“This one's made out of old broom handles,” he says, pointing to one of his globe sculptures. “I was driving through alleys, picking up old brooms.
“And this one was my son's art box he used to use before he got into computers,” Miriello continues, walking through his office space in Barrio Logan, where many of his globes sit wherever there's an empty surface. “The box became this sort of portable universe.”
Miriello has globes fashioned from books, wheels, spoons, shoes and even tiny sharpened pencils. Several display the unmistakable crisp lines of a laser cutter, which he's been experimenting with lately.
Nights, weekends and spare moments for nearly the last three years have gone into what Miriello calls his 100 Worlds Project (100worldsproject.com). The first 50 of his globes will be on display at Jett Gallery in Little Italy starting Feb. 18.
“This one,” he says, picking up a photograph of one of his globes (he had a crew of local photographers take artistic shots of each one, which will be in a self-published book about the exhibition and on view at the gallery). “This one came about because this propeller was on the wall of a friend's studio and I've always loved the propeller as this classic shape. I talked him into giving it to me and he said, ‘OK, make one of your globes out of it.'
“I've been collecting all these things of beauty and not knowing what I'm going to do with them, but it's almost as if my subliminal mind has been tracking things and, suddenly, with this globe project, there've been pieces here that just fit together perfectly as if they've been trying to find each other for 50 years.”
Miriello acts and looks more like a businessman than an artist. He's a smooth-talking, hand-gesturing kind of guy—the boss at Miriello Grafico, his graphic-design and marketing firm, for more than 25 years.
Sitting in his sleek conference room with three black poster boards set up behind him—one's blank, one says “MINIMAL” and the other says “REUSE, REPURPOSE”—Miriello says that most of the time, he's using his creativity for commerce. One of his recent projects, for instance, was for the San Diego Convention Center and the San Diego Convention and Visitor's Bureau. His company's job was to help rebrand San Diego as the kind of city where professional event planners should hold their next big meeting. He ended up turning San Diego's casual, laid-back reputation on its head and making a short film that spun San Diego as a place where intelligence, productivity and creativity abound.
And Miriello believes it. He thinks San Diego is the type of city where, say, if you set out doing something as wacky as making 100 globes, you'll find a lot of help and inspiration along the way.
“I have collaborators on the project,” he says. “A lot of them who are guys right here in Barrio Logan. I love working with guys who are here— welders, riggers, guys who work on boats.”
When Miriello finished his first globe years ago, his only plan was to make another, then another. “Before I knew it,” he says, “I was thinking, Where is this going? And I don't want a plan. I work with plans and schedules and strategies and media plans all the time. I just wanted to see what happens when I let my creativity take the lead and trust in it rather than commerce for once.”
The economic downturn, he says, has been the perfect backdrop. People have time on their hands and were more willing to play. When friends and clients began seeing the globes in his office, they started collaborating. He says the next 50 globes might even be made by people inspired by his first 50.
“People would give me things and say, ‘Hey, I think there's a globe in there,'” Miriello says. A welder, for example, was going to throw away a band-saw blade but saw it as an opportunity to contribute.
“I'm very interested in priming the pump and taking this wellspring of creativity and using it to help others get involved—to show and demonstrate that even though creativity doesn't have a patron right now, ideas don't stop; ideas keep flowing like molten lead.”
But why globes? Miriello says he likes how instantly recognizable planet Earth is, and he's fascinated by the opinions and imagination it inspires. As a kid, he remembers spinning a globe and putting his finger on a country, wondering if the inhabitants could feel his touch.
And from a design standpoint, he likes the four components of a globe—the base, spine, armature and sphere. He says he sees one of those four structures in nearly everything he lays his eyes on.
“You start looking around and globes are everywhere,” he says. “What could I do with that? What could I do with this? The making part of it is something that comes fairly easy for me.”