Q&A: Skulls, Dental Cabinets and Design with Noah Scalin

Q: Tell me briefly a little about yourself. What are your interests or your hobbies?

A: I am an artist, adjunct professor, designer, author and activist – who is passionate about creating a world that is a better place for everyone to live in – which works into the things that I do, such as the Skull-A-Day project.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the Skull-A-Day blog?

A: Skull-A-Day was a yearlong daily personal project – to get back into making art-for-art-sake versus art-for-client-sake. http://skulladay.blogspot.com/

Q: How has the Skull-A-Day project influenced the interior design choices you’ve made with your home?

A: On a basic level, the house had it’s own “cabinet of curiosities” aesthetic, but Skull-A-Day helped it move forward. I have always had a strong interest of historical objects, such as telephones, medical equipment, etc. My wife has similar interests as well, so it all came together naturally. I also receive a lot of objects and skulls as gifts from other artists from all over the world…at one point the mantel was completely decorated with skulls. However, over time, I have learned to moderate my display items…so it doesn’t become overwhelming.

What's in your bathroom? Vintage first aid kits and anatomical posters?

I also work mostly from home, so I spend a lot of time here. The house often becomes a prop of sorts for my various projects, such as photo-shoots. So you see, the Skull-A-Day project has always had a relationship with my home.

Check your vision with this vintage eye chart from the 1950's!

Q: Your surrounds seem very important to you. Do you have a particular area of the house that you keep objects of inspiration?

A: My office is where I keep a lot of my collectibles, especially from my travels. I rotate the items I display in my office to keep things fresh. As a professional designer, it’s important for me to constantly look at new things. I also have a file cabinet, where I store a lot of items that I pick up and rotate on my walls.

The Thing Hand Coin Bank, 1964

Q: What was the first antique item that you brought into your home? 

A: I grew up in Richmond, VA but I lived in New York City for 10 years. When I moved back to Richmond, I brought back almost nothing (since storage is basically non-existent in NY apartments). When I purchased my American Four-Square, my dad gave me a few items since he had a wonderful collection of unique finds that he purchased years ago. Since both of my parents were artists, my childhood home was modern and had clean, white walls that displayed works of art. I wanted to express my creative freedom with my own historic home, so I played upon it’s 1929, arts-and-crafts feel with the colors I selected and the furnishing I brought into the home.

Antique oak pie display from an old general store.

One of the first antique objects that I brought into the house is a wonderful old wooden cracker box from the turn of the century that has beautiful typography on it. My dad also gave me this great pie display case that came from an old general store, that I use to display some of my unique finds. Another great piece is this old vintage tattoo flash art that my dad bought probably 40 years ago. My parents have some amazing finds because they bought pieces when they were readily available, years ago. These days, it’s harder to find such objects and it’s also very expensive.

Amazing antique dental cabinet, circa 1900, purchased in Virginia (oak with original glass knobs)

Q: Where do your collectibles come from?

A: I’ve never really gone to estate sales. I like to support local shops but I also do a great deal of traveling. Europe is a fantastic place for antiques! Here in the U.S., if an object is 100 years old, it’s considered to be old. In Europe, 100 years old is nothing…now if it’s 600 years old…that’s an antique! We’ve brought mostly small objects back from our travels simply because they are easier to transport. On one trip to Istanbul, Turkey, my wife fell in love with a very large antique copper tray used for a tea service. She was determined to bring it back home, so she carried it around with her on her backpack and on the plane.

Filled with lots of antique curiosities collected from all over the world...

Open wide!! Antique dental tools, original to the cabinet!

Q: What can you tell us about this wonderful etching?

A: The etching came from a flea market in Virginia and the frame came from Exile. The artist is James King and the etching is dated 1903. When I purchased this, I had no idea who Joseph Leidy was. After some research, I learned that he was a professor and famous paleontologist who worked extensively with dinosaur skeletons. Needless to say, he fits very nicely the entire theme of my home.

American paleontologist, Joseph Leidy, found a permanent home above Noah's mantel.

Looking for some inspiration? Be sure to pick up a copy of Noah’s latest book, “Unstuck: 52 Ways to Get (and Keep) Your Creativity Flowing at Home, at Work & in Your Studio” or visit the website www.makesomething365.com. There’s even a chapter in the book about creating your own “creativity shrine.”

And stay tuned for Noah’s next book, “The Design Activist Handbook,” which will be released in the fall of 2012 (co-written by Michelle Taute).

Noah's greatest treasure...one of his very own books!

Special THANK YOU to Noah Scalin for this interview – Noah thank you so much for taking the time out of your crazy schedule to share your treasures with us!!

Copyright 2012. The Savvy Seeker blog by Erin Hurley-Brown. All Rights Reserved.

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