I love to make stuff. I really do. I love a challenge, love thinking on to how to figure out a problem. As in how-in-hell-am-I-going-to-make-that kind of challenge. This goes all the way back to when I was a kid. It's kind of core with how I operate as an artist.
Some people don't realize that I create virtually everything in my artworks, large and small. Of those who do, many wonder how it is that I make what I make. Since I don't buy crap from dollhouse stores for my miniature works, or use much salvage or pre-made components in my larger artworks--except for the occasional light switch, plug in, light socket, or other item that would be virtually impossible to create--I choose to make it from scratch. That means little bricks, doors, floorboards, trim moulding, tables, chairs, window sashes, fixtures, all kinds of props--whatever, you name it. For full-scale or larger that means whatever I can make from scratch I will make. For example, in the sculpture The Terrorist (pictured in this site) which is full-scale, that means I fabricated the television, the table it sits on, the wall, the linoleum tiles, the case that covers the radio, even the electrical cord that squirms on the floor and even the plug itself. With the giant phone I created, The Noise of Infinity, that means everything. People sometimes think I'm exaggerating. "Sure," they might say, "you made this and you made that, but there's no way you made that," pointing. "Nope," I'll tell them, "I made that too."
So, there you go: most of what you see in my artworks I made from scratch.
So, Rick, you say, that's great and interesting, but how do you do it? How do you make all that stuff?
Well, I'm not going to tell you exactly. But I will tell you it takes tons of time and trial and error and just plain thinking to figure out. Here's the deal: I like trying to figure out ways to make stuff. It's a challenge I've set for myself that is maddening, frustrating, and also fun. I will tell you that on much of the miniature stuff I don't have dollhouse-sized tools to create it; little teeny saws, little routers, and so forth. No. A lot of it is made with full-size regular power tools, including table saws, chop saws, routers, drills, etc. It takes real cleverness to figure out to do these tiny tasks without removing fingers, I'll tell you that much. However, naturally some teensy tiny things are made with simple tools, like razor blades, Exacto knives, jeweler's files, and so forth.
So, I'll take you back to when I was a kid, making little spaceships out of toothpicks and scrap paper, boats out of beauty bark, and souping-up plastic models of WW II tanks and airplanes to make them as realistic as a 9--10--11 year old could make them. I think some of it comes from poverty. Meaning, not having the money to buy the whatever-it-is to make what I was trying to make. Also, I didn't have a meddling daddy to take my project away and "help" me with it by simply doing it himself, like so many kids have. Okay, philosophy now: if you are one of those dads or moms, you are doing your brat a disservice. You aren't allowing them to come up with their own ideas and methods, not allowing them to fail. It's one thing to gently guide your kid; it's another to take away their project and do it for them. That's feeding your own ego and stealing from theirs. There is too much of that shit going around. It creates adults who can hardly turn a screw or put together some press-board crap from Ikea without a meltdown. So, don't be lame: if your kid wants to do it for him or herself, let 'em. If they want you to do it for them, don't. Sure they might cry and whine. But, so what. You'll be doing them a favor.
Okay, I think I was talking about being a kid and making stuff on my own. Making stuff comes from my mom's side, best I can tell; my granddad was an ace carpenter who built houses. We didn't have a lot, like I said. I was a kid of divorce, living with my mom who worked all the time to support my brother and myself. So, when I got a hankering to make a little boat, I found some scrap lumber or even a piece of ornamental bark in the planter outside our apartment and carved a boat hull. I made a mast out of a toothpick, a sail from scrap paper, and rigging from sewing thread. If I wanted to make a submarine, I glommed some of my mom's sewing thread spools, got some more scrap wood, some useful trash and I was off. If I bought a plastic model of a tank and it didn't have the correct headlight guard or engine hatch handle, I'd make one. I learned all kinds of ways of manipulating various materials this way.
I still work like this. I don't have the same poverty mentality, but it informs everything I make. I'm a scrimper and a saver. I don't like throwing money at a project if I can make what I need myself. It's just how I roll. Besides, it's way more interesting and challenging, and, like I said, fun. And, as well, I don't have a lot of money to spend, and so far the project funding I've received is relatively minimal. Hopefully that will change. I'm waiting on my Mac Arthur Fellowship.
I know that one day I might get to a point where I might be forced to be less hands-on. This can happen to artists. It happens all the time. They become more like project managers and designers and less like artists and have studio assistants and fabrication firms create their work for them. Think Jeff Koons or Damien Hirst, or a whole slew of other mega-artist turds who never lay a finger on their work anymore. I can imagine how it could be: the projects are too many and too large; I can't do it all! I've got three solo shows and two giant public art projects and I have to fly to Abu Dhabi next week and Art Basel the week after that! Whatever. Personally I must say that I would utterly loath to be hands-off for the sake of my ballooning career. It may need to happen, but I would not be happy without having a direct hand on my art. Perhaps I'm being naive and quaint. If so, fuck it. Let me be naive and quaint.