Briefly describe the work you do.
I make sculpture that utilizes the tools, techniques and materials of craft and fine woodworking with a historical approach to material culture and design, often incorporating objects or artifacts into an architecturally influenced visual vocabulary.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
Growing up we lived in and around cities (Chicago, pop. 2 million) and in a small town (population under 400). So I was lucky to be exposed to culture and also have the experience of living around nature and agriculture, a lucky combination of urban and rural. That tension between those two environments has continued to be a source of fascination, from the greater concentration of wealth in cities, to the differences, and similarities in the built environments and everyday lives of people who reside there.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
Insofar as where I produce the actual objects, I am a studio-artist. I require a certain amount of relatively non-portable tools and electricity, etc. to make my work. I can certainly on occasion fit neatly into the mold of the grumpy and insular sculptor, especially when something isn’t working the way I had imagined. However no system can survive in isolation, and the ideas, objects and materials of my practice all depend deeply on the knowledge and observation of the greater human environment. Objects tell stories, and every good story has its foundation in the real world, no matter how far out the tale takes us.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
My approach to making art has always been to follow the thread. One idea leads to the next, to the next, etc. So I can’t say I ever envisioned myself in the future as being anything. However, when I first entered Art School, after a period of travel and general wandering in my early twenties, it was born from an interest in blacksmithing and metal work. I guess I have always viewed my work through the lens of a craftsperson, one that specifically engages with materials on a very intimate level. It took me a while to discover this, and even longer to accept it considering the hostility to this mode in the greater art world. Now I consider it to be something that sets my work apart. I am not an evangelist, and I enjoy looking at and am influenced by all kinds of work, but knowing what drives me has allowed a much greater understanding and facility in my process.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
I work during the daylight hours; I find it is necessary for me to set aside blocks of time or whole days to work. The nature of my process does not lend itself well to working an hour here and there. Focus and the ability to concentrate is key.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
In the past five years I have discovered and begun to explore the body of architecturally influenced work that I am currently involved in. During this time there have been many changes in form, scale and content, but the basic processes/materials have remained the same. It is amazing to me that there is so much to discover with a limited palette.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
Jim Harrison, the novelist, is one of my favorite writers. There’s a feeling to his best work that I would love to have my objects convey. I also like Italo Calvino, and John Berger, but more his short stories/ novels than his famous “Ways of Seeing”. I also read a lot of historical biography and such. I don’t avoid philosophy or art criticism per-se, but I find persons and subjects outside the realm of visual art to be much more interesting.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I always wanted to be a wilderness guide, taking people out hiking, canoeing, sailing. In many ways I see it as similar to being an artist. Directing people to experiences that they haven’t had before, places outside of the everyday.
Ted Lott is a sculptor, designer and artist who works primarily in wood. He received his M.F.A. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his B.F.A. from the Maine College of Art. Born and raised in the Upper Midwest, Lott has travelled extensively throughout the country, living in ten different states and visiting every one but Alaska. He has been an Artist-in-Residence at Arrowmont School of Arts & Crafts, Anderson Ranch Arts Center, Haystack School, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, as well as other locations. He is currently a Lecturer in Woodworking & Furniture Design at Murray State University, in Kentucky. His work; encompassing sculpture, architecture, furniture, and public art has been exhibited in museums and galleries across the country.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.