Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m originally from the South, near Pensacola, Florida. My whole family is from Alabama. I left home in the ’80s to pursue an art career in Chicago. I married a super talented gal while attending the School of the Art Institute. We have two children who are nearly grown up, plus two pugs, two rabbits, a cat, as well as a hen and a rooster. I spent most of my adult life as a designer/art director in Chicago, working in ad agencies and marketing firms. A couple of years ago, we decided a lifestyle change was needed so we bought an old farm house in North Carolina and moved the family.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
Our farmhouse property is actually historic and significant to the area. Through renovation, I’m learning a lot about carpentry and restoration; you can do anything yourself if you just take the time to learn how. I’ve converted the larger of the two pack house barns into my workshop/studio. I also like riding my bicycle around the farm roads, listening to jazz, finding a hidden antique, and cooking.
What would be the title of your memoir? Why?
The title of my memoir would be Heck, I Should Have Done This Years Ago! I never took the time early in my creative career to think about whether or not I could work for myself as an artist. It is so rewarding to have reinvented myself with a business based upon my skills in design. It’s like my entire career in advertising was all leading up to this success with Slippin’ Southern.
Where does your inspiration come from?
Returning to my roots in the South was the major thrust of it all. As my realtor explained to me, “Things move slower in the South.” And she’s not kidding — everybody goes home at 5 p.m., and there is no banking on Saturdays. My insurance agent even owns a turkey farm and is there more often than the office! In the first few months of living in Carolina, my wife and kids noticed that folks down here refer to each other as “shug,” “darlin’,” and “sweetheart.” When I began using these colloquial terms on my family for fun they would call me out and say “hey, y’all are slippin Southern on us!”
What does handmade mean to you?
Handmade is the way I’m redefining myself. After 25+ years of using a computer every day, going back to basics and making things with my hands again has been so eye opening. I was in school before Macs were invented, so finding those hand skills again and rediscovering what drew me to art in the first place is very empowering.
Who has been most influential in your craft?
At this point in my career, the driving force is my family. They were the first to point out to me that I should take my creative skills and passions and parlay them into a new business. My wife, who has been with me since the ’80s, knows my passion for letters and typography (we hauled around an old letterpress early in our marriage to three apartments). And my kids also pointed out how I love to work with wood.
When did you know you were an artist/maker?
A big hint was when I was in the sixth grade. In art class, we were making clay sculptures and I made a little kitty with a meowing face. One of my teachers came to me a few weeks after making it and offered me $5 for it. I declined, because I knew if she thought it was valuable it meant that I was special.
How would you describe your creative process?
It’s a lot of listening and paying attention to things people just take for granted. And then turning that into something simple and clever.
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive), who would it be?
I think I’d peek into one of Andy Warhol‘s factories because of the designer-to-
artist parallel we have in common. I’d love to hear what someone like Warhol would recommend as my next step.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
Our studio barn and house sits in the middle of a 350-acre farm field. The Tuscarora Indians had a fort here and I sometimes find arrowheads in the fields while on walks. It’s an amazing feeling when you’re wandering along and find one lying on a row of soil. They are totally handmade and crafted by Native Americans more than 300 years ago, but they still look like they were carved from their stone just yesterday. The historical aspects of these arrowheads simply dumbfound me.
Where would you like to be in ten years?
I would love to have totally completed our farmhouse project and moved on to a grander one — an older property, possibly in Virginia or New Orleans. We both love visiting those two areas of the country and seeing the history and natural beauty they possess. I also hope to keep working for myself long into the future — I feel like I’ve found a groove and there aren’t any knots to slow me down.