Mohamed Dardiri is a multidisciplinary designer, producing a wide variety of work under the name Starmotif. He’s a graphic designer and he creates sculptures as well as small sculptural products. He takes commissions as a design consultant and project manager, and he’s a large format artist that uses CNC routers to provide depth to his pattern-rich work. His work is rooted in the visual. He’s a creator that is in constant search of new skills and techniques that help him communicate his visual language in more than two dimensions.
Commitment to the work, dedication to ship it
Mohamed has a willingness to approach both design and commerce from multiple directions. He’s open to contract work, selling his own products, collaborating, making art, and representing other artists.
He seems to infrequently pass up the opportunity to take on a new project, stacking work on top of other work, with overlapping timelines. To me that’s a recipe for anxiety but he seems to perform best on a deadline. And he is always finishing work which is perhaps the most important trait for someone who wants to create.
In the zone
Much of product design, and art like Mohamed’s is determining how to physically make your imagined idea. The complication and skill lies in how to adjust the idea based on the realities of manufacturing or craftsmanship without compromising its essence. A good chunk of manufacturing, especially custom work or prototyping, is dependent on mundane and often overlooked physical tasks. Building jigs, learning how materials interact, finding hardware, using tools in new and different ways. Not exactly stuff that jumps off a page as art or design, but critical to the creation of new work.
Mohamed has a mania about him that compels him to attack that sometimes maddening mundanity in relatively short bursts of activity in order to hit those tight deadlines. I’ve seen him throw a painting booth together with box fans and a tarp. He’s manned the CNC router for dozens of hours in a row in order to knock out large commissions. We don’t all work that way, so it can make you shake your head in amazement to be an observer when it happens. He gets lost in a storm of creative problem solving and comes out of the fog with a shiny final product or artwork.
Connecting the dots
Mohamed likes to talk and gets to know people quickly. And he understands that other people have skills that he lacks. I get the sense that he genuinely believes that every creative person he meets could be an asset or collaborator on one of his projects. He hopes to operate as more of a creative director than craftsman and because of that he always has his ears open to find people who he can work with or hire to realize his visions. That type of collaborative mindset is what I think helps sustain a thriving arts and design community like Chicago. Working together to make each other’s projects better.
An example of this is how Mohamed recently worked with artist to give his two dimensional art a three dimensional life. He decided to make powder coated steel sculptures from the visual work of the artist. He enlisted a fellow makerspace member who cut the designs out of steel with a plasma cutter and welded the sculpture assemblies. The sculptures were then sent to a powder coating facility. Mohamed was in essence a design consultant and project manager for this job, finding an appropriate medium for the artwork and the appropriate people to carry out the plan.
The creative space
I visited Mohamed at his work space in the Hubbard Street Lofts. He shares a well lit loft studio with a few artists where he’s got a small room with a desk and some prototyping tools, but no large equipment. The Metra runs right by his window at what I imagine is just the right frequency to remind you of the life and activity outside without distracting you from your obsessions within.
The neighborhood is a vibrant collection of industrial buildings teeming with small businesses. It’s a mix of start-up culture and art culture, with some catering and light industrial businesses mixed in, as well as multiple breweries and coffee roasters within a few blocks. It’s a potentially weird combination between start-ups and artists, but everyone likes coffee and beer, so cohabitation might just work on Hubbard street.
Mohamed recently had a gallery show of his artwork at The Nest in Michigan City, IN. Last summer her produced wayfinding installations for Exhibit Columbus, and he has prints and other artwork for sale on his website, Starmotif. He's always got one or two exhibitions or projects in the works. Find out what he's up to on Instagram @Starmotif.
Thanks Mohamed, for taking the time to chat.