Today we’d like to introduce you to Nathan Mott.
Nathan, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
No matter how many of these I write, I can never bring myself to use the same one twice. Given the fluidity of the human mind, it feels most authentic tell my how’s and why’s and anything that relevantly applies from a standpoint of how I recall my life at this very moment.
There are of course the facts, and those remain unchanged. Oh, and grammar/spelling. Let’s just say I do my best, but I never really got a handle on it. If I could see the mistakes when I make them I would fix it there and then. I know the difference between there and they’re, your and you’re but for some reason, and this has always been a part of my life, I can’t see the mistake when it’s made or even during the first or second proofread. So, if that’s something you just can’t tolerate, I understand, it bothers me too. (Not “to”) Stop reading now or carry on. Up to you.
The first salient memory from childhood that applies to my style of art, well, that’s Vermont, specifically a cabin in the woods that had no electricity, no running water and a single loft where my mother, sister and I slept in a triangle pattern of mattresses laid together on the floor.
This is always the starting point when it comes to the parts of my life’s timeline that most strongly resonate throughout my current art.
My art forms, my medium for sculpture and jewelry is a mix of vintage and antique pieces and parts, rock, foraminifera, and fossils. I first fell in love with these materials while rockhounding around the cabin in Vermont. New England is old bedrock and it’s had plenty of time to create some wild and beautiful mineral and crystal formations.
Without electricity, the usual creature comforts that involve a screen simply weren’t available. So, instead of Saturday morning cartoons, I had hours of repelling off cliffs looking for mineral specimens or swimming in mountain streams scaring the brook trout. Even the occasional dead owl or eagle wing harvesting to use their beautiful feathers. I could write a book about this time in my life and the influence it’s had on my past and current art but I’ll save you from my rants for now.
Just before high school, I went to live with my father in New Jersey, he was a teacher at a school that at the time, had one of the top 10 art programs in the country. My father and I were undeniably cut from different cloths and he never truly understood what it meant to need to create art. Though it is my firm belief that no matter what your circumstances, art will find the artist. I had finished all possible arts programs by my junior year and spent my final semester creating and producing three independent study projects overseen by the head of the visual arts department. This won me the Studio Art excellence award at graduation. Why am I talking about Highschool? Because I have absolutely no other credentials except for my thousands of failures and rare but intensely satisfying post real-world successes.
I didn’t last long in college; all the prerequisites simply weren’t getting me to the living and doing aspects of the art world fast enough so I dropped out after a year and a half…
Everything after that a mix of learning to survive and be a visual artist and musician. It was always in the back of my mind that the day jobs I had, mostly in the cafe & restaurant world were just stepping stones to my inevitable success as a musician & visual artist. Oh, the impetus of youth.
It’s hard to learn that people will consume art hardily but show an equal and opposite willingness to pay for it. Yet, the artist must create there’s no way around it. This next part you’ll think a tall tale but, I assure you it is not. Before I even had a chance to really get started after dropping out of Emerson College in Boston, my modest savings were drained because of a bad roommate situation. So, I packed my car and was ready to go back to an old construction job when I stopped at a gas station on the way out of town. I took my last 10 dollars bought a bad coffee and a 5-dollar scratch ticket. I figured why not? I’m already at rock bottom.
It was a game called Royal Riches. Get the crown with 10,000. I got the crown. I called my old boss, told him I wasn’t coming, I used the money to record a record that I would later send to Liane Hansen at NPR which in turn landed me an interview on weekend edition called “The life of an unsigned artist”. I was 23. They let me play a song live to a million listeners on a Sunday. Father’s Day actually. It’s funny I realize now I only ever listened to NPR because my father always had it playing.
This began a snowball that for a few short years gave me the confidence, cash and focus to pursue music as my sole art form. By 28 I had made the jump to Los Angeles, Hollywood actually, where I systematically deconstructed the heartfelt acoustic guitar singer-songwriter in me and reconstructed the new edgy pop rocker.
That was a mistake. Do you hear me Hollywood?! I should have stayed who I was. There came a point where I had completely forgotten the musician and artist I used to be and after more than ten years of music I sold almost all my instruments and moved to Nashville TN.
