Life Experience | Design Philosophy | Design Process

Exhibitions | Publications

Life Experience

Art and Design in one form or fashion has been an important part of my life since I can remember. It was entertainment and an escape, and it gave me a sense of identity. As time went on, I became more comfortable being known as an artist. My interest soon became an obsession; if it was related to art or design in some way, I wanted to know everything.

In terms of entertainment, my childhood was very different from my children’s childhood. While I certainly don’t feel deprived, I had much, much less at my disposal. Television barely worked with rabbit ears, and we certainly didn’t have a remote. I don’t recall having a computer until I was in high school, and that was used for word processing only. We didn’t have the games and software that people have access to now. We had to entertain ourselves most of the time, and imagination was free and convenient. By high school our family did enjoy more modern amenities, but by then I had a strong relationship with art; nothing satisfied me in the same way. I dabbled in everything I could: architecture, drawing, painting, etc.

After high school, I moved out and found Louisville Technical Institute. I studied Interior Design with the intention of getting an associate’s degree in Architectural Drafting and Interior Design, but after obtaining a one year certificate, I decided to begin a four year program at the University of the Arts. I took various electives and fell in love with the Crafts department. There were courses in ceramics, metal, fabric, glass, and wood. My concentration became wood, but I still took electives in metal and glass. During my senior year, I became an intern for a woodworking company in Philadelphia and later I became an employee. After graduation, I got a job working for a woodworking and millwork shop in Delaware County. We made molding, windows, doors, cabinets, bars, and countertops.

I went back to school for art education for a semester. I had another job opportunity, however, in Washington, DC, making furniture and I took it. We made cabinets and furniture mostly, but there I got to learn all the aspects of building from start to finish to installation. After a year, I went back to school to finish my Master’s degree in art education where I took additional electives in photography and became very comfortable with Photoshop.

Teaching allows me the opportunity to build my studio and create artwork. My first teaching job was at Bensalem High School where I taught shop, graphic design, and photography. During this time my wife and I bought a house with her parents. The house has a four car garage, which I use as my studio. I began working under the business name DST Studio in 2003. I found new employment closer to home at Phoenixville Area High School as an art teacher. Now I work diligently during the school year and summer creating art and furniture. I would like to continue establishing my business and expanding my experiences as an artist and furniture maker.

Design Philosophy - Back to top

My personal aesthetic is broad and diverse. I hesitate to define my work as having a specific look or style; although there are common characteristics among my pieces. I strive to create work that is new and innovative yet comfortable and eclectic. Nature, tools, and mechanical processes are my more common influences, but my eyes are always open. My work is about a vision, not efficiency, although it tends to be very ergonomic. My design comes from play and experimenting with different materials. I don't always have a clear vision for the piece as a whole, but if I solve part of the puzzle here and there, eventually it becomes one. My discontentment, curiosity, and perfectionist tendencies propel me to the next piece. I don't always have an idea, but when I am inspired, no matter where or when, I document it somehow (napkins have been a popular sketching surface in the past). I believe the creative mind works best when the mind and body are engaged. I don't just sit and wait for inspiration; I seek it out.

Design Process - Back to top

My design process differs according to my clients' needs or desires. The process becomes increasingly more elaborate as the piece becomes more unique and expressive. Each piece and each step within a given work is an evolutionary process. However, if time and budget permit, the following steps contribute to my final product. While there are certain visual effects and forms that I explore, I am absolutely open to and excited about exploring new forms of aesthetics. I enjoy the challenge. First, I gather information. What are my clients' needs? What is their aesthetic? Aesthetics can be more challenging to pin down. For clients who are less certain of their aesthetic, I ask them to informally gather various visuals representing their taste or aesthetics. What do they like? These visuals don't have to be art or furniture. They can be anything from flowers to tractors to bugs; it doesn't matter. I believe that anything can represent one's taste and personality. Part of my goal is to create a work of art that is truly custom. The final design should represent a unifying vision between the artist and client. This first process is meant to be very casual and not overwhelming. Once the client is satisfied, we lay these images out, making them all visible, and find the common characteristics or patterns. The goal is to leave the client's home with a list of adjectives: graceful, rustic, masculine, feminine, or mechanical for example. The next step is to play, explore, and/or experiment. I do this through sketches, clay models, and rough wooden models. Once I am comfortable with my concept, I communicate with the client. The next step is a refining one; perhaps this is a measured drawing or a scale model. Once there is final approval and everything is well-communicated, I request 50% deposit to cover material cost. While by this point the process, function, and look are well established, there are still refining steps until completion or installation. Once the client is completely satisfied, the remaining 50% is collected.

Exhibition - Back to top

* Senior Thesis Show, 5/99, Zone One Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

* Works in Wood Exhibition, 10/99, David Rago Convention Center, Lambertville, NJ

Recognition award from Dresswell's

* Evolution of the Artist, 4/00, The University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA

* Destination Philadelphia, 8/00-11/00, Philadelphia Sculptors, Reading Terminal Head House, Philadelphia, PA

* Wharton Esherick's Fifteenth Annual Juried Show 09/08-12/08, Third place

Publications - Back to top

Caldwell, B. (2008, December). "Challenge of the Chair" winners picked. Woodshop News, 23(1), 50.

Challenging chairs: "Something special". (2009, February). Woodworker's Journal, 33(1), 25-26.


Shawn Turley - Artist

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