Tell us about yourself.
My name is Joe Bagley, I’m 26, and I am a paper artist. I grew up in the woods of Maine and now live in Boston with my wife. I work out of my home studio in my Beantown flat. I take pieces of black paper and cut lots of holes in them with a knife. It’s really cool, I swear!
Apart from creating, what do you do?
I’m also a professional archaeologist! This fall I’ll be returning to school to get my master’s. I do several professional digs each summer, mostly in New England on colonial and Native American sites. My wife and I try to get out every weekend to explore new small towns and neighborhoods of Boston. She’s an archaeologist too, so we tend to frequent museums and old buildings.
What would be the title of your memoir? Why?
“The Beret and Fedora: How One Guy Somehow Managed to Pull Off Two Hopeless Careers.”
Where does your inspiration come from?
I have a love of the outdoors from growing up in Maine, so many of my pieces show trees, rocks, bugs, birds, and beasts. Since moving to Boston, I’ve become enamored with historic architecture, and that plays a major role in my larger pieces.
What does handmade mean to you?
Handmade means that the creative process and pride of the craftsperson is as important and valuable as the finished product. I value the past, especially the way things were once made, so the return and new emphasis on handmade is awesome.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
My mom is extremely crafty and ran a daycare from our home until I was 15. She had tons of craft supplies in the house and was very encouraging of me to use them. She also instilled a belief that I could do anything — even become an artist/archaeologist. I have been deliberately pushing myself to create increasingly complicated designs, and I think this belief has kept me going even when my work has been particularly difficult.
When did you know you were an artist / maker?
I’ve always been a sketcher and I constantly sculpted my food and silverware, especially in college. I always wanted to “do” art, but I never thought of it as an actual profession, so I went with what seemed to be the obvious second choice: archaeology. It was only after a layoff in 2007 that I started doing art full time. The archaeology career has slowly returned, but in the mean time, I’ve been having a blast creating this business and art career from scratch!
How would you describe your creative process?
My creative process typically starts with the camera. I take it everywhere, and anytime I see something that inspires me, I take a photo of it. I then use the photos to create my designs. I tend to work in furious bouts of creativity, often designing 10+ new pieces in a day. This is often followed by horrific bouts of “Oh god, I’ll never have another good, original idea again!”
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
William Morris. I love his designs and the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 1800s when craftsmanship and handmade items saw resurgence in protest of the Industrial Revolution (quick history lesson). I think it would be amazing to see his work in progress.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
I have always loved raku pottery. We moved so much during and immediately after college that I never was able to justify buying any. I was convinced I would break it in less than a year. After one of my large pieces sold last year, I thought I’d share my good luck and purchased a small raku piece from a local artist here in Boston. It symbolizes achievement and stability to me.
How do you get out of your creative ruts?
First stop is my Full-Time Etsy Crafter Team. They are always there for encouragement, suggestions and to listen to you whine with understanding ears. When that doesn’t work, I grab my camera and subway pass and head into the city for some photos. Between the parks and buildings, there’s tons so much to inspiration to be gained.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
I would like to be right here in Boston, planning my next art gallery show on Newbury Street (the ritzy gallery and high-end clothing mecca here in Boston), and hopefully working as the Boston City Archaeologist to preserve the city’s ancient history. I have no intentions of giving up either!