Behind the Wood and Paper

April 7, 2014

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Pen_painting_1

Balloons

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A Q&A with accomplished artist and designer, Scott Albrecht.

Born and raised in Bethlehem Township, NJ, husband, artist, designer, craftsman and a full time Art Director Scott (Scotty) Albrecht leads a life that we can’t really consider anything but awesome. He’s somehow managed to redefine what it means to live creatively, and he does it with a whole lot of authenticity.

With a degree in Graphic Design from the Art Institute of Philadelphia, Scott has paved his way as an Art Director for online flash sales company Gilt, while also establishing himself as a recognized artist working at nights and on the weekends out of his studio. His personal projects feature woodwork, handwritten typography and paper collages that remind us how great the non-digital is. We first crossed paths with Scotty at his Ace Hotel exhibition Everything in Between, and fell in love with his work.

Unassuming, incredibly down to earth, and immensely talented, Scotty has somehow managed to juggle a 9-5 and the demands of married life while creating artwork that’s being featured across the country.

We wanted to know how, and Scotty obliged.

First and foremost, how do you manage work, married life and your creative work?

The one thing I’ll say right off the bat, is that Malena, my wife, is incredibly supportive and gracious about knowing how important this is for me. She works Tuesday through Saturday, and I work Monday through Friday. So we really only have Sunday as our day together. Outside of that I try to give myself three nights in the studio during the week, and saturdays I’ll try to work all day in the studio.

While that’s great, I’m still trying to get better at managing my time – working smarter not harder so I can have more time with her.

You work full time at Gilt, how do you keep yourself motivated to go to the studio after a day’s work?

The work / life balance I have at Gilt is great, and I think people there are genuinely supportive of what I do outside of Gilt. Within my team, we really try to encourage everyone’s outside passions, whether it be art, illustration, cooking, etc. I really believe encouraging outside interests at work leads to a happier and healthier work environment. Also, working at a commercial space like Gilt, I can put a lot of myself into the work that I do there, but at the end of the day it’s not truly something I can own. And so, doing my creative work is something that is coming from my own voice and something that I can own.

Your creative work features a lot of found materials, why is that?

Well it depends on the piece, but for me found materials have a lot of character to them, which tends to work with a piece I’m creating. If I were to make a box from scratch it would just kind of look like a new box, but something found tends to have its own personality and characteristics. The same goes for the paper I use. Older books get this really nice oxidized vignette, making each page unique. When it works, I like that canvas is a unique part of the piece.

Why work with wood and paper?

A large part of it is an aesthetic choice. With wood specifically I like that it forces you to be very conscious of what you’re doing. On the computer, you have the luxury of the “undo” function if you don’t like something, but with wood it’s very absolute in terms of how you work. You can fix or repair or erase with other mediums to an extent, but if you over-cut or over-work wood you don’t have too many options in saving it outside potential re-doing it.

What makes you choose a material for your projects?

I go through a grading and evaluation process of the materials I have for whatever I’m working on. I don’t have it particularly mapped out but I really try to find materials that will complement what ever piece I’m working on.

How long can a timeframe from start to finish be for you?

It can vary. It can be as quick as a couple of days to sit down and think about it, sketch it out, refine it and make it come to life, or something bigger will take a lot longer. It depends on how big or small or far I want to extend it. I also tend to work on several things at once so it gives me a chance to take a break from one thing to come back to it fresh and make sure it’s still something I like or if I need to refine it further.

Do you think it’s important not to stress creativity too much?

Yeah, I think not straining yourself or your ideas to let things kind of organically come to light is important. I don’t always have that luxury due to timeframes or deadlines, but if I force something too much I wind up resenting it altogether if it doesn’t work out. There are pieces that I’ve wanted to do for three or four years now, but have never quite found a good place for them and that’s fine because there are other things I can work on in the meantime. I try to have a couple things going so I can shift my focus if I need.

There are a lot of creative people who don’t believe their work is good enough, what do you think about that?

