Onye Ahanotu has spent the past 13 years living around the U.S.A. (Los Angeles, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Boston and now New York City), exploring and learning from all that is around him. His artistic origins are rooted in drawing from childhood. Over the decades, Onye grew into painting before entering the world of photography. He is classically trained in the Sciences & Engineering, receiving a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and Material Science & Engineering from University of California Irvine while performing mechanistic organic chemistry research. After-which, Onye earned a M.S.E. in Material Science & Engineering from University of Michigan, with a focus on product development, emerging technologies, and fabrication techniques. He considers himself something of an analogous learner who’s knowledge and experience bridges many fields.
Desiree Frieson: Tell us about your background.
Onye Ahanotu: I am a generally curious person who has had the opportunity to learn about the creative process and problem solving in many fields. I have a fair amount of experience in scientific research, modern fabrication methods and working to incorporate novel materials technologies into design. From understanding molecular interactions to now visual art, I work at the interface of fields, to develop enabling processes and technology platforms. Currently, my photography focuses on investigating the notion of ‘Essence’ as well as how advances in materials technologies impact Us & our environment. Within the FabLab at NYDesigns, I’m working on my latest series which seeks to incorporate fabrication equipment into the art making process, representing novel contemporary fabrication methods.
Desiree: What do you do?
Onye: I am a visual artist and a materials scientist, working to combine the two fields.
Desiree: What did you study?
Onye: At the University of California, Irvine I studied Chemical Engineering and Materials Science & Engineering, with more of a focus on chemical synthesis and process development. Followed by Material Science & Engineering from University of Michigan, where I explored electronic materials, technology development, and architecture.
Desiree: Where are you from?
Onye: I’m from Rohnert Park, CA
Desiree: Tell us how you got started in your field.
Onye: I have been drawing and painting, since I was young and the same goes for science and engineering. Professionally, I got my start working to de-risk and further develop materials technologies.
Desiree: Can you describe your techniques to us or something about it that’s innovative or different.
Onye: I can’t quite share my techniques just yet, but hopefully soon! My interest is in having the method of fabrication to be reflective of the subject. The innovative part of my techniques stem from my experience in material science research; I like to think about hierarchies of scale and the fabrication process.
Desiree: What is your favorite fabrication tool at NYDesigns?
Onye: The tools that I use the most, would have to be the laser cutters. However, my favorite tool, that I would like to use more, is the CNC Router.
Desiree: Tell us how people can find your work.
Onye: If you are interested in learning more about my work, my website (Ahanotu.com) is the best place; brief project descriptions and online store. You can also follow me on Instagram (@onyeahanotu) where I occasionally post updates.
Desiree: Tell us what you’re reading, listening to (podcast) or watching right now as it relates to design and art.
Onye: My consumption clusters around philosophy, science/engineering and art (sometimes directly related, often times not). Much of my readings are from the Nature & Science family journals, or Art history books. Working at the interface of disciplines, I’ve seen how there are so many interesting ideas that can cross fields, as well as time, to inspire something new. I also follow content agglomerators like “My Modern Met”, fall down plenty of Wikipedia rabbit holes, and watch woodworking tutorials on YouTube.