By Felton Kizer
Dan Wilcop is a Chicago-based maker and designer. He attributes his early memory of design to when he was a young boy and scribbling his favorite characters in his notebook or on his homework sheets. But it wasn’t until about six years ago that design found him. Dan picked up a job working with his sister’s then-boyfriend at the time, now fiance, at a Mid-Century Modern Furniture restoration company.
“Getting to interact with not just furniture but art and design staples of American and Danish history was something that really opened my eyes to like design versus like art,” Wilcop said. “I was more of a fan of fine art rather than design before working there.” Curious of this newfound world, he began to pick up on different designers from the 40s and 60s and started to research them, diving deeper into their work.
One designer he mentioned often was George Nelson. “George Nelson wasn't just making desks and office stuff, he was making clocks, he was making random objects that really inspired me to try melding functional objects.”
His designs are rooted in functionality. Working with mid-century furniture, he sharpened his eye for design, but his need for functionality was instinctual. When asked which came first, clocks or sunglasses, he informed me of another title he holds, Tech Director and Musical Director of the DIY space that is Shithole. He and the Co-Creator of Shithole, Zach, would go to the thrift store and buy objects and paint over them. They remixed these old objects, giving them function again.
Dan admits that he gained an interest in clocks while seeing the works of functional objects by mid-century designers. “I was interested in clocks because of the mid-century furniture. I had seen people making clocks and other functional objects, and I was curious about it. So, I started grabbing clocks from the thrift store, taking them apart,” Wilcop said. “Maybe I'd fix a broken mechanism or replace it with something else and take the hands-off, spray paint them, take the face-off, and do an abstract splatter paint on the face. Then I’d put it all together, and it became a whole new thing.”
His development with sunglasses came pretty naturally. After he repurposed old clocks, he started to build his own by using a laser cutter, bold colors, and cutting edge designs.
“I've always really been interested in fashion and wearable accessories. I've always curated my outfits and wanted to transition into creating wearable accessories of my own,” Wilcop said. “I saw a pair of sunglasses on Instagram and it was exactly the same material that I used for making clocks, and I was like, I bet I could do that.”
If you’ve ever seen Dan’s work, whether it's his clocks or his sunglasses, they’re a cause for the celebration of collaborative nature, bold colors, and originality.