Monday, October 14, 2013

Artist Spotlight : Ted Naos

An artist and architect in one, Ted Naos has used his unique set of skills to create a successful career in the art of three dimensional cut paper graphics.  A niche that has a loyal following, each of his cards are true works of art.  We have partnered with Ted since the beginning of his career, producing many exclusive designs along the way.  See how he's gotten where he is today... 

Tell us how you got started.

My big break came when The Art Institute of Chicago commissioned me to do two Christmas graphics for their mail order catalog.  Following the initial success of these two Christmas graphics, The Art Institute commissioned me to do some more graphics.  Now, after many years I am still doing Christmas graphics for them.  It has been a wonderful and rewarding partnership and I cherish my relationship with The Art Institute of Chicago.
My first venture into Christmas graphics (cards) came when I received a three-dimensional Christmas card which MoMA produced.  At the same time I was having a one-man show of my three-dimensional graphic designs in Washington, D.C.  The idea struck me that if I reduced the scale of my own graphics to card size, perhaps MoMA might be interested in it.
So I sent MoMA my 3-D graphic in a small scale.  The name of my greeting card graphic was "White Wave".  After a year and a half I heard from MoMA - they had accepted my design.  Needless to say, it took me a few weeks to come down to earth.  The following years I did a number of new designs for MoMA.
During the past 10 or so years I have also done some special designs for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Boston Museum of Fine Art, the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. and others.

Can you take us through your creative process?

It has become almost second nature to me when I see a two-dimensional object - my mind inevitably turns it into three-dimensions.  I might look at a picture, a drawing, a piece of torn paper, a box in the drug store, immediately my mind turns them into 3-D images.  Often I come home with a folded-up/cut-up paper, anxious to show my wife its beauty and more often than not her reaction is you are totally obsessed.  And I agree.
I am continuously looking for ideas and relationships.  When I get an idea I quickly draw it.  Then I study the image by drawing many overlays and making changes.  During this time I cut many different images of the card out of heavy card board.  I add parts and I subtract parts and so on.  This process goes on for days, weeks, months and sometimes never ends.
When I settle on the final image I do a final drawing and send it to the diemaker.  Upon receiving the final die, I cut out samples to study the color combinations.  Upon approval of the final colors we are ready to go to full production by printing, die-cutting, stripping the excess paper and folding the cards.
It is important to mention we are one of the very few remaining design/production entities producing everything within the USA.  Our graphic cards are truly MADE in the USA.
I see my graphics (cards) not as commercial everyday cards but as multiples of prints or small paintings or paper sculptures... people call them gifts.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Even as a very young child growing up in Athens, Greece, I loved to cut paper, fold it, glue it and make semi realistic abstract creations and collages.  My Mother and I were the only two people who loved them.
As the years went on during high school I discovered geometry and was just fascinated with places, circles, proportion etc.  I thought by just combining all these elements into three dimensional objects, you could achieve interesting forms.  It was inevitable that my colorful paper collages and the 3-D geometric objects came together to create relief paintings and paper sculptures.
This marriage of colorful collages and 3-D objects went on through high school, college and after college, it still goes on right now.  It was with this in mind I studied architecture and became an artist-architect.
During my graduate studies at Columbia University NY I spent one whole year studying geometric proportions in three dimensional format.  The idea behind the study was to develop a 3-D proportional system, and by randomly choosing shapes within this system, you would be able to achieve aesthetically pleasing 3-D compositions.  My professor, Victor Christ-Janer, was so pleased with the study he placed it in the Avery Library.
As a Professor of Architecture at the School of Architecture and Planning at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., I tried to instill in my students the joy and excitement in discovering and creating beauty in three-dimensional objects which inevitably will have an affect on their architectural careers.

Who is your favorite artist?

I have a number of artists whose work I love.  I favor most of all Alexander Calder and his stabile sculptures; I love the paintings of Sonia Delaunay with their strong colors and geometric shapes.  I like Tatlin's constructivist work; I love the movement of "Gesamtkunstwerk" total work of art, and of course I love Matisse's cutouts.
All of these artists have influenced me.  I see something in their work that speaks to me or relates to my work.  They have been an inspiration to me and influence me greatly.

What is your favorite product you've created?

I love all my designs, some more than others.  It is hard for me to pinpoint a particular design I favor more than others.  I see the whole thing as a process, investigation or breakthrough.  One important breakthrough came some years ago when I was able to design a three-dimensional Christmas tree for The Art Institute of Chicago by using interlocking connections only (not using glue).  After that I was able to use this interlocking method for stars, hearts, circles, abstract forms.  It opened a new avenue of my visual exploration.
In terms of topics or themes, I favor religious themes such as nativities, angels etc.  They are more challenging because these themes allow me, more than others, to inject spiritualism into the final image.

What is the best advice you ever received?

My Mother used to tell me to be creative and adventurous but mainly to listen to the little voice in me and follow my instincts even if there are clouds in the sky.  The sun eventually will shine.
My Father and Mother named me Ted (Theodore in Greek).  Theodore in Greek means God's gift.  I think they believed I was God's gift - after all we are all gifts of God.

Thank you Ted!  Click here to see all of our products designed by Ted Naos.  

1 comment:

  1. A friend who has received several of your cards over the years wrote on her Christmas card this year-- "I love the wonderful cut-out cards you have sent me. I have saved them all and put them out for house decorations each year."