Every once in awhile, you hear about something so unique and different that you want to tell everyone you know about it. For me, Skylinyl is that thing.
Okay, so you have to read the name slowly a couple of times and sound it out to say it correctly (or maybe that’s just me), but it’s definitely a name worth knowing. Skylinyl is a company co-founded by drummer Shawn McClure out of Seattle, WA. While vacationing in Sydney, Shawn purchased a box of records that were all warped, and he decided rather than throwing them away, he’d repurpose them and cut amazing art into them. Several years later, he hasn’t stopped hand-making these incredible pieces, which feature anything from your pet to Prince to sports teams logos and everything in between.
Here’s why this artist is someone you need to know about, and how to back his incredible project on Kickstarter.
Marie Tabela: Your first Skylinyl piece was of the Sydney skyline, yes?
Shawn McClure: Yeah, that’s right! I wanted a fun souvenir to bring home with me from that trip, and the first thing I thought of was the skyline. Where I live in Queen Anne in Seattle, I have a really great view of downtown, and I get to see the skyline every day, so I think that was subconsciously on my mind when I did it.
MT: That’s a great way to remember a city; the skyline is always its distinguishing factor. What happened to your records? Why did they all warp?
SM: That all began when I was on vacation and I picked up a crate of records from these ladies who were moving to Croatia. They were like, “We’re leaving right now, take them or we’re throwing them all out!” So I took the crate of records home. I ended up sorting through them in the backyard where I was staying in Redford, and I went back inside to eat. I was watching the news, and the weather reporter was saying it was the hottest it had ever been in Sydney and they had to add two different colors to their heat map because it had never been that hot before.
As I was watching that, I realized I had records outside, so I ran back outside, and a couple of the ones laying on the picnic table melted and were drooping over the table. That’s what got the wheels turning. After seeing that, I was like, “Well, I guess I could just throw them away, but I’d rather not.” So I started figuring out ways to cut into them. Initially, I made a bunch of butterflies for the houses I was staying at and just hung them up above the record player.
The next day I was thinking about how fun it was using the records, and one of the girls living in the houses I was staying at was a pastry chef, and she happened to have a creme brûlée torch, so I saw a record that said “Made in Australia” on the bottom, and I thought how cool it would be to have the skyline on a record that said that. I took the creme brûlée torch to a kitchen knife and heated it up, and then cut the skyline into the record.
MT: Obviously you’re a creative person, because if I had a bunch of warped records, I’d probably just cry and throw them away. How did it even occur to you to do that?
SM: (Laughing) Well, none of the records were that good to begin with. But I thought they could be important to someone, and I’ve always had a creative mind, I suppose.
MT: When you first started cutting into them, did you draw something out first and then do it, or were they all freehand?
SM: The first ones were all freehanded. Now I draw the sketch first because I don’t want to have to redo it!
MT: Have you always had a background in drawing or did you just realize you had a knack for it while cutting records?
SM: You know, I’ve always been able to draw but never really focused on it much. I’ve done a lot of black and white design with negative space, but other than that, not really. I think it’s just that when I started playing drums, I put every other hobby and interest to the side, and pursued music super hard, but I’ve alway been creative overall.
MT: Now that Skylinyl has taken over, has drumming fallen by the wayside?
SM: Oh, drums will never be by the wayside. Never. I play in three bands right now. Between all of those things, I’m very busy!
MT: I would imagine. Where can we find your pieces in Southern California?
SM: If you’re a Google employee, you can go to their offices and see them there! We got to tour the office [in Venice] a few weeks ago, and it was awesome. It’s a super cool building.
MT: How can we place orders for the pieces?
SM: Right now, we’re 100% focused on the Kickstarter. Since I made that first Sydney skyline, it snowballed and I’ve just been receiving orders nonstop. I haven’t stopped receiving orders in the last three years. I’ve made about 3,000 hand-cut pieces for people. So what that means now, because some specific records get ordered more than others, is I spend a lot of time pre-cutting them. I realized I could automate it and get the same precision, drop the price for people, and start focusing on more creative designs.
The easiest way is to get a piece right now is to back the Kickstarter, and you can do that on the Skylinyl website, www.skylinyl.com, or you can search for Skylinyl on the Kickstarter website as well. They recently chose it as the “Project [We] Love” so it’s featured on their site.
We just launched an artist competition where people can submit their own art and the winner of the competition will have their artwork as a design that all the backers can choose from.
MT: How much does a typical piece go for, or do they range in prices?
SM: They range in prices. For the Kickstarter, we are offering huge discounts to get people involved right off the bat. Typically, they are around $150, and on the Kickstarter, it’s right around the $90 mark. It depends on how intricate and large the piece is. I’ve done pieces that are very detailed and have 3D aspects in them for up to $1,500. I’ve done really big projects for radio stations, like a float of a Skylinyl replica for the Pride Parade. That was super fun. It was an honor that they asked us to do it. I got to ride in the parade, and it was just really fun.
MT: That sounds like a blast. What are some of the more off-the-wall requests you’ve created?
SM: I just had a lady send me a picture of her cat! The cool thing about doing it by hand is that it’s 100% customizable. People can send me pictures of whatever they want, and I’ll figure out a way to cut it into the record. One of my favorite pieces I’ve done is the MC Escher. It looks like a checkerboard and as it goes into the center, it turns into lizards, and I made each lizard look like it was coming out of the frame. That was a really fun one. I did another puzzle piece one where I made each piece a puzzle piece and put it in a shadow box. It’s come a long way from just skylines.
MT: No kidding. How long does it take you to cut a piece, on average?
MS: A simple skyline I can do in a few hours. When I first started, it could take me 5 to 8 hours to get one done, but I’ve definitely gotten more experienced and can do it faster now.
MT: Are people able to request the album as well? Do they need to send it to you if they want it on a specific album?
MS: It’s really up to them how that’s done. I’ve had people send me records with sentimental value, and I’ve had people ask me to find the record. What I alway stress to people is that I don’t cut new records. If they’re willing to pay for it, I’ll purchase the record and find it on Craigslist or a record store.