Sarah Bernstein & Dan Casale
On Sunday, September 3rd Sarah Bernstein & Dan Casale are set to throw a "Tiny Takeover" show featuring their miniature ceramic works at GIVENS. Chris Hartman gets the scoop on the Tiny Takeover and delves deeper into both Sarah & Dan's mysterious worlds.
Interview by Chris Hartman
Givens Circle: What's up Sarah, are you looking forward to this Sunday and your tiny takeover?
Sarah Bernstein: I’m pumped for Sunday. Very grateful to Dan and Lindsay for having me. I love when the tinies take over.
GC: For those who don't know, what exactly is this "Tiny Takeover" business all about?
SB: Tiny Takeover came out of Dan and I making small scale sculptures all last winter at Dan and Lindsay’s studio. Dan got hooked on clay and his cats were literally taking over the house. It was such a cool thing we decided to have a tiny art show.
GC: Can you tell me a bit about this Bubbleverse that you have created?
SB: I love Bubbleverse. I’m going to steal that from you. Yeah, I’d say it’s just the style I developed once I started to focus more on what I actually liked and stopped caring about what people thought or expected. After I graduated U Arts I cared too much about what others would think of my work, so I stopped making entirely and went to go work for a ceramics manufacturing company. After a year I was so miserable I quit and started making things that were fun and that made me laugh. They are heavily inspired by the tropics and dreams.
GC: You have a twin sister named Molly, do you have any funny stories about mistaken identities or perhaps some intentional sister swapping?
SB: Yeah, Molly and I are identical but we haven't done much swapping. We realize this is a huge disappointment for the non-twin community though and promise to step up our game. Sometimes I’ll let her use my gym membership or I’ll run an errand as “her”. I think the last time we pulled off a sneaky swap was with our 8th grade boyfriends. They couldn’t tell us apart so, naturally they had to go. I know Drake would support me on that.
GC: Like you, your sister Molly is also an artist. What has it been like growing up with another artist in the house?
SB: It’s great. We are always bouncing ideas off each other. I’m very lucky to have that. We are constantly thinking about new projects or showing each other a new artist.
GC: For those who have never met you or Molly what are the some of the best ways to tell you apart?
SB: It’s more fun when people can’t tell us apart, so I cannot divulge that information.
GC: I’ve been looking over your website recently and I think I have noticed a shift in your ceramic work, both in content and style. Can you tell me a little bit about this shift?
SB: Yeah, when I was in school I had the privilege to be around not only great teachers but amazing equipment. The studio was my favorite place. I had so much time on my hands that I practically moved in. Clay is very time sensitive so being there a lot gave me an opportunity to experiment with material. I got really into slip casting porcelain and multi-firing during my last couple years there. Those processes are hard to do if you don't have the proper space,time, or money. When I graduated I worked for a slip casting company for a year but that got really lame, so I made a change and moved back to my hometown in Cape May. My studio and available time is now very different,so now my process is too. I’m trying new things like stained clay porcelain and more illustrative stuff.
GC: It seems like you have been focusing primarily on illustration as of late, is this a new thing for you?
SB: I’ve always loved to draw but kept it to myself for awhile. I think they're funny though, so I decided to release them into the ether. The internet isn’t so scary, except when it is.
GC: Have you been reading anything cool lately?
SB: I am completely obsessed with Haruki Murakami, so currently I’m on Kafka on the Shore. He is literally a genius. I would recommend him to anyone.
GC: Agreed, he is my absolute favorite. I feel like he gets me. Which work of his do you think is your favorite?
SB: Yes, Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World literally changed my life. I think I just had no idea someone on this plant wrote like that. It blew my mind. I'm just so happy that story exists. I love how he writes about the submerged world and I love how he throws in oddly erotic scenes like its no biggie, which simultaneously makes it so hot. I'm never expecting any of it.
GC: Well how about TV, what’s good?
SB: I love Bob’s Burgers with all my heart and when I can’t have Bob, Archer will do.
GC: Yeah, it's pretty damn funny. I love all those burger puns. What's your favorite one?
SB: Well, I flow that Bob’s burgers of the day Tumblr. So, I came across the Fig Lebowski Burger. It’s a complete combo of my favorite things.
GC: What have you been jamming out to?
SB: The new Japancake’s Mix, Tiny Takeover, Obvi. I just saw Crime In Stereo and Prawn. So awesome. They’re records are on repeat.
GC: Who are some of your personal heroes?
SB: Right now, I’d definitely say everyone involved in the Black Lives Matter movement. It’s inspiring and a beautiful example of people coming together to make a difference.
GC: If you had the ability to shapeshift into any animal, what form would you take?
SB: I’d be a shark because those are the animals I am most afraid of.
GC: Smart. Fear is the mind-killer. What else strikes fear into your tiny, bubbly heart?
SB: Well, I've always been afraid of driving. Which seems ridiculous to even me, so I am slowly driving more and more now. I have never owned a car. I'm not a big fan of cars, I just never have been but as a functioning adult I realize it’s a must.
GC: What do you personally believe is the secret to happiness?
SB: Never be afraid to do something out of love. Love is everything and we need more of it.
Givens Circle: Sup Daniel?
Dan Casale: Hey Chrissy, thank you for taking the time to ask Sarah and I questions about our upcoming art show/window takeover.
