Artist of the Week 10/30-11/05: The Curious Stories of Scott Smith’s Handmade Treasures
For most of us Halloween comes once a year, but for artist Scott Smith, Halloween is an everyday event.
What started out as merely a seasonal endeavor, turned out to be life’s calling, with Smith now only able to devote his time to creating works revolving around the ghoulish holiday as well as Christmas due to high demand, not to mention his inner passion for them. Working out of his Michigan home studio, he lets his imagination run wild as he sculpts his wondrous Halloween-themed characters that one can easily picture finding in a children’s storybook or a Tim Burton animated film. Working primarily with papier-mâché, the founder of Rucus Studio brings humor, cleverness and life to cackling witches, intoxicated pumpkins and masquerading skeletons. But most of all, he creates stories, ones that are bound to evolve every time the piece is looked upon, and therefore, fashioning a unique form of interaction between the viewer and art.
According to the artist, his inspiration derives from various sources, be it a seasonality change or a person’s unique persona. “Wild eyebrows, a crooked nose or maybe even a wandering eye behind thick glasses, these are the kinds of things which often find their way into my characters,” he writes on his Web site.
While sculpting these one-of-a-kind items by hand takes up most of his time, he often finds himself participating and selling his works in holiday themed art festivals and markets, one of which he is the founder of. Realizing that there was a hole in the Michigan festival arts market, Smith along with some friends, began constructing plans for a fair that would sell pieces not available in stores, much like those found in major urban cities such as New York or Los Angeles. Currently, the Ghoultide Gathering is home to some 30 artists and hundreds of visitors, and is growing rapidly in size as the word continuously spreads throughout the art loving community about the handcrafted treasures.
Taking time away from his studio, Smith talked to GALO about what it’s like to be a Halloween artist, his renowned scarecrow greeters, and his take on being named a “doll maker.”
GALO: Your Halloween art spans from papier-mâché sculptures of grumpy witches, jolly skeletons and cunning pumpkins. Can you tell us a bit about your Halloween characters – where the inspiration for them comes from – and what fascinates you about this particular holiday? In a past interview, you once said that “Halloween is [your] main love.”
Scott Smith: Much of what I love about holidays in general comes from childhood memories. I remember walking home from school and discovering Halloween decorations dancing in the windows of our house. I would get so excited knowing soon we would be carving jack-o’-lanterns and picking out new costumes. There is also the darker side of Halloween that is mysterious and a bit scary. My work doesn’t really go there, but I like to hint at how I felt as a child hearing ghost stories or seeing monster movies. It all stays with you and becomes inspiration for the characters I now create.
GALO: You started your career as a graphic designer and illustrator, and after 17 years in the business, you randomly started to make Halloween and Christmas based ornaments for yourself. From then on, this passion took over. Can you elaborate a bit more on this as well as what your home and studio look like since you started making these (I believe you used to collect items by other artists but now make many yourself?) and how Halloween has become an everyday part of your life?
SS: During my years as a designer and illustrator, I began collecting holiday decorations. I gradually became more interested in antique and vintage pieces, which were often too expensive to actually own. That is when I decided to recreate the look and feel of those pieces in my own style. My basement became my studio and I discovered there was a market for my work, especially if it had a Halloween theme.
(Interview continued on next page)