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PNCA gives Robert Maciel MFA’22 the building blocks for a design career

by Linda Lenhoff,

Maciel's Thesis Project
Robert Maciel MFA'22

If you need something built — anything, really — turn to Robert Maciel MFA’22. In his role as technical specialist for the custom fabrication company New Project in Brooklyn, Maciel has been busy making and designing, thanks to skills he honed at PNCA.

New Project creates custom fabrication for designers, architects, institutions, museums, and other clients. “If somebody wants to build something, they come to us,” Maciel says. His recent projects include creating installations for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Puma NYC Flagship Store, and the Brooklyn Public Library. “We also work with artists to realize large-scale artworks and sculpture,” he adds.

Maciel decided to pursue his MFA at PNCA at the age of 30. “I was having a little bit of a crisis, essentially reckoning what I make and what I do,” he says. “My art existed in my bedroom with nobody seeing it, tucked into drawers and closets.” After talking to Program Chair Sara Huston, he joined the Applied Craft and Design (AC+D) Program, which gave him time to “make things and talk about them.”

The artist said he was excited to work with a long list of affiliated professionals in the Portland area, including AC+D mentor and exhibition designer Daniel Myers and designer, artist and faculty member Aleksandra Pollner.

In his designs, which can be seen on his website, Maciel loves to incorporate new technology like 3-D printing with traditional craft. Each project begins with his interest in relationships. “I think about relationships between people, between my loved ones and friends and family, and strangers that I see on the train; or in the world — like the relationships between ourselves and technology,” he adds.

Despite now having a full-time design job, Maciel also wants to spend time on his personal creations. “I'm realizing over the past month that I now have the bandwidth to make my own things, to revisit the ideas that I left off when I finished school,” Maciel says.

The designer has some advice for those who follow in his footsteps at PNCA: “Do not waste time. Have a clear idea of what you want out of it,” Maciel suggests.

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