Anatomy Of A Design: A Closer Look At Shandell’s New Marbled Collection

Susan Schneider, artist and Owner of Shandell’s, joins us to discuss the design process in creating unique marbled lampshades, cork placemats, and leather belts. While marbling, the art of floating paint on a liquid and printing it on a medium, has been around for hundreds of years, Schneider is keeping the practice modern by taking functional objects people use every day and making them into art. 

Raymond Paul Schneider: When did you first start to develop this new collection?
Susan Schneider: Collections are in the works at all times; I think they spend more time in my mind before going into my hands to work out the process.

Lampshades are an ever-changing collection, from hand-marbled papers made in limited numbers to hand-painted papers to grasscloth lampshades – all trimmed in double grosgrain. Trimming is as crucial as the shade’s material, akin to a pocket square in a fine tailored suit.

Lately, matching customers’ fabric & interiors with marble paper for lampshades has become a large part of my business. Customers want customized one-of-a-kind pieces.

Marble cork placemats started from my obsession with marbling on as many surfaces as possible. On a cold winter day, I found myself in front of a stack of cork squares and took them back to the studio to see what would happen. They marbled gloriously. As cork is a natural product, it took to the process of marbling very easily. I searched out blanks for placemats and found both rectangles & rounds. From there, I created several patterns for enjoyment.

Marbled leather belts are my newest addition to Shandell’s. The first ones were marbled were over two years ago. I put them in a large glass vase in my studio, where they sat until I found the perfect belt buckle & maker for them. Recently finding both, I now offer gorgeous marbled leather belts as wearable art.

Raymond: What was your initial inspiration, and where did the idea(s) come from?
Susan: The vision I have with the lampshades is to change the world’s view on plain white lampshades one at a time. My inspiration comes from Master decorators, vintage books, fabrics, pairs of lamps, and pieces of furniture.

My inspiration for my other goods comes from customer requests, vintage books & an endless collection of imagery. Color combinations from art, homes, fabric, nature are excellent sources of inspiration.

Raymond: Please describe your overall creative and design process.
Susan: It’s all about COLOR! I pull out paints, pencils, paper & start to play.

That is what I call it, PLAY. I sketch, then research, then start to create. I am a maker. With marbling, you get to bring out lots of paints and see which ones work together.

Raymond: Did you have a specific audience or theme that you had in mind?
Susan: My audience are individuals who are seeking unique, one-of-a-kind items. Handmade has been on the rise, but I feel it is taking more of a center stage with buyers needing to move away from the conventional and mass market.

Raymond: Please describe the methods, tools, and materials you used to develop and prototype this design?
Susan: Marbling is the art of dropping paint on water, making a design & pulling that design off of the water onto a medium. My tools are a tank filled with thickened water, paint, and an endless assortment of colors. I use rakes, stylists, and brushes to make patterns for the marbled patterns.

The leather is vegetable-tanned from American steers. And most importantly, I work hard to use as many products as possible that are made in the USA.

Raymond: Did you utilize a new technique or technology to conceptualize this product?
Susan: The technique I use is hundreds of years old, dating back to the twelfth century. Starting in Japan, their process was known as Suminagashi: dropping ink on the water with two or three brushes. The art traveled through the silk roads to Turkey from Japan, where they developed colorful paints and thickened water to create what we see currently as marbling.

Trade routes continued to bring this art throughout Europe, and it landed in Venice and Germany, France & England. At one point, marbled papers were used as currency so no bill could be reproduced, including manuscripts, bookbinding & more. Europeans used them as wrapping paper to avoid tariffs. And so on to the United States.

Raymond: Describe your overall brand DNA and Ethos
Susan: I am taking functional daily pieces in everyone’s lives and making them beautiful. Using ancient art, keeping it alive & bringing it into as many homes as I can. In all different mediums, from lampshades, placemats, belts & more…

I make things to make you smile.

Click here to see more of our “Anatomy of a Design” series.

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