DYNAMIC -Cody Norman

Artist Residency

November – December 2021

This residency offered me the opportunity to do something purely sculptural and not designed, having no function. This is difficulty coming from my design background, where I am always creating a chair, basket, or specific object. Changing my thought patterns that what I created didn’t necessarily have to have a function, it could just be cool. It could just be interesting and thought provoking.

Utilizing obsolete material in creative ways is a really powerful story. The average person has never been exposed to anything like some of these art works. It challenges material perceptions.

These pieces can stand alone in a gallery on a pedestal in a white room and are as beautiful as pure sculpture as collectible design. It highlights materiality and the transformation possible for repurposing recycled plastic. 

“I have a new respect and deeper understanding of how things are made. Witnessing the factory at work firsthand, now knowing that there is a person at each machine that produces the plastic objects and consumer goods in our lives.”

Cody Norman (b. 1992) is a Chicago-based artist, designer, and educator. He currently serves as part-time faculty in the Sculpture and Designed Objects departments at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He graduated with a BFA from SAIC in 2016 and earned an MFA in 3D Design from Cranbrook Academy of Art in 2020. Norman works with both digital and analog fabrication processes to transform recycled and bioplastics into functional art objects. Creating enigmatic forms that feel at once familiar and foreign, Norman’s process physically blurs the line between digital and handcraft.

Norman’s forms are inspired by biomimicry and sustainability. He designs builds, and creatively misuses his own tools, such as the handheld plastic extrusion gun, which melts recycled plastic into improvisational organic forms. Norman uses a KUKA industrial robot, formerly a tool of mass production, to create one-of-a-kind objects in unique ways. His objects resemble nature but have chaotic and unpredictable materiality, as well as an element of function alluding to the “usefulness” of plastic objects.

In addition to his solo studio practice, Norman is co-director of the creative studio Happy Returns with his studio mate Tom Burtonwood. Happy Returns weaves together research interests in robotics, materials, and digital imaging to produce a range of outcomes for commercial clients and art projects alike.

Works and Links

Website: https://codyjamesnorman.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/codynorman.studio/ & https://www.instagram.com/happyreturns.studio/

In the news|PR that mention Residency and have example of upcycled plastic works:


Installation in Chicago Botanic Garden of Plasticus porticus was created by melting recycled plastic on a vaulted steel frame. The color transitions from black to purple, red, orange, and yellow as it moves upwards, representing ideas of growth and a brighter future. Passing through the structure will provide viewers a moment to contemplate the amount of plastic in the environment and where the plastic’s life cycle might end.”