Joe Manus: What motivates me as an artist? The real motivation for me is this internal conflict that I have. I’m under-satisfied if I’m not the most creative person in the room. That being said, I’m under-satisfied often, since there are so many creative people in my life. You don’t want to be in a pumpkin-carving contest with me — power tools, sweat and tears. I will say that self-competition isn’t the only motivator. I also enjoy beautiful things, and when I can be part of their creation, that’s when I find myself in the over-satisfied situation. I love making.
The first thing I do if I’m tackling new furniture or lighting is to look at the enormous amount of Midcentury products and their knock-offs, and then the tingle starts. I do a lot of reflection and looking around at my surroundings. I’m hyper-visual and this lets me see unrelated things. Light shining through a sheet of Styrofoam gives me a lamp concept. The bent rim on a wrecked motorcycle leads to a rocking chair design. I’ve always been good at that.
I’m new in the world of design. I went to my first museum when I was 17. The first furniture and lighting show I ever attended was the first where I showed my work. Now that I’m getting my eyes in these places, my head is on fire with new designs and new concepts. I think being under-exposed to this industry has been a real benefit. I launched my line of furniture and lighting only six months ago, so just like that, the orders are starting to come in.
My newest and best-selling pieces are my recycled cardboard lighting. I get material from large manufacturers. It’s industry trash, basically. I make lamps and hanging lights in all kinds of shapes. People love the look and the materials. I’m an environmentalist accidentally. I didn’t set out to make these lamps earth-friendly. I just looked for what was in abundance — waste — and figured out a useful application.
I’m also making wood veneer globes. Once again, I’m using the scraps from laminate shops. It’s all of their seconds and discards. I’m able to take these scraps and use CNC technology and the finished products are wonderful. I use a variety of different woods and put them together in different shapes. They emit this natural glow that’s so familiar, like a campfire or those previously talked about pumpkins.