Tell us about yourself.
Hi! My name is Jason and I’m 30 years old. I live in New York City, where I currently go to Columbia University and study math and computer science. Before going back to school, I lived in Morocco for 3 years teaching high school math, which was an utterly amazing experience and changed my perspective on the world and myself.
I started making these collages about a year ago; I had been creating computer art for quite some time but everything looked too digital, so I started seeking out scanned paper to make things look more textured. I came across a ton of old maps, one thing led to another, and now I’m working on a book of all the state birds made out of state maps.
Apart from creating, what do you do?
I try and do as much as possible, but everything is basically centered around either creating or learning. Going to school eats up most of my time these days, but I still love to cook as often as possible. I’ve been investigating porcelain casting and I’ve just gotten serious about programming and started some projects with Arduino and processing. I also love music — I was a recording engineer for five years and used to play in a band. These days the guitar is gathering some dust, but I’m making it a priority to play more this summer.
What would be the title of your memoir?
Should Have Gone to Art School. That’s something I often say when I talk to my friends who went to art school. I’m always jealous of certain skills they have that I had to learn through trial and error. Then again, I’m not nearly as jaded as they are.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I am constantly looking for inspiration in books. I stop at every single book seller I see on the streets of New York City. Maybe Paris does it better, but NYC has some amazing book stalls. The Columbia libraries are an amazing resource too; I’m not quite sure what I will do when I graduate! While I look at a ton of books, I also check out a thousand blogs a day. I particularly enjoy image-focused Tumblrs — I can scroll through one of those for an hour and completely lose track of time. I’m always looking at composition and technique, trying to figure out why things work.
And then, of course, my friends are always inspiring me. As artists or scientists, they are consumed by their work; it’s just so wonderful seeing people loving what they do. I’m so proud to call them my friends.
What does handmade mean to you?
Recently I’ve been using digital tools so much, that for me, handmade doesn’t necessarily mean being physically touched by hand. I think handmade means having thought and care put into every step.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
John Audubon has probably been the biggest influence in my work. He was such a beast; a rare combination of scientist and artist. He funded his work through trading furs and then traveled Europe with his sketches, showing off the mythical animals of North America to raise capital. It’s a remarkable story. Of course, I’m quite influenced by his composition and the entire aesthetic of field guides that he fathered.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
When I was a child I embraced crafts a bit more than the other kids. I was kind of obsessed with Marble Madness and would make these intense Rube Goldberg-esque marble tracks out of paper towel tubes and cardboard. I learned to solder when I was 8 and was welding by the time I was in middle school. By high school I embraced computers; I was editor of the literary magazine and fell in love with graphic design.
How would you describe your creative process?
I look at a lot of source material of animals in books and online. Then I go through my collection of maps and decide if I need to gather more for a particular project. Then I drink several pots of coffee and work for three days until the piece looks complete, and then hopefully I still like it and don’t delete it.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
Give me the Eames’ studio in the ’60s. They were doing it all: graphic design, film, and architecture. I love watching old footage of their production — it’s mesmerizing. I’ve always been a huge fan of Chuck Close too, with his unique way of pixelating an image. I always wanted to see the rig he used to raise and lower his paintings after his seizure.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
I bought this huge lamp in Morocco, it’s almost star-shaped — maybe a stellated icosahedron? The lamp had caught my eye, but I wasn’t prepared to pay the price he was asking. I got really good at haggling while I was living there, but this guy wasn’t budging, and he wouldn’t let me walk away either. I decided to splurge and buy it — I’ve never regretted it.
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
I need to step away from the project. I find a walk outside will usually work. If not, a tall glass of scotch generally does the trick.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
I don’t expect to be in New York in ten years, but I have no idea where. Rio de Janiero? Paris? California? I have no doubt that I will still be making things and hopefully surrounded by people that I love.