GC: No problem, thank you for employing me. I have to say you are looking rather glorious with that heavily bronzed skin of yours, what's your secret?
DC: So about the bronzing, back when Sarah and I were brainstorming the idea of a window takeover we began listing a bunch of things that we wanted to prepare and accomplish for the show. I'm not sure if it was a joke or a light hearted attempt at humor but she mentioned that, “we need to get as tan as possible". I pretty much took that challenge to heart and I picked up part time work on a parasail boat and began my bronzing. I did it all for the Tiny Takeover show.
GC: Everyone that knows you, knows that you are really into cats. What is it about cats that you love so much?
DC: This question could really take us down a rabbit hole but I think the thing I love most about cats is that they are selfish. When you love a cat it's not about you or your day or how you feel, it’s utterly about them. Loving a cat is about how they want to lay on your lap or about how they want to be fed or about how they want to knock your things off the dresser. Every now and then they reciprocate the love and that is the best feeling in the world. Cats are a great lesson in a one sided relationship.
GC: You have two cute cats at home, Buoy and Soupsies, can you tell me a little about them?
DC: Well, Soupsies is my best friend. We do all kinds of things together like listen to music, make porcelain cats, and watch movies. Buoy not so much. She is kind of like a thing that just happens to live in my house. Don't get me wrong, I love her but she is always creeping around giving everyone dirty looks.
GC: Do you have any funny or gross stories that you can share about your cats?
DC: You know I am a neat freak, so all of the usual things that go along with being a cat owner gross me out; litter boxes, throw up, licking of the butts. Cats are pretty gross in general but I do my best to look past that. The amount of love they give back is worth all of that nastiness. My favorite Soupsies’ story is that he has a taste for Gecko’s corn muffins. Whenever we bring them home he always seems to smell them out, open the container and eat all the muffins. He loves them.
GC: I'm almost 99.9% sure that you have only just started dipping your toes into ceramics, how did this new found interest come to be?
DC: It's true. When Lindsay and I bought our house Molly Bernstein approached us about using a room in it as a studio. Shortly after she started working out of our house and her sister, Sarah, started showing up. I did my best giving them their space but as time rolled on I found myself in the studio hanging out with Mo and Sarah a lot. They both encouraged me to play and sculpt with clay. Soupsies was usually around or on one of our laps. So naturally when they gave me clay to work with I started making little Soupsies. It all spawned from that.
GC: So, have you read anything interesting lately?
DC: The last book I read was How a Person Should Be? by Sheila Heti . You and Lindsay turned me on to her. I think it was a few summers back when you two were freaking out because she posted a picture on Instagram from the Cape May arcade. I wanted to know what the fuss was all about and read one of her books. But, if this question was what is my favorite book then I would have to say Kafka on the Shore by Murakami. What a wild and fantastic story. There are a whole bunch of talking cats in this book, so it is right up my ally.
GC: What about TV, have you been watching it?
DC: We don't have cable but we do have HULU, so I have been watching a bunch of late night shows like Seth Meyers, John Oliver and Trevor Noah.
GC: I’ve given up on finding new music. It’s just too exhausting trying to stay current and since you have unknowingly become my musical guru, I need to know, what have you been jamming out to lately?
DC: You know this is a loaded question.
GC: Oh, I know.
DC: Well, I am always digging and searching for music new and old. To keep this answer short, DJ Japancakes and I have just worked on a setlist for the Tiny Takeover show. I think most of what I have been jamming on made the list. To name a few; Kissed Her Little Sister, TOPS, Kishi Bashi, Os Mutantes, D.R.A.M., Fat Tony, xxyyxx, JoJo Abot, Extra Classic, Jidenna, Geowulf, Brazilian Girls, Beach Boys, Lijadu Sisters, Spectral Display, Jacques Dutronc, Happy Jaw Bone Family Band. That’s just to name a few.
GC: I feel like every time I see you at a social gathering that you have a beer in hand, what’s your favorite kind?
DC: It depends on a lot of things. Summertime, Modelo. If I have to drink for any duration, Bud Light. If I am having a nice dinner, Anchor Steam. If I am hungry, an IPA.
GC: Do you have any personal heroes?
DC: Two people really stand out in my mind. First, my father in-law Charlie. He and I had this slow burning romance that, in my opinion, ended in a full blown love affair. The man taught me so many things in such a short amount of time. Not a day goes by that I don't think about him and it always makes me smile. Secondly, my Uncle Billy. He is one of my favorite people on earth. He once rescued me from a tree that I underestimated and got stuck in. My point is, Uncle Bill has always been there for me whether it be being stuck in a tree or just needing a hug. I really look up to that. Not too many people have that type of integrity.
GC: If you could shapeshift into any animal form, what animal would it be?
DC: Hmm, I spend a lot of my free time in or around the ocean. I have always admired porpoises. They always seem like they are enjoying life.
GC: What do you think, personally, are the secrets to happiness?
DC: I do my best to get along. To get along with people. To Relate. I have a kind of a go with the flow attitude. I try understand where people are coming from. I find if I can do these things then I can usually understand people’s feelings and for me that makes life a little easier. I have also recently adopted a "care less" attitude. It’s not that I don't care because I really care about everything I do. I just care a little less now. This has helped me mellow out a little. It seems to take the pressure off things. As long as I try my best or others try their best then everything is all good.