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Meet Bruce Gray of Sculpture by Bruce Gray

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bruce Gray.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I had very little direction when I was in high school, but the one thing I was most proud of was that I made an electric guitar completely from scratch in wood shop class, and it was beautiful, and it was my design. Even though I joined the Coast Guard after graduation, the fact that I was able to make something that cool stayed with me. It just takes acquiring some tools and finding a place to set up shop to get started.

After being an electronics technician in the Coast Guard for 4 years, I went to The University of Massachusetts for Design on the GI Bill. I was let in on a probationary basis as I had never really taken art or design courses previously. I could stay in the program as long as I got at least a B average. College was easy compared to the discipline and hard work of military life, so I maintained very good grades. After college then comes to the real world, and I chose to move up to Boston and worked in photography and then advertising for about 6 years. I really enjoyed both those fields, and still do, but I just had to try making my own work in some form.

I decided to try moving to Los Angeles to make my own designs in art and furniture. I was pretty good with woodworking skills, but what I needed was a metal fabrication. The easiest and cheapest way to do that is buying the tools and get good with them. So that’s what I did. I bought a welder and taught myself how to use it, occasionally asking for advice at the good old welding store. Metal just fascinated me because of how strong it is and how easily it is to attach and fabricate things with a simple weld. Once I got hooked on welding, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time with wood projects anymore.

If you are a good metal worker, there is not much you can’t make, so this opened up a lot of directions to me, and I took full advantage of that, going off in lots of diverse styles of work. I have been so happy to have found something that I love to do working for myself and making enough money to continue and also buy new tools and machines that open up even more doors as to what I am capable of creating.

I have now been doing my sculpture full time here in Los Angeles since January of 1989, and I have had a warehouse studio at the Brewery artist community for over 26 years. I mostly sell my work myself through my website, and I have lots of interesting clients like airports, museums, hotels, universities, celebrities, hospitals, and hundreds of times featured in movies and on TV.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has not been an easy road, and that is to be expected if you try to make a living as an artist. What I am best at is that I have a neverending supply of ideas that I want to make, and I am good with tools. My worst business trait is that I don’t spend enough time schmoozing at art gallery openings and that sort of thing. In fact, the only time I usually deal with galleries now is when they email me and tell me they have a client who wants one of my sculptures.

People often ask me how I survive as a full-time artist, and the answer is mostly my dedication to my work and the fact that I work my tail off. I have not taken more time off than an occasional 3 day weekend in around 24 years. I am not complaining though, because I would just rather be making my art than doing almost anything else. When I do take a day off, I love the ocean and enjoy scuba diving, windsurfing, sailing, fishing, motorcycling, and hanging out with my most excellent friends.

Just a peak in the window of trials and tribulations would reveal me eating nothing but peanut butter sandwiches for weeks at a time and doing home dentistry like pulling out a bad tooth with some vise grips. Luckily things are the busiest they have ever been, so I eat better now etc.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
I am known as a sculptor with a very diverse body of work and skills. I make standing sculptures, wall sculptures, magnetic sculptures, animal sculptures, kinetic sculptures, abstract paintings, functional art furniture, mobiles, found object assemblages, stables, carved wood sculptures, giant objects, rolling ball machines, jewelry, photography, and more.

My shop has a lot of great production equipment like CNC plasma cutting, MIG and TIG welding, rolling, bending, and laser cutting. I also make custom sculptures for the movie and television industry and have a boatload of credits on IMDb. I think what sets me apart is my level of creativity and ability to work in many styles and mediums.

I am most proud of the fact that people often tell me how much enjoyment my work brings to them, or that it makes them smile. I have been doing several projects with children’s hospitals, including a recent installation of a family of four giant robot sculptures for Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto. Bringing a bit of happiness to peoples lives is very satisfying.

What were you like growing up?
As a kid we moved around all the time, living in multiple places in New Jersey, a couple of years in Brussels, Belgium, and also Bridgewater, Massachusetts for my high school years. I have always been creative and adventurous and a bit of a prankster. I was interested in scuba diving, long bicycle camping trips, MAD Magazine, music, guitar, sharks, ice hockey, wrestling, exotic sports cars, photography, and making stuff. I pictured myself growing up to work either for Jacques Cousteau, MAD Magazine, or possibly as the next James Bond, or more likely “Q”.

I loved spy gadgets, and in about 6th grade made a semifunctional underwater rebreather and a spy briefcase that would shoot out a dart if you opened it, and could spray out disappearing ink through a small hole, etc. I was the type of kid who skipped school and took a train into New York City and went to MAD Magazine headquarters and met William Gaines and got a full tour and some very cool souvenirs. I also really got a lot of confidence and skills from being in the Boy Scouts for a couple of years. Some friends and I used to hop on our bicycles and disappear on Cape Cod for weeks during the summer with only a few bucks and we would see how long we could survive before being 100% broke. We ate things like a large $1 wastebasket sized can of survival biscuits from the army navy store.

During senior year of high school, I went to the Navy recruiter to sign up for the Seal Team, but they convinced me that I was not the soldier warrior type of person, so I joined the Coast Guard instead. That was great advice, and I loved and am very proud of my time with them.

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