Interview 06: Robert the Great
Interview 06 is with a very good friend of mine. Robert is an artist and man of many trades...
glass work, metal work, painting, chainsawing, to name a few. He also lives in a tiny home he built himself.
Find out more about that, what his signature wrestling move would be called, his favorite time of
day to shower, and why he creates and makes art, among many other interesting tidbits.
You can view his work on his website here.
Robert, who are you and where do you come from?
Uhm, that's a big question. I don't know who I am, but I came from Georgia. I was born in Chicago, lived in Tokyo when I was a kid, lived in Atlanta, came out here (Colorado) for high school, Seattle for six years, and back out here.
Describe your current living situation
and how long have you been living this way?
I live in a tiny house that I built,
and I've lived in this manor for about two years.
How long did it take to build?
It took me about three months, but I was living in the warehouse where I was building it and working full time so those are factors. It was my first start-to-finish building project. I'd worked a little bit of construction, but not a lot. So it was a good learning curve. And you don't learn out of luxury; you learn out of necessity. There were a lot of things that I had to research so I had to learn while I was building it. I used a lot of YouTube and friends and intuition.
Can it move?
It can move. It's a single axle car trailer that's rated for about 3,000 pounds, and I think the house is about 2,500.
It's about 70 square feet.
It's off solar.
Do you have an oven?
No, I have a propane tank for cooking, but the electricity comes from the solar that I got for free, and it can be off the grid for a few weeks, until I run out of water.
Least favorite feature?
Lack of bathroom.
Have you ever built an igloo?
No...a snow igloo?
Is there another kind of igloo?
Oh, yes, I did build one out of two by fours.
Oh my god, it was such a pain. I helped this artist build a wooden igloo and they couldn't get it into the museum. So they had to chainsaw it in half, and then they asked me to put it back together and it was so hard to route out bricks by hand, but they were two by fours. Two by four bricks, pounded into place, ground back flush, rock putty-ed the whole thing, and then sanded it back down.
How big was this thing?
Like a legit igloo...ten feet by ten feet.
Do you throw bread for the ducks?
Definitely. Or crackers.
What is your favorite...
Mode of transportation: Motorcycle
Insect: Lightening Bug
Mythical creature: Probably Medusa
Metal: Mild Steel
Classic Rock song: Cowgirl in the Sand
Breakfast food: Smoothie
Time of day to take a shower: 11PM
Finger: Pointer...or no, thumb. Definitely thumb.
Country that you've visited: Spain
Creation of yours: Uh...I cast bronze into glass, so that's probably it.
In what ways do you create? What are some of your creative hobbies or current projects?
The trade that I'm best known for is glass working...soft glass, sculptural. And I do a lot of metal fabrication. A lot of painting. I just started getting into chainsaw carving. So that's my newest project. I moved these stumps that were 1,500 pounds the other week and I'm starting to carve them. I'm learning.
What is your favorite medium or material to work with?
Well I did my taxes, and that sent me into an existential crisis...so I'm questioning whether glass is really my favorite. But my dad says everyone goes into an existential crisis after taxes. I made so little money this year it's astonishing. I might have to say metal right now.
Upcoming shows? Or however your show your artwork to the world? What do you have coming up?
It's usually shows. I'm doing the stage for Mountain Fair, and the theme is water so it's gonna be some fountains. I'm making all the glass in North Carolina at this place called Jackson County Green Energy Park, which is the only glass shop run off methane in the world. So it's like the only eco-friendly one. I make all my glass down there...or most of it. And then my homie Debbie and I have a two-person show in Grand Junction at the Arts Center and that's in August.
And that's metal work?
It's metal, glass, painting. I help Debbie do her metal. So yeah, we'll see how it goes.
What's the first thing you do in the morning?
I look out the window to make sure the world's still there.
Have you ever made someone cry?
Absolutely. Part of this painting show is going to be all of the broken hearts of the babes, but they're gonna be like as a flower. So I'm gonna do all of these flowers in these vases, maybe broken or dead flowers.
Are these hearts that you've broken?
What inspires you to create?
Where do your ideas come from?
Uhh...good artists borrow and great artists steal (subtle laughter...) Just kidding...I like to see what other people are doing, especially people that I admire, and then in trying to recreate a similar idea, it turns out totally different. But you take the idea from someone else. Like William Morris is one of my biggest artistic inspirations, so I look a lot at what he has done and then think about how I would reinterpret that. But a lot of the people that I work for now I get really inspired by. Like James Surls specifically, I'm trying to get into chainsaw carving just because of that.
So do you try to interpret the same meaning that they find and then recreate that? Or do you take something that you see and reinterpret it into your own meaning?
Yeah, I usually reinterpret it into my own medium. Especially because I feel like I have the foundation now in glass that doesn't necessarily...like I feel like I've plateaued, at least with hand skills. So in trying to recreate other ideas in different mediums than glass...that is something that I feel like I can bring to the table.
If you were a wrestler, what would your special move be called?
What's the most unusual thing you've ever eaten?
Uh, you ever heard of stinky tofu?
Stinky tofu? No...
It's fermented tofu. They have it in Taiwan. It smells like sewage.
How is it prepared?
Somehow they ferment tofu blocks and then fry them. And it makes you want to throw up when you smell it, but then you eat it and it's really good.
Do you eat it plain or with something else?
You use chopsticks and then maybe you dip it in something.
Do you collect anything?
I have a weird little alter of trinkets that kind of remind me of places I've been.
Mario or Luigi?
Broken leg or broken arm?
Lettuce or spinach?
Burlap or cardboard?
Spring or Summer?
Overland or overseas?
Lawn grass or native grass?
Beetle or butterfly?
Banana split or milkshake?
Neither...I don't really do milk.
Up or down?
What are some personal achievements that you're most proud of?
Building the house was a big one. And Gondola Coffee. I really want to focus on finishing things that I say I'm going to do. Because there are a lot of people that don't, and it drives me crazy. So the fact that I said I wanted to do a coffee shop in a gondola...halfway through I was like, this is a huge waste of my time, but I was so insistent on finishing what I started, that I did. And I think that's just a good way to be. I don't know if it's around here, or in the millennial zone, but people bail.
I think that's humans in general.
But I don't think it used to be that way, because of smartphones. Because if you didn't show up at 7:30 at the movie theatre, you just weren't coming to hang out that night, you know? And I think...it's easier to bail these days. And that bums me out. Say-to-do ratio.
What are you going to do next?
I'm gonna climb like it's my part-time job this summer. I'm going to take the mobile glass shop around to kind of do my social service that way...educating people. I'm gonna stick around, I think, for the summer...more or less. I wanna go to Spain in the Fall for a few months.
If you were ruler of your own country, what would you call it?
I would visit. Why do you make art?
Because it's...because you don't have to feel guilty about it. There's so much that you do in the world that is bad for the planet and it makes you feel like shit, and it just isn't good for everybody. Art is something that you can feel good about doing and spending your time doing. And you give up a lot of creature comforts and time, but at least you're not wasting your hours away working for someone you hate. So yeah, I think that's probably why.
What is the most important piece of advice you could give someone right now?
Do the right thing.
So you have a mobile glass shop, you have a mobile home, and you have a mobile coffee shop. Anything else that's mobile?
Those are all of my possessions really. Oh, I have a studio space that's not mobile. But I could move in two hours pretty much, at any given moment.
With multiple businesses.
If I could only hitch them together like a train...
So you could have Berto Ville...Town...
Robertopia as a small train, just moving along its way...