the function and operation of gear-works have always fascinated the
engineering minds, few look at the industrial mechanisms as forms of
artwork. When in reality the gadgetry pieces of a clock are a
masterpiece in their own right, most take it for granted as an
everyday tool. But one local artist has taken these instruments of
manufacture and turned them into incredible showpieces.
Tim Little has been creating these artisanship machines for several years now, taking wasted pieces and even just plain scraps from various places and welding them together into extremely intricate designs, creating robotic-like pieces from small scale displays to monstrous models. I got a chance to chat with Tim about his works and now full-time career, plus his thoughts on local art.
Gavin: Hey Tim, first off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Tim: Do you want the boring, artsy, or historical stuff? I am married. I have six kids and two grandkids. I'm still a kid at heart. I have a swing in my living-room and still love dragons and castles. I love the outdoors and wildlife green is my favorite color. My wife will tell you my mind never shuts off and is constantly creating. I have been doing art full-time since 2003.
Gavin: What first got you interested in sculptures, and what were some of your early inspirations?
Tim: As a kid, I always was making things with my hands. I remember lots of clay and lots of doodles. I remember a teacher marking my grade down on a dot-to-dot that we had to color in. I didn't like the plainness of the dot-to-dot so I added other lines. I made gold crown's in my Dad's dental lab and did silver smithing in high school. When I was a jeweler, I thought that I had found what I loved to do. I found the piece of wood for my first official piece of art at a reservoir by our house and once I started carving on it I was hooked. After a month, I quit my job to finish "The Guardian" and haven't quit creating and never will. I don't ever plan on retiring. To me this is something I will to till the day I die.
Gavin: Did you seek out any college for art studies, and if so, what was that program like for you?
Tim: I attended two semesters at Rick's College, now BYU Idaho. I majored in fine arts. I enjoyed the studies and did well. Unfortunately, I ran out of money and had to quit school. I got a job, a wife and kids, and life went on. I often wonder where my career would be now if I continued on with my education, but I consider myself a continual learner and believe that my past experiences and lessons learned have made me a better artist.
Gavin: Living in Arizona and Nevada, what eventually brought you to Utah?
Tim: My wife and I are both desert rats. One day we decided we wanted a change. A change of art scene, a change of seasons, and a change for our kids. We decided to move where we always enjoyed visiting. We love it here. We love the people. We have enjoyed getting to know the art community and rubbing shoulders with some of the great artists of Utah. We enjoy having a couple more seasons and the colors that come with the changes.
Gavin: How did you first start creating the metal works creatures?
Tim: I have always wanted to weld. My son got me a welder as a present. I started having fun with the welder and the rest is history. I have found that the art world does not as readily accept wood and have switched my emphasis to metal. I like to incorporate wood with the metal in a style that I have not seen anyone else use.
Gavin: Where do you get the parts to make everything in the metal works?
Tim: A few bicycle shops, motorcycle salvage, transmission, clutch and machine shops, old farm equipment, and who knows where the next piece may come from. Sometimes friends show up with things like old tools they bought at an estate sale, or junk from their yards. Most people like the idea that I'm basically recycling or reclaiming something for a totally different purpose. I guess it can be considered a "green thing".
Gavin: Did the designs come about by planning, or was it more accident than design?
Tim: Both. I'll sketch ideas to come up with a basic plan and or proportions. Even then I don't know what it will exactly look like because of the variety of materials I have to choose from. Other times I've gone out to the shop with a project in mind, spotted something in my junk pile that gave me another idea that I liked better.
Gavin: What's the usual process behind making one from start to finish?
Tim: I start with trying to find the basic pieces for the structure of what I am making. With the horses and the cougar, I started with a crank and then hung it up to mount the legs. When I have the basic shape, I start filling in with parts. With "Big Head, Little Arms" I knew I wanted the wood in the middle, so I almost had to work from the outside in. It takes a lot of looking at pieces and thought. Sometimes, I get stumped for a while and have to take a break and work on something else. I then burnish it with a wire wheel clear coat them or paint.
Gavin: How did you end up with so many different creations in such a short span of time?
Tim: I am always looking for a new show to enter or need a new piece for a gallery. I believe in variety, I don't even like driving the same vehicle. If I did the same subject all time, I'd be bored to tears and so would you. I like to have fun with my Art and hope that others feel the same. I enjoy seeing someone smile, laugh, take a picture, say "WOW", or show a friend my pieces. If I can do something that makes you happy, then we are all better off.
