Photo by Stewart MacLean
For people who may not be familiar with you and work, can you tell us a little bit about how you get started?
I’ve been sketching all of my life but I didn’t really start taking things seriously until about 11 years ago. I’m way late to the game, I’m not sure if that made it easier or harder but I really don’t know because I wasn’t early.
You were working at a solar energy company around the time things started to take off for you, right?
Yeah, I was living in Edmonton and my wife was diagnosed with cancer so I took a leave of absence from work and I was spending a lot of time in the garage kind of tinkering away at things while she was sleeping.
Did her diagnosis affect how you started to envision your future working there?
With a disease like that threatening the life of your partner I went through all sorts of reevaluations of my life. When you have that kind of isolation where you’re able to spend time with yourself and take a good look at your life you start to see things you weren’t aware of because you were too busy living your life. I went through a similar period of reflection during the pandemic.
Once you decided to take that leap of faith, It’s almost like you entered a new chapter in your life, why did you decide to make that change?
I wanted to make free time my career. I didn’t know what it was going to be other than whatever I was gravitating towards when I had nothing to do. So I asked myself, what do I love to do when there’s nothing to do? The answer was art.
You refer to yourself as a ‘wood reclaimist,’ a term you said you might have accidentally coined yourself. Where did the idea to use reclaimed materials come from?
The majority of wood I use is from old pump organs. There’s this really strange richness of pump organs on P.E.I. that just gets thrown out. My wife used to call them sentimental burdens. You would inherit this god awful thing from your grandparents. But you don’t want to throw out your grandparents. When somebody buys a house and they see that thing they just say get that thing out of my house. It’s gothic and it doesn’t match anything that anybody owns anymore. So you have this battle with yourself, and then that’s where I come in. I will make you a small piece of art out of this thing so you can hold onto this piece of your grandparents. Then you gain five feet in your living room and you can put whatever the hell you want there. Doing that over and over again started to build me a customer base.
When you sold your first piece of art on Etsy you told me you were really surprised by it, can you talk to me a bit about that?
My wife was really sick with cancer, so we were doing a lot of back alley walks and we came across this banged up coffee table in an alley, it wasn’t in good shape and it needed a new leg. So I made a new leg and painted it and put it on Etsy and within minutes it sold. In my mind it wasn’t worth $500, but that was just in my mind.
Early on in your career you were refurbishing these furniture pieces you had scavenged but you shifted away from that and started creating pieces that were more art than they were furniture, why was that?
I started pushing the envelope a bit. Moving into the art world and out of the furniture world. So I started participating in art shows which are way more up my alley. It’s something where I can develop a concept and work on it, present it, and I’m not worried about selling it to anybody. I learned really really fast that I am not suited for those kinds of craft shows. I was making some sales, but it was more a personal thing. I could not stand being in front of people and saying the same things over and over again. Some people thrive off of it. You get to know the people around your booth. But after 3 or 4 of those it was all of the same people at every craft fair, so it was the same people walking by me at every fair. It was very monotonous. I get that it’s a needed thing, but it was not something I could make my career off of.
You said you don’t like to buy materials to create your art, where did that idea come from?
I built my confidence on the fact that I was working with something that was thrown away. It was something I couldn’t ruin. It was great to be able to build my confidence on something that didn’t cost me anything, to this day I don’t spend money on supplies. I’m given things. I don’t like to have that kind of overhead in my business where I’m constantly needing to buy things to make things. People throw out brand new shit all the time.There’s no shortage of beautiful garbage out there.
What kind of projects have you been working on lately? What does the future hold for you?
These days I’m pushing into the NFT world a bit now. I’m making digital art and working on the blockchain and accepting ethereum for my work. I’m working with a group of artists now known as ‘The Most Famous Artists’ and there’s about 500 of us worldwide and that’s where I kind of joined the whole NFT and ethereum world. I’ve been hired to make some logo work and animations for a cryptocurrency that’s launching called Arty. I’m just getting my foot wet right now, it’s only been a few months but it’s really exciting. I’m trying to move with the world a bit. I’m trying to stay in the future and ahead of the game.