ZEITGEIST: Q&A WITH ITALIAN ARTIST JOHNNY HERMANN
First of all, what's in a name? Who is "Johnny Hermann" and how did this name end up as your moniker?
When I was seventeen, I was a student and working at night as a cook. I always wore the same two shirts (one green and one blue) in the classic American ‘50s style. One had "Johnny" written on it and the other was "Hermann" and everyone started to call me Johnny Hermann the Cook (even my girlfriend at the time!). I started signing my projects that way and now people just know me as Johnny.
When and why did you first start working with wood? Why is it still your preferred medium?
My grandfather was a cabinetmaker and I would spend lots of time with him as a child. When I grew up, I discovered that I still knew how to do many things with wood and started working for an Italian company making Japanese-inspired furniture. Later, I worked for an architect as a model-maker. I used many different materials, but always preferred wood—the grain, smell and even the dust on my hands!
How did you start the popsicle project? What was the inspiration?
That was a little different that usual. Three years ago, it was a really hot summer day in my town and I was eating an ice lolly with a friend of mine. It kept liquifying so quickly in my hands—impossible to eat! I told my friend, "WTF!! This should be made entirely of wood, not just the stick!"
I started looking into the story and came across the inventor of the American Popsicle. It was a very poetic story of the early 1900s.I like to discover stories. Behind all of my works, there is always some small story. So, I made my first wooden popsicle and there was something about the shape—I couldn't quit making them and ended up with 150, the first series!
What is the best summer treat in Italy and where do you find it?
The best is probably gelato, but I don't like to eat all that sweet stuff. However, when I'm in Liguria, a small and very unique village, gelato is mandatory!
What's your top travel destination?
I love the country and old burgs near the sea in Italy. We have so many of them.
When I go to New York City, I completely forget everything. I walk around for hours, fascinated by the place and all the people around me. I love sitting in a coffee shop early in the morning and just looking out the window, like I'm watching a movie of my own life.
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