Gavin: Is it a challenge creating bigger designs like the scorpions or the massive T-Rex, or just the same principals on a bigger scale?
Tim: On a piece 6' and smaller, I can step back a few feet to make sure the proportions are correct and there is some balance to it. I learned the hard way when working on a piece that is 10' to 20', you've got to take a short hike and view the piece from every direction. The materials I use also will determine the size of the piece.
Gavin: What was the reaction from people when you started showing off these creations?
Tim: Usually, “WOW!” I discovered with the bigger pieces that it became family photo time. I guess it can be a little unique having your picture taken standing beside a 7' wooden scorpion, a 13' spider, or a 20' long T-Rex. I found out from someone that lives nearby that the large pieces in my front yard were used as landmarks for giving directions.
Gavin: How did you end up having your work displayed at Michael Berry?
Tim: Mike's gallery was one of the first galleries I approached when we moved to Utah. He really liked my art, but could not picture it in his gallery with the paintings on the walls and did not think he had enough space. I always enjoy stopping in and chatting with him. One time, we were chatting and he was saying how he thought he needed to put art in the display windows, but worried that the sun would ruin paintings. I happened to have a horse that I had just picked up from a show and we decided to put it in the window. He found that the horse brought into his shop people that normally would not have come in. Mike will be displaying my art along with Ric Blackerby starting June 18, Stroll night, and extending into July.
Gavin: What eventually led to you doing city-wide creations like the Flying Objects displays?
Tim: Working your way into becoming a recognized artist is kind of like graduating from college. You have your degree, but no experience. Most galleries and shows want a resume with solo artist shows, group shows, gallery showings, awards and such. I am continually networking and working to improve my resume. One of the areas that I felt also added credibility to my resume was public art. I am a believer that public art is a much needed item in any city or town. It increases their credibility as a entity. I was impressed that Salt Lake is aware of the positives to displaying art publicly and wanted to be a part of it. Flying Objects is unique in that it displays sculptures and not murals, the sculptures are scattered throughout the city, and they are sculptures that are displayed on poles. Creating a 12" model to enter was a new challenge for me, knowing that I wanted to use tools to build the sculpture and then knowing I would have to make the actual piece about 7 times bigger using tools again.
Gavin: Are there any plans to create a series of these, or is it more creating as you go?
Tim: I really haven't planned on doing a series of any kind, but if you walk into my gallery at home you feel like you're walking into a pasture of horses. Each horse unique with a personality all his own. I have also made a group of cats that my mother-in-law has most of. I love dinosaurs and will probably continue to create different ones. I also know that I would like to do another big dinosaur. But to sit down and actually do a series, I have not thought about it. I guess it is more creating as I go.
Gavin: Going local for a bit, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad?
Tim: When we were in Vegas, the art community was working hard to implement a Gallery Stroll. We were appreciative of the fact that not only Salt Lake had a successful stroll, but neighboring cities like Ogden and Park City. I believe that a Gallery Stroll is an essential part of a strong art community and something I enjoy being a part of. We have been appreciative of the art associations and councils that are there to help the artist. We have learned much from classes offered and competitions, as well as public art opportunities that are available. My personal opinion is that because of the economy and the availability of world wide technology, artists need to branch out and use different and creative ways of marketing. The galleries and strolls are a very social part of the community and are a great educator of the general population. I have seen all walks of people come in off the street into the galleries and leave educated and lifted. As an artist, it is not benefiting me as much because it is more social and people are not buying.
Gavin: What's your take on the Salt Lake Gallery Stroll as a whole and how its doing today?
Tim: That is something I am always considering and questioning. I don't know if I have any answers. In my personal research, I learned that the first entities to pull out of a depression were those that advertised. Those that were the best known. The more you put yourself out there, the more success you will have. As an artist, I used to believe that I could rely on the galleries to make my name known, but I think with the changing times, we need to look for additional markets. Back to the gallery strolls, I was disappointed this year to see that there were less galleries listed than previous years.
Gavin: What can we expect from you throughout the rest of year?
Tim: As a jeweler, I learned when it came to diamonds, women always said bigger was better. I love the philosophy. So... Look for our 2nd Annual Fall Show in November at my home gallery.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Tim: Yes, back to big. I think every community should have a big mural or sculpture depicting their history. Something that every person could see easily, a landmark. We know history mostly because of art. We know and understand ancient civilizations through their art.