Vintage industrial spark: Artist handcrafts objects of wonder

December 2018 Posted in Arts, Culture & History, Community, People

By Nancy Jennings

With 16 of his edgy art pieces being displayed in September at Lunaria Gallery, Silverton artist Joshua Kinsey knows how to make an impression. After all, he has sold his creations worldwide. Classifying his art’s aesthetic as “vintage industrial,” he’s quick to point out the differences between his “from scratch” creations to the current trendy “Steampunk” style.

“My art aesthetic has motifs referencing the Victorian Era and  the Industrial Revolution, back when design was emphasized – where design was celebrated over function,” he explained. “I try to source inspiration from that time, about 130 years ago.”

“Steampunk is basically ‘Victorian Futurism,’ imagining what the future would look like from someone who lived in the Victorian times,” he said. “Now the design tenets have basically been assimilated by popular culture. It’s all about repurposing things.” He further described the Steampunk style as collecting an assortment of gears, bolts, springs and other bits of junk from the “Steam Engine” era, then spray painting the assemblage with gold paint.

“I’m coming at it from the exact opposite direction. Everything that I do is made from scratch. I don’t repurpose anything. In my workshop, I’m fabricating 95 percent of my parts and the other five percent are purchased items like fasteners or electrical components.”

Kinsey, 44, and his wife, Katelyn, 47, have been married for 23 years and have two children – son, Braxton, 22, and daughter, Tessa, 19. The family moved to Silverton in 2009 from Modesto, California. With Katelyn being born and raised in Silverton, the couple was happy to realize their 26-year dream of moving back to her hometown.

Kinsey earned a BA degree in Computer Graphics from Cogswell Polytechnical College in San Jose, California.

In the comfort of his recently self-built 800-square-foot workshop, Kinsey owns a wide variety of specialized machinery to construct his custom art pieces. He enjoys collecting lathes.

To date, his smallest art piece was a half inch in diameter, while the largest was 24 feet wide by 8 feet tall. The creative process is a very collaborative one with his customers – one that requires clear communication to ensure the finished piece fulfills and matches the customer’s desired result. He has established basic criteria that can influence the final design “of a bespoke sculpture”: size restrictions, color palettes, shapes of rooms, specific tasks in which customers want the piece to function, and specific electrical requirements. Hours of hand-drawn sketching and computer-aided design (CAD) 3D modeling are utilized to arrive at a final design concept. Smaller pieces, such as a table lamp, can take him between 40 – 60 hours to design and fabricate a finished piece.

He is currently in the process of designing a chandelier for a customer in Minnesota, and a massive bar tap sculpture for an architect in Texas. When a large piece is finished, it generally doesn’t simply get shipped off to the customer. Kinsey makes house calls – since most deliveries include intricate installation procedures.

Also, size is a factor. “It’s a lot easier to go deliver and install it myself than to ship it on pallets and have to explain to somebody else how to do it.”

For instance, in 2014, a customer from Manhattan, New York commissioned five pieces. The coast-to-coast trek clocked 4,000 miles and took four days to drive. “We actually drove from here (Silverton) to New York to deliver them. One of them was a 12-foot-tall chandelier for his living room. He had an apartment in the World Trump Tower. We got to stay in his apartment for nine days while we assembled the piece, and then we flew home.”

Other pieces and places included an outside fireplace mantel piece in San Diego, California, and 10 interior pieces (which included five nine-foot-tall lamps, each with 1,200 components) at a restaurant in Dallas, Texas.

Professional recognition found Kinsey when he won “The Best of Art & Craft Award” at the 2014 “Geekie Awards,” an international arts competition, presented at the Avalon Theater in Hollywood, California. In addition, he was the prop master and set designer for the 2014 independent movie, The Record Keeper, designing and fabricating over a dozen “hero” props for the production.

How does Kinsey keep track of the limitless ideas that spark his imagination? “I have a sketchbook that lives on my nightstand,” he said. I have a lifetime of ideas and not enough time to build them all.”

For more information about Kinsey’s works, go to his website

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