The sad truth for a lot of creative people is that it’s really easy for them to get discouraged early on and stop altogether. I don’t know that being “good enough” is a realistic way to measure yourself because that term is so broad and can mean so many different things. I do think its important to know where you want to be creatively and work towards that as a goal if it’s what you want to achieve.

I’ve been shot down and discouraged way more times than I can think of, but I don’t think of those experiences as being defining in anyway, it just means I need to work harder to find another opportunity.

The one thing I would say to anybody is: don’t just give up on yourself but keep working towards what you want to do. Just because there’s something you want doesn’t mean it’s going to come easy and sometimes you just have to do hard work.

What do you do when you hit a creative rut?

First I have to realize I’m in a creative rut (otherwise I will try to keep solving whatever it is I’m working on) and then I usually address it in one of two ways:

One: work on something different. If something is giving me a hard time I’ll usually step away from it, to work on something else so I can come back to it later.

Two: take a break from everything. You can’t work all the time and sometimes you just need some distance to come back with a fresh perspective.

What will inspire you to create?

A lot of the time the work comes directly as a response to some kind of event in my life.

For instance: The Romantic was made in the midst of planning a wedding with my wife. The way that the hands are positioned is meant to be like an offering or holding your hands out, and the fact that the hands are positioned that way with the heart is like an offering of love.

“The Romantic” is not your only hand art piece, why hands?

All the hand pieces are meant to represent different characteristics or personality traits. For me, using hands as a canvas is more symbolic of the idea that people can be defined based on their actions or what they do, with hands being representative of a more literal way of facilitating actions.

How important has the support from family and friends been?

Support is important, whether I’m aware of it while I’m working or not, but it’s not the main lever – I need to really be into what I’m doing to push me to be active. I feel pretty fortunate that I have an incredibly supportive group of friends and family.

What has played the most crucial part in finding your own style/voice?

Honestly, it has just been a really long time of trial and error. If you look at the work I was doing 7 or 8 years ago, it’s very different from what I’m doing now.

In terms of development, I would say this to anybody: surround yourself with people that you find inspiring and use them as a motivator. I always look to a few certain people who work super hard and produce great work, and it always keeps me motivated to keep pushing myself.

Has it been a goal of yours to become a recognized artist?

I’m not setting out to become a big artist, I’m just trying to create work that I really care about. I think if that’s your goal you’re probably working for the wrong reasons. For me it’s mostly about sharing work that I feel passionate about. I really enjoy exhibiting, it’s a great way to share things with people that I’ve been thinking about and see how they react to it. Getting their feedback is also a great way to continue to grow.

How does a typical exhibition process look like?

Usually I’ll start talking to the space, and for the most part we get to a point where we are comfortable working together. Once we start talking and feeling it could be a good partnership, we’ll try and figure out an idea and timeframe. If we can, we’ll go ahead with it and from there we’ll start talking about what type of work will be showing.

How did your latest exhibition at the Ace hotel come about?

I reached out to the Ace Hotel to introduce myself in early December 2013. At first exhibiting wasn’t something that they thought would happen in the near future as their calendar was fully booked. But a few days later, their January exhibition had to be rescheduled last minute, so they reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in filling in. Luckily everything worked out and came together in about two and a half weeks.

How was the response to your exhibition at the Ace hotel?

The response overall was really good. Showing at the Ace has a little different of a dynamic than a traditional gallery space – it’s focus isn’t on sales of work, but more like a project space to share work that’s open 24/7. It worked to some advantages because the hotel winds up being a center point to anyone traveling there, so I got to reach so many people from different parts of the world that I otherwise might not have been able to connect with.

What can we expect from you this coming year?

I’ll be showing in a few group shows throughout the year and working towards two solo collections to share with Grass Hut in Portland and Art in the Age in Philadelphia. Also, looking to press the first record on a label I’ve started called Jugtown Momma’s with my friend Andrew Foote.

For more information on Scotty’s art and shows, visit ScottyFiveAlive.com.