Beneath the Surface: Steve Jones Yo
**Next up in my series about the Beneath the Surface artist residency is Saint John-based woodworker Steve Jones. He is fast becoming famous for his wood pieces made using recycled skateboards as colourful accents. Steve took this concept to a new level after participating in the residency, marrying natural with urban by creating a piece using skateboards and a tree burl with a really lovely result. Read to the bottom to see the finished piece, or go to the show tomorrow night to see it and many more incredible pieces in person! **
Beneath the Surface: Steve Jones Yo
(Photos courtesy of the artist)
What did it mean to be accepted to be part of “Beneath the Surface”?
I felt very honored to be selected as one of 20 artists into this residency. On one hand, I felt very excited for this major career step and proud to be on the road towards becoming an accomplished artist by participating in the pilot of this amazing project. On the other hand, I was very nervous about my own success within this project, but if you’re not nervous then you’re not growing as a person or an artist.
What were some of the highlights of the Residency itself? What were you most surprised about?
Taking time to listen and learn about Fundy National Park as opposed to just visiting and exploring was the biggesthighlight for me. Hearing about the rich art and craft history in Fundy and surrounding areas from the fantastic guest speakers really made the experience not only educational and interesting but enjoyable as well. One of the most surprising things was figuring out where I fit in as an artist among so many other artists, new to established. I really enjoyed learning what inspires other artists working with different mediums and watching everyone become deeply involved in each others’ ideas.
Prepping the piece
What project did you decide to do as a result of the Residency?
My time in Fundy definitely pushed me in a new direction. The theme of opposing forces kept surfacing as I began to really think about what I wanted to accomplish for this project. Elements that did not belong together but were forced upon one another to coexist. The piece I created was a discarded pile of broken skateboards fused together with a tree burl, an ugly growth from the side of a tree. Viewing these pieces of wood separately it’s hard to imagine them working together as one, yet when the piece is complete it somehow looks cohesive.
What challenges did you come across in the process of creating it?
Choosing to step off the beaten path is never easy but I chose this piece without even thinking about how or when I could finish it, I just knew that I had to make it. When working with wood having a clean, flat surface to glue up is best. My first challenge was figuring out how to take concave skateboards and fit them together with the oddly shaped tree burl. By using the tools I have, in a way I’m not accustomed to, I was able to make the wood fit together as I envisioned. When bowl turning you traditionally turn both the outside and the inside of the bowl, but for this piece I wanted to keep the natural shape and feel on the outside and have the inside turned smooth. This brought a whole new set of challenges including trying to figure out of to hold the bowl on my machine and frantically ordering new tools as the deadline of the project approached. I entered uncharted waters with this project not knowing if in the end I would even be left with an appealing piece that would work for the final show.
Steve in his studio
What was your biggest takeaway from the whole experience?
Learning how to focus on where and what my inspiration is coming from. I feel like prior to the Residency I just thought I made things because I was creative but in fact I was and am aware of the things surrounding me. Finding out how to look at something and understand why you’re looking at it that way. You could be walking down the street, stop and take a moment to look at a weed (dandelion haha-inside joke) and have an enormous amount of inspiration from that tiny experience. Sitting with these amazing artists and watching and learning how their mind’s work was a truly monumental time for me. I cherished every second I had with this wonderful group of people.
Beautiful job, Steve! One of these days I'm going to own one of your pieces, yo :)
If you're in the area on Friday, check out the Beneath the Surface exhibition opening at UNB Arts Centre, 5-7 pm!