Noah Scalin.

A few things to know about my desk, which is located inside of a house built in 1929…
A. There’s always tea on it. Either iced or hot.
B. There’s usually a cat on it. See him sitting on the monitor at the right? His name is Panther. His mother Willow is usually somewhere else.
C. The remote control is for my stereo. I always work with music on.
D. Yes that is a Dalek toy from the most recent season of Doctor Who.
E. Yes I have taped Post-it notes to my monitor. Apparently they don’t stay sticky forever.
F. The cell phone dock is a vintage rotary phone with a bluetooth handset.
G. I can’t seem to keep a mousepad for long, so the current one is just a piece of corrugated cardboard.
H. The work on my screen is a recent piece I did for the Atwater Village Theatre in LA.

My secondary desk is where I do handwork.
I. Yes, those are Xacto blades being used as pushpins for many of the items on my inspiration walls. My office library is behind and to the left of my desks.
J. 10 points for every childhood memory you recall while looking at this picture. Not pictured: my desk actually wraps around to the right and there’s another workstation for my intern. (Side note: when I first moved into the space I started stripping the old wallpaper, but I got busy working and never finished. Every time people came in the office they’d say the distressed wall treatment looked great, assuming I did it on purpose. So I just left it that way.)

Noah Scalin is a Richmond, Virginia based artist & designer. He is the creator of the Webby Award winning art project Skull-A-Day which was the basis of his first book, SKULLS. Noah’s art has been exhibited in museums and galleries internationally including the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia and the International Museum of Surgical Science in Chicago. He runs the socially conscious design & consulting firm Another Limited Rebellion, which he founded in 2001 and is also an adjunct faculty member at Virginia Commonwealth University. His new book, 365 Days; A Creative Journal was published in December 2010.

FROM YOUR DESKS: Skulls are trendy in fashion.  What does a skull represent to you?

NOAH SCALIN: Both of my parents are artists. I grew up in a household where biological images, including those of skulls & skeletons, were commonplace and considered intriguing rather than repulsive. Initially, I liked them because I was interested in how things worked and loved knowing what was beneath the surface of our skin. In college, the meaning shifted to the concept of memento mori: a reminder of death that inspires one to live life more fully. Skull-A-Day was really the pinnacle of that mindset, since I spent the year meditating on the skull while being more engaged & present in each day than I had ever been before.

I think by its very nature, a site run entirely on submissions never gets stale.

FYD: How did the College of Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum commission come about and what was it like working with those brains?

NS: I’d been a fan of the Mütter Museum for a long time. Anna Dhody, the museum’s curator, got in touch with me out of the blue. She initially asked me to give talk for their annual Dia de Los Muertos celebration and we developed a friendship. When she later got in touch about the book, I immediately offered to come up and make a piece at the museum. I had no idea what I would create; I just showed up with my camera and said, “What can I work with?” She brought me to the basement and after showing me a few other things, pointed to dozens of stacks of acrylic coated brain slices and said , “Could you work with those?” Of course I jumped at the opportunity.

I felt honored to examine so many human brains and not only handle them, but create something new with them. Each person died of some brain related problem. I was able to see how those manifested in a way that no book or scan can replicate. I thought a lot about those people’s lives and deaths as I worked, though the experience was ultimately quite lighthearted and a lot of fun.

FYD: Of your original skulls; which has been the most challenging to create?

NS: The most challenging were the simplest crafts: cross-stitch and latch hook. They don’t take much skill and anyone can do them, but the fact I was trying to complete the projects in a day made a pleasant pastime a monotonous and painful ordeal. I felt I was getting a tiny glimpse of what it was like to have a sweatshop job. It made me appreciate the work that so many people have to do everyday for so little pay.

The meaning shifted to the concept of memento mori: a reminder of death that inspires one to live life more fully.

FYD: What is the smallest skull you have created?

NS: I believe the one I carved out of my own tooth is the smallest.

FYD: What are the top three most radical skull submissions you’ve received?

NS: That’s a tough one since we’ve been posting a skull everyday since I finished my project in June of 2008. One of my absolute favorite submissions came from the USMC Skulz, a group of marines based in Iraq who were inspired by the site to do a bit of their own creative work. I was just blown away that in the midst of one of the worst situations they found a bit of inspiration in my site.

I also love seeing when people take my work to another level. Graffiti artists How&Nosm used my Skullphabet #1 font to create a graffiti piece and Posterchild used my Skullphabet #2. I’m enjoying things people are submitting for our charity quilt, being coordinated by one of our site’s co-editors Abby. These have been coming from people who don’t necessarily work with skull imagery and the results have been extremely impressive, like this cat.

FYD: How do you keep your site fresh?
NS: I think by its very nature, a site run entirely on submissions never gets stale. Everyday we get amazing submissions from people all over the world. Every time I think I’ve seen everything that can be done with a skull, something comes in and proves me wrong. Plus I love that people seeing things on the site, and, are in turn inspired to make and share their own work. It inspires me to continue making skulls from time to time even though I officially finished my project years ago.
Noah Scalin –
Follow on Twitter: @alrdesign and @NoahScalin

5 Comments For “Noah Scalin.”

  1. Sue says:

    I enjoyed the piece. I have been following Skull A Day for a very short time. This article allowed me to know and understand even more than I had read about the web site and Noah Scalin in the past. Thank you.

  2. Tatman says:

    I’ve been a fan of Skull-A-Day since the first month and am now lucky enough to work with Noah as one of the editors. It’s great seeing where the creativity flows from in Richmond. Thanks for featuring Noah on your site, Kate.

  3. I can see the quilled skull that my girlfriend sent to Noah in December! Awesome!

  4. Elena says:

    Yay. I can spot my quilled skull that I sent to you Noah.

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