera House, Hollywood Bowl, the Late Show with David Letterman, and the 2010 Ted Conference. Schneller also showcased his products in a collaborative exhibition with Andrew Bird at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.

About SAIC Co-op Internship Conversations

School of the Art Institute (SAIC) students share their co-op internship experience and what valuable insights they learned along the way.


Disclaimer: All work represents the views of the INDIVIDUAL ARTISTS & AUTHORS who created them, and are not those of the school or museum of the Art Institute.