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Name: Ben Skinner
Title: Designer/ Artist
About: Ben Skinner grew up in Petrolia, a small oil town in Southern Ontario. He graduated with a BFA in Interdisciplinary Fine Art from the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design in 2000, and with an MFA in Art & Technology from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2003. Text is a reoccurring element in many of his works that can range from snowballs in a chain-link fence to hand cut wood veneer inlay to candy sprinkles. These short statements often shift between interpretations while winking knowingly at the viewer. When he’s not creating art for himself he is designing fun window display/installations for Aritzia and TNA stores across North America. Ben has called Vancouver home since 2006.
Your work is colourful, playful and romantic. Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m constantly being inspired by everything around me. It’s a question I get asked a lot and not one easily answered. Here is a copy of my “artist’s statement” from my website that works as a kind of manifesto of my interests and fascinations.
What’s your personal design philosophy?
I think the importance of the presentation of an idea, it’s finish and refinement should be right up there with the idea itself. I also believe you should spend as much time as you can learning how to use every tool that comes across your path. Exploration and play paired with good clean self-imposed restraints. If there isn’t a problem to solve you won’t come up with a good solution. Sometimes you need to create a problem in order to solve it.
Could you describe your process?
I examine the parameters of the project. I think about weather they feel comfortable or weather they need some distorting or stretching. The space, the audience, the intent, time frame, budget. All of these things are taken into consideration before and as I’m working on a concept. I start thinking about materials, techniques, tools.
Which materials do you use the most?
I don’t really have a usually go to material. Most recently I’ve been working with colour tinted plaster.
What is your most cherished tool? What parts of your work do you do by hand?
The vinyl plotter.
Even though I use a laser cutter, a huge amount of what I do involves working with my hands. I would say more than 50%.
How does laser cutting tools play a role in your design process?
They are really just tools that I use to cut things out. Some projects are more fitting for one than the other. One limitation I find with CNC Routering is the radius interior corners. With laser cutting you can get nice tight interior corners, but there are more size, and material limitations.
Which of your projects are you most excited about right now and why? Are there any makers you like and recommend?
Right now I’m working on a neon text infinity mirror. I’m excited to see it come together. I had the neon custom made and some circles CNC routed of Plexiglass and some mirrored Plexi faced MDF. I’m in the process of assembling the various outsourced parts together into the final piece.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your design process?
It’s hard to look at my process from within. It seems organic to me and shifts and bends depending on the project’s specific requirements and limitations. But I’m sure someone examining my process would find patterns and systems I create that are invisible to me.