INTERVIEW: Jim Stewart (the Zymoglyphic Museum)

Jim Stewart is the owner of Portland’s wonderful Zymoglyphic Museum. He recently gave us the skinny on all things zymoglyphic.

Jim Stewart of Portland's Zymoglyphic Museum. Original artwork by Jen Brown.
Jim Stewart of Portland’s Zymoglyphic Museum. Original artwork by Jen Brown.

Q: What exactly is the zymoglyphic concept?

A:  The formal definition is:

zy’-mo-glyph’-ic, adj. [Gr. zyme leaven + Gr. glyphe carving]

1. Of, or pertaining to, images of fermentation, specifically the solid residue of creative fermentation on natural objects

2. The collection and arrangement of objects, primarily either natural or weathered by natural forces, for poetic effect

Not very exact, but neither is the concept!

Pic taken at the Zymoglyphic Museum, Portland OR
photo by Michael Cade

Q: Are there other zymoglyphic curators in the world besides yourself?

A:  Not exactly (that I know of), but there a couple of similar ones. One is the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles, specializing in scholarly displays of dubious authenticity.  The other is Clayton Bailey‘s museum in the Bay Area, who has created a world of Kaolithic wonders from the Bone Age.

Pic taken at the Zymoglyphic Museum, Portland OR
photo by Michael Cade

Q: Can you describe the various categories/collections that are housed in the Zymoglyphic Museum?

A:  The Natural World

  • Picture stones
  • Sculptural stones
  • Mineral oddities
  • Arthropods, marine and terrestrial
  •  Xenophora – Assemblage artistso  of the deep!

The Rust Age

  • Figurines
  • Ceremonial artifacts
  • Proto-sculpture (Late Rust Age)

The Age of Wonder

  • Handstones
  • Memento mori
  • Curiosity cabinets (desktop and wall-mounted)
  • Ten-gallon dioramas
  • Postage stamps
  • Creatures endemic to the Zymoglyphic region
  • Historic engravings

The Era of Oriental Influence

  • Miniature viewing stones
  • Tray landscapes

The Modern Age

  • Cloud sculptures
  • Biomorphic abstraction
  • New media (animation and software)
Pic taken at the Zymoglyphic Museum, Portland OR
photo by Michael Cade

Q: Where do you look for artistic/zymoglyphic inspiration? Are there any particular museums or galleries that stand out in your mind?

A: Historically, I think it has been a combination of natural history museums, anthropological artifacts, and surrealism from the art side.  More recently, I get inspired by finding something or being given something that has potential.

Pic taken at the Zymoglyphic Museum, Portland OR
photo by Michael Cade

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in creating dioramas or zymoglyphic-style displays?

A: Download the museum’s informative and inspirational booklet “Creating and Curating Your Own Museum” — http://zymoglyphic.org/shop/make2.pdf (PDF)

Pic taken at the Zymoglyphic Museum, Portland OR
photo by Michael Cade

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