Tanner Bowman (BFA 2015)

Hot Mess Chair made at Super Design Gallery in London for the London Design Festival. (Photo by Tanner Bowman)

Where are you now and what kind of work/projects are you currently working on? 

I currently run my namesake product design studio and business out of my home and studio. I make functional art objects using traditional crafting techniques and materials in an experimental manor. Currently I am researching, prototyping, and producing wool rugs and tapestries with mirrors in them, making over the top headpieces for drag queens, and playing with pigmented hot glue. I am also working on some new products collaboratively with several different artists and designers but that's a secret for now. I love learning new skills and techniques and try to keep my projects as diverse as possible. 

Latched Mirror (Photo by Tanner Bowman)

How did SAIC prepare you for where you are today? What particular classes/projects/approaches to subjects influenced you? 

SAIC prepared me to be confident in calling myself both an artist and designer. The interdisciplinary ethos of the school was hugely influential on my practice, since being able to bounce all over the school's departments gave me insight into many different modes of creation and inspiration. I took classes in Architecture, Interior Architecture, Designed Objects, Fiber and Material Studies, Art and Technology, Ceramics, Sculpture, and Performance Art Departments. I was especially involved in the Designed Objects department and took several Industry Project Courses there. These classes were intensive and gave me first hand, real art/design world experiences that completely shaped me as a maker. My first industry project course was ThingLab which was about hybridizing the fundamentals of Art and Design and worked with Andrea Zittel for a year as a visiting professor. My second industry project course was Whatnot which asked the students to develop and produce a collection of functional objects that were shown in Milan, Italy. My third and final IP course worked with Nigerian architect, Kunle Adeyemi on a Lakefront Kiosk for the 2016 Chicago Architecture Biennial. All of these courses were incredible opportunities that built a solid foundation for my practice. To me, life is all about collecting experiences, so I try to put myself in as many different positive situations as possible. 

Hot Mess Vessels made for Whatnot (Photo by Jonathan Allen)

What career advice do you have for current students, looking at how you see your field evolving, what is critical for the future practitioner? 

I think the best lesson I learned was to be confident in my intuition and to reflect on the inspirations around me. I would suggest having goals for what you want to do with your education but don't have a direct plan on how to get there. Instead, go with the flow; look for the opportunities available to you and experiment with unfamiliar territory. Use every resource available to you, be curious and joyful with your creativity. SAIC asks you to be a critical thinker, but it also encourages you to jump into a project and physically make in order to learn. While at the school, I would advise students to look into every department, machine, class, faculty member, and material that catches your attention and learn from all of it as much as you can. You can stick to your main interests, but SAIC also affords you a space to experiment and take risks. There are opportunities at the school you may not necessarily have access to after you graduate and I personally would not take that for granted. In general, If an opportunity isn't available to you then ask yourself what you can do to create that opportunity. Most importantly, befriend both success and failure equally and always cherish the magical feeling of making your ideas come to life. 

As for how the field is evolving I would say that there are no solid rules for success in art and design other than the fact that you have to make your ideas physical. The internet is a powerful and relatively cheap tool if you know how to use it in productive and clever ways. All that you really need is an idea that you can be passionate about and a platform for hosting and creating it. Your ideas want to be made and there is most likely an audience for them, so do what you really want to do, work hard, and make your work available to people. 

Primary Comfort Pillow at Andrea Zittel's AZ West Wagon Station Encampment. (Photo by Tanner Bowman)

With whom did you study at SAIC or who influenced you?

Oh geez! This is so hard to answer without writing a novel. I had an incredible range of professors and peers at the school that inspire and influence me to this day. (You can check out the links section of my website to see all of my inspirations if you would like to).

The most fascinating aspect of SAIC is the diversity of ideas and makers all around you. Each person has their own way of being and creating; I found it to be overwhelmingly inspiring and beautiful. The teachers are certainly experts in their field, but the students also have an incredible amount of insight to offer. Befriend both graduate and undergraduate students, especially ones that make work that you enjoy, and learn from their process and perspectives.

Another big influence on me was the school's proximity to the museum. Having the access to learn from master craftsmen and their artworks up close and personal was something incredibly special about my time at the school. It gave me the goal and motivation to someday have my work shown in galleries and museums. 

Tanner Bowman is a product designer and artist working in Chicago, IL. Bowman has shown his work at Rossana Orlandi in Milan, Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, and at Super Design Gallery in London. Bowman was also featured in New City's "Design 50" issue in 2016