Scott Harris- The Story Behind Your Stuff Spring 2017 Winner
Most people have heard the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child”. I have been incredibly grateful to be a full time artist since 2006, and I can tell you it also takes a village to raise an artist.
A full time artist since 2006. Those words would be impossible to say without the incredible number of people that have supported me throughout this journey. Of course there are first my parents, who never once said to go to school to get a ‘real job’. They continued to believe that with hard work I could make art a lifetime career. Then of course, there are the professors that teach you all these wonderful skills of how to actually create art. For me, Professors Jo Pumphrey and Tim Murray influenced and propelled and pushed me towards my future. It’s the third group of people though, the ones who don’t share my DNA or have any teaching position, that I have come to find absolutely invaluable every day.
We all have had experiences that have either changed our life or will be remembered forever. For me as an artist one that stands out is being able to spend two evenings in Monet’s garden in Giverny, France by myself. No Security. No gardeners. Nobody. It was amazing. I sketched; I walked around; I took a nap on a wooden bench. For four hour, I was Monet in his garden. Truly amazing as an artist. As wonderful and life altering as those experiences are, it’s the everyday that has the biggest impact. The people I see between sunrise and sunset.
Each piece of art that you see with my signature on the bottom is not merely a product of some sort of skill or talent. Each piece is representative of numerous conversations with friends that have encouraged me, and now me and my wife. Friends and loved ones who have helped us stay on track when the track wasn’t looking how we hoped. My lovely wife has been my greatest supporter throughout this whole adventure.
I will never forget a conversation with my pastor and friend, Whitman Toland sitting outside at a Starbucks on Battleground Avenue in Greensboro. We were talking back and forth about what I should do with art and life. He asked me if I really believed that my call was to be an artist. Once I replied in the affirmative, he said to stick to it no matter what and life’s never been the same. We have friends that have thought, prayed, laughed and cried with us through all these different seasons and times. I have a bride who is not only my biggest supporter, but she believes in me even more than I believe in myself at times. Whenever times are bad or good, she’s there at my side. Throughout art school you learn to critique your own work as well as others. I have no problem if someone is critical of my work or flat out doesn’t like it. Believe me, it would be a long, long road if I let that get to me. But never mention to my wife that you don’t like my work. She will want to fight you. And I am so grateful for that. Don’t worry, I’ll try to hold her back.
I’m thankful to have friends who are honest with me. Nobody wants to be that contestant on America’s Got Talent who everyone told they were good and now they’re getting made fun of on national television. You have to be surrounded by people that will cheer you on but also tell you the truth. There’s nothing that will save you more time, defeat, or heartache than the truth. I’m amazed at the amount of wisdom that has been passed to me through other business owners and friends of friends. I’ve realized you can learn so very much if you just listen. Men and woman who are not anywhere close to the same industry as me have taught me so much about business and life and the way to do things.
You see, as a craftsperson, no matter the craft, there’s no one direct shot. There’s no formula. You learn some skills and then go find a village full of people. You learn something different from each member of the village. You don’t stop listening and you don’t stop learning. Every piece of artwork that you buy has a story about the product. A couple commissioned me to build a bench. The aluminum that I purchased to build said bench slipped out of the back of my truck on I-85 just outside of Atlanta at 4:48pm. That bench has a great story of stopping five lanes of traffic, creating a traffic jam that further jammed the traffic jam we were already in, and taking a handful of police to get the metal off the road and back into the back of the truck. They all had huge smiles and so did the other drivers. That product has a great story.
But it’s not just the image or the material that has a story. I am thankful that when you see, or preferably purchase, a piece of art that has a “Harris” scribbled in the corner (it looks more like an H that flat lined) you are getting a collective story of the village. You aren’t getting simply one story and one background of one skilled person. It is the story of influence and gratitude for all those who made that piece of art possible. I have a friend who, whenever asked him how long a particular piece took to paint, says “39 years.” It’s not a singular or binary skill; it’s not a formula of A + B will create this product that hangs on your wall or sits on the floor or lays on the table. It’s a combination of many teachers; thousands of conversations, hundreds of supporting cast members and numerous successes and failures.
For me personally, I hope to never forget that every piece of work completed has a backstory of gratitude; that there are a hundred people who have had their hand in completing that work. My hope would also be that every person who looks at that work would see them as well. I love the hand made things that we own. I love when we know the one that created it, not Joe the really technically brilliant robot. Where we are as a culture is pretty amazing and so impressive. All of the automated stuff is incredible, but to me there’s nothing that compares to the story of a piece that was created by the hand of another person. I get to share their story and their village every time I see it or use it.
Next time you see a craft or art or handmade piece, mine for example, just remember it took 38 years to create that piece. Thirty eight years of learning. Thirty eight years of influence and experience. Thirty eight years of gratitude. Thirty eight years of success and failure. Thirty eight years and counting.
-Scott Harris follow @aluminumartist on instagram https://www.instagram.com/aluminumartist/
*All “The Story Behind Your Stuff” contest winner stories and images are written and provided by the product designers/artists themselves. Please do not duplicate or redistribute without permission.