Yep, pretty sure I’m the only musician in history who ever moved to Nashville to quit music. So, there I was a decade of music behind me, living in Nashville TN trying to figure out what I was supposed to do. I supported myself consulting for coffee and tea or bartending even drove uber for a spell, but the loss of my musical life conjured this creative vacuum that would not stop eating away at me. Like a hyperactive child being told to sit still in a chair, my need to create burst into a dead sprint landing me….in an antique store…
Well a flea market actually, where I came across a table of old coins and stones and turquoise silver jewelry. I pulled an Indian head penny out of the bin at the edge of the table and it had the date 1888. There’s history with me and the 888’s but that’s another story. Everyone has a number. Think about it. You know you do. Anyhow…
After picking up every mineral specimen on the table and reminiscing about my time in Vermont to anyone that would listen, I went home with a few pieces of raw turquoise and an 1888 cent. I learned how to punch a clean hole in it and made my first necklace. I was hooked.
And as these things go I went back to the flea market the next month and found every 1888 dated coin I could. I’m wearing an 1888 seated liberty dime from that day even now. I decided I would make a necklace out of each of them, pair them with some of the raw minerals I’d bought and see if I could get anyone to buy a few.
Fast forward a few pop-up shops, social media blasts, and constantly talking to people about whatever one I happen to be wearing I managed to get people interested in this little company I had started by accident.
Because of the 888’s and I was redesigning things. Whatever, it works.
Be it that I was in Nashville and that musicians love to look stylish I had the good fortune of getting a few of my pieces on some country artists that appreciated me not gouging them on price. (I’d been where they were.) Funny though I never told any of them I used to be a musician. And, ironically, I was invited to so many of the studios, label offices and even big writing sessions that I would have killed to be included in my past life as a musician. Only this time I was selling them antique and vintage re-designed jewelry. Life’s strange. (“Aim for the moon even if you miss…. kind of thing?) maybe.
This brings me to now. Alongside the wearable art, I’ve taken to creating my MAD (Mineral Art Decor) pieces. They’re large mineral and crystal specimens as well as foraminifera fossil rock sculptures that satisfy the wabi-sabi – is in me. I’ll be adding more and more to 1888design.com as time goes by.
Thanks for listening, I know I’m a talker. I’ll show myself out. Nathan Mott – Creator Owner – 1888 Design
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
The raw materials for all foraminifera & mineral sculptures are personally hunted down & excavated by 1888 design before being worked by hand using a process uniquely developed by artist & 1888 Design creator Nathan Mott.
In order to call a sculpture complete, Nathan needs to reveal the hidden beauty that exists just beneath the surface of each specimen. The raw materials are put through a time-consuming sequence of steps where the time-worn surfaces are shaped, polished, and even dissolved before being mounted in a way that best enhances the piece.
Discovering what lies just beneath the surface, is the purpose as well as the result.
“The raw materials I use are quite literally hard as stone, & stone does NOT give up its secrets easily. Trying to muscle your way through the process never leads to desirable results. Brute force will only serve to crack, chip or even injure. Rather, patient study, time, respect, & even romance in a manner of speaking, is needed to reveal what’s hiding just beneath the surface. And like people, sometimes they flat out refuse to let you in. That too must be respected.
We assume we’re putting our best face forward every time we walk out the door. I’ve learned that it’s our scars, our walls of stone that we show the world first, and they’re often well painted and expertly constructed to look just like us! For inexplicable reasons, we paint ourselves & wall ourselves up. Hold up in our own scared exteriors. However, we wear our stories unknowingly & so to do the stones. All our truths lie hidden just beneath the surface. It takes the right combination of circumstances to reveal the honest you. I’m not sure I’m still talking about stone…”
Artists face many challenges, but what do you feel is the most pressing among them?
It is because we are all completely surrounded by art that we forget it’s value. The architecture of your home, even the elegant coding hidden away in your phone apps, is all art that started from a tiny spark of imagination fueled by human creativity. So, we have come to expect that everything we use or consume be beautiful.
If we expect it, as a given, the way we expect water to flow from our sink or electricity to flow from a socket, then art becomes a utility that we feel entitled to be given freely or at least cheaply.
How then can an artist survive?
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
The best place to view the art is 1888design.com. Joining the mailing list on the front page will ensure you will be the first to be notified about gallery showings.
- Website: 1888design.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/1888design/
Pictures by Nathan Mott & Jenny Brearton.