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Introduce yourself!

Hey there. I'm Scott and I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I'm a mentor and display artist at Store #10. I grew up in a quaint little apple orchard town in Southeastern Minnesota. My mother was a preschool teacher and my father worked for a lumber company.

What was your dream job as a child?

I remember drawing pictures of me as a doctor, a racecar driver, a fire fighter, and a soldier—you know, your standard boy stuff. Eventually, I understood that the only things consistent about my dream jobs were the illustrations. At some point I realized that I wanted to be an artist. I always remember drawing—staying up into the night listening to The National Geographic or Discovery channels, just drawing away.

What was your first job as a teenager?

It sounds really Norman Rockwell, but it was actually painting a white fence. After that, it was picking strawberries.

What was the worst job you've ever had?

In college, I signed up at a temp agency in Wisconsin and they sent me to a cheese factory—seriously. For hours I wore a white jump suit, a hair net, a beard net, white gloves, and goggles, and held open the empty foil bags inside boxes of nacho cheese on a conveyor belt while this Wonka machine squirted cheese into them. It wasn't the most difficult job I've ever had, but time stood still and everything smelled like nachos all the time.

How did you end up at UO?

I went to school in Wisconsin for fine arts and, after spending my first couple of years focused on drawing and printmaking, I became deeply interested in 3D media—casting and assemblage sculpture, specifically.

After graduating, I lived in Madison, Wisconsin, and then moved to Minneapolis and began to remodel houses with my best buddy. I also worked on a pretty intense framing crew where I learned a great deal from a few professional tradesmen. After working outdoors in the dead of winter for a few seasons, I wised up and moved to Hawaii where another friend had ended up as a bona fide general contractor. I split my time between building fancy houses and working as a studio assistant for a local artist. Subsequently, I moved to Brooklyn, briefly, to work for another artist. From there it was back to Minneapolis where I worked on some historical home renovation and then on to St. Louis where I took a job as a Display Artist for Urban. I eventually made my way back to Minneapolis.

Of all of the places you've lived, what was your favorite?

I know I'll catch some flack for not saying Hawaii, and New York is really fantastic, but overall, Minneapolis has my heart: the thriving bike culture, the city infrastructure, the access to green space, the food culture, the farmers' markets, the people, the exceptional public radio, the cost of living, and the progressive mindset all make living here wonderful.

What is a typical day at work like?

Gosh, it's kind of all over the place, which is what I love about it. I might be building something or figuring out how to build something, or teaching someone a process. I might be scoping out thrift stores for a found piece, or in the display cave all day prepping materials for a project. There's never a dull moment, I use power tools everyday, and I am surrounded by great people!

Can you tell us about the DA New Materials Contest and what you designed?

The idea was to tap into the resources of the company's talent and come up with inventive ways to use materials that we haven't yet played with. It's important, I think, to always keep in mind that projects like these still translate as "Urban" (DIY, but professional, and with a considerable amount of irony). My concept was to use metal lumber hardware—brackets, joist hangers, metal gusset plates, and the like—to join pieces of wood into crazy formations without having to make time-consuming angled cuts (the ironic element being that all of the components and elements look totally practical and purely functional, but are being used out of plumb and level in a sort of tangled, but organized, mess).

What was the inspiration behind your idea?

For this idea, specifically, I was inspired by the relationship between human beings and trees, which just magically come out of the ground and are perfect for building things (how fortunate!). I had a friend who was doing some logging and I thought about how difficult it is to cut apart a tangle of downed trees. If they fall into one another or into a pile, that accidental structure is incredibly resilient. I added a human touch of metal hardware and intentionality, and my submission was the result.

Our Minneapolis display artist Scott Olson has gone from painting fences to painting our stores—it just took him a few thousand miles and a ton of nacho cheese to get there.

Why do you think using recycled materials is a good idea for UO?

Let me count the ways. They're cost effective, they have a historical patina—that is, used materials always have some evidence of time, which is usually visually interesting—and recycled materials are a fantastic contrast to objects that are new or contemporary, like UO's clothing.

What is your favorite recycled material to use?

Any weathered old wooden item is pretty entrancing to me. Whether it's a door or a piece of furniture, an old wooden crate, or just a broken old piece of anything.

When it comes to art, what are you most interested in?

I'm just as fascinated with observation as I am with creation. I take a lot of photographs in order to document strange fleeting nuances of life and I casually collect smashed objects and plastic car shrapnel that I find in the street—the evidence of occurrence (like the slow transformation of rocks by a passing glacier except, in the case of plastic debris, telling the story of an event that occurred very quickly—I'm not into any Warholian car crash tragedies or anything). These days, rather than creating standalone sculptures, I relish in creating whole spaces with furniture, artwork, color, and functionality.

Where do you store those smashed objects and plastic car shrapnel?

I had a pretty massive collection before I moved around a lot. It was kind of an issue. I had a whole room in a basement full of stuff. Some ended up in sculptures, some didn't make the cut. At one point, years ago, I got rid of all of my furniture because my collection of non-functioning old televisions was too extensive. I stacked them everywhere: a TV for a bedside table, three TVs for a coffee table, and one whole wall was just TVs. Now, I'm actually an incredibly organized person. I can't handle clutter at all. But, I still like to take note of little anomalies and oddities in the world, so I just collect little tiny things and keep them in a little display case and a couple small boxes. I also practice catch and release so I don't turn back into a crazy hoarder (this is also why I snap pictures).

What do you like to do on your free time?

Outside of work I spend much of my time enjoying the Art of Living: I love farmers' markets, good food, and cooking; I'm into cheap champagne and expensive cheese; I spend a lot of time on my bicycle; I'm a nearly obsessive public radio listener (especially This American Life) and an avid Colbert Report viewer; I'll sit down and read the hell out of a good book; I practice meditation almost every day; I've started to become really interested in plants... I feel like I'm signing up for or something here...

What are the five best dishes that you cook?

1. Lately, I can't get enough of dino kale with apple cider vinegar, feta, sunflower seeds, and bacon.
2. I make a pretty mean curried cauliflower and potato.
3. I could eat fish every day. I just learned to put salmon in a bed of sea salt before you broil it to keep it from getting dry, so that's pretty exciting.
4. Butternut, coconut, and ginger soup is a favorite in the fall.
5. I love wild rice, nut, and cranberry porridge.

Who are your favorite artists?

My favorite artists in various medias are Anish Kapoor, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Virginia Woolf, Woody Allen, Philip Glass, Godfrey Reggio and Ron Fricke, Claude Debussy, Ingmar Bergman and Sven Nykvist, and Esquivel.

What kind of music are you interested in?

My interests have become really scattered all over the place in the past years. I'm into Juana Molina, Sinatra, Buffalo Daughter, and Tom Waits. I like to dig around (sometimes at the public library) for genres of music from other parts of the world that I've never been exposed to—like crazy Balinese Gamelan or the Mongolian horse herding music of Huun Huur Tu (but, you know... their older stuff). I also really enjoy total silence and house music—good house music.

What's something about you that not many people know?

I used to play theremin (and guitar) in a sort of low-esque psychedelic shoegazer band.

If you died tomorrow, what is something you would be remembered for?

The people who know me well would remember that I strive to be really compassionate. It's a real process, but I'm dedicated to cultivating this quality as much as possible.

What do you see yourself doing in the future?