Updated: Jul 22
Before ever meeting Sammi, I’d heard about her creative practice: “She has stations,” I was told, “She moves from sewing station to writing station to fabric dye station, and so on.” Many of these stations rely on machines, and I was curious to learn more about how her digital life sustains the intersections between them, while also dealing with the accumulation of text as a professional writer. In our conversation, we were able to touch on the impulse and structure of digital collecting, how parts of our digital processes feel universal—but aren’t, and how machines affect one another.
Sammi Skolmoski is an artist and writer from Chicago. She currently works as a staff writer at The Onion and a cartoonist at The New Yorker. | sammiskolmoski.com
This interview was conducted on October 17, 2021, at Sammi’s home in Chicago. The transcription has been edited for clarity.
Sammi, hello! Welcome, & thank you
Thank you for having me. It’s weird that I’m not facing you…
We’re side-by-side, sitting in Sammi’s beautiful home/office/studio surrounded by—what’s surrounding us? What are these things?
Tufting frames, lots of books, a sewing machine…
Wholesale rolls of industrial fabric—
And a microfiche viewer that I got off free Craigslist. You know, the necessities.
A jar of pom-poms… and, your computer!
My HP desktop computer, refurbished.
Sammi, what do you use this computer for?
I like using it for everything. I don’t own a laptop—my laptop is given to me from work, so if work goes away, the laptop goes away. I got hooked on desktops back in grad school, because it was nice to see so much at once on the monitors. So then I did very little research and bought a refurbished computer, and I use it for everything.
You do a lot, as a professional comedy writer + creative writer + textile/video/book artist… Is all of your work stuff on the laptop, and this desktop is creative + personal?
No. That makes sense, boundaries-wise, but I’m not good at boundaries. So it just depends on if I’m working from home—it’s a feeling thing. Do I feel like laying on my stomach like a seal on my bed? Probably, and that’ll be laptop day. But in normal times, it’s mostly desktop at home and I just have two main flash drives that I use for everything. So it’s not hard; I don’t know if you know ~how flash drives work~ but they just move the work back and forth.
What do you put on the flash drives versus on a cloud, like Google Drive?
I don’t do any cloud unless I have to share it with someone. Except for iPhone photo backups.
Do you edit the photos you have saved or backed-up, like go through and clean them up?
Eeee well, I’m not a crazy phone-picture-taker, so I don’t have that many. And then when I back them up, it’s mostly because I get a feeling that I’m going to drop my phone soon, because that happens like every six months. I just do it for posterity. But the things I’m saving are like, a picture of a cloud. A picture of someone’s dog. I just back them up in Google Drive and never open them again.
What about screenshots and images from when you’re on your computer?
I’m looking at it now, and that’s mostly what’s on my desktop. Most screenshots are for reference things, like this one—should I just open it?