In an effort to amplify the voices of Black artists in the Utah community, Craft Lake City is celebrating Black History Month this February with weekly artist features! This week, we’re spotlighting local designer and artist Spencer Nugent of 5050 Creative Labs. Here you’ll find our interview with Spencer about his process and how his work relates to his identity and heritage.
How long have you been creating, and in what media?
I’m an industrial designer based in Cottonwood Heights. I’ve been creating for about 20 years now. My primary media are wood, 3-D printing, CNC carving, laser, cutting, cement and glass. Every idea starts with a sketch.
What inspires you to create?
Creation to me is a means of sharing my energy and love with the world. While as a designer, we often designed for mass consumption, I embrace the idea that passion is the process, and my designs are for mass appreciation. I try to create designs that are approachable and understandable, while at the same time, minimizing my impact on the environment. Additionally, creating products that people love is a way to create products that last.
What has the process been like for you, getting to that style? How has your design style changed over time?
As a designer, who works independently, you learn to be a bit of a chameleon. What I mean is every project requires a different side of you. It’s hard for me to say that my style comes from any singular place. Experience is what gives rise to style. How we live and what we live for, the people we meet, the conversations we have, the essence we consume, creatively or literally, does feed our expression. Because I work with a variety of clients and have worked in a variety of fields, it’s giving me an opportunity to have a solid base to then decide on how I want to express my own style.
Starting out in my career I was very much wanting to try and mimic or Frankenstein together bits and pieces of others’ creative output and use that as inspiration to create my own style.
Now I try to lean into what truly speaks to me. The thing about style is, there’s no right or wrong way to do it as long as you’re doing it your way. I do prefer simple expressions that are understandable in terms of an object. I do like to reference other cultures where possible, including my own Jamaican essence. I also feel as though every object has a narrative related to its essence.
Could you talk a little more about how your work is connected to your Jamaican heritage?
As a Jamaican, we come from a land of rich resources, but the land is limited. I tried to keep this awareness in my work by using responsible methods for sourcing and minimizing waste. I like to think that, naturally, we create through the lens of our own lived experience and so everything I do is in essence an expression of my identity and heritage. I come from a family line that values arts and creative expression and has influenced me tremendously throughout my life.
Do you have any advice to other artists looking to use responsible methods/minimal waste?
I think it’s important to remember that as idealized our individual views might be with regards to our impact, we do each create waste and efficiency. I think it’s important to be up close with the first, second, and third order effects of the things we create. Take a trip to the landfill and you’ll realize how wasteful people truly are. Seeing the effects of our creative output helps us be more conscious about each step along the way.
Look for the potential where others see none. As is often said, “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure,” or something like that. It starts with the beginning by questioning “What if?” Another question might be “Why haven’t you?” What I mean is that it’s through asking questions that we expose opportunities to either learn or execute on an idea. If someone hadn’t asked me if I’d ever cut a bottle, I may not have thought to myself “you should cut some glass.”
Additionally, it’s OK to not know the answer right at the beginning. Have a willingness to learn how to do something into investing yourself to be able to do that thing, and you open doors for your creativity using minimal waste or responsible materials.
Is there anything else about you you’d like our audience to know?
I am a full-time, single father, which, of course is a labor of love. I try to be a renaissance man of sorts, by always embracing learning, making mistakes, and exploring new, creative processes and pathways.
What’s the latest creative process you’ve discovered/started playing around with that you’re really excited about?
My most recent creative efforts involve the glass bottles that I’ve been cutting and reusing. I have expanded the line of home goods products to include candles that are scented.
I’m also saving the tops of the bottles and hoping to crush them and incorporate the glass into an aggregate of cement to turn into additional home decor items. That’s as detailed as I will get right now, but I have a vision for it.
I’ve also recently acquired a laser cutter that I plan to use on fabric, glass, and wood.
Where can people see/purchase your art currently?
Ha! This is a tricky question because I’m kind of everywhere. I like to think that I’m easy to find with a Google search for Spencer Nugent. That being said if you’re interested in furniture or experimental projects I’m working on, check out www.5050.design or @5050creativelabs on Instagram.
For drawing and illustration, I’m usually hanging out on my YouTube channel @ youtube.com/sketchadaydotcom. I’m also posting at @sketchadaydotcom on Instagram.
Craft Lake City’s artist features highlighting national DEI Awareness Months will continue throughout the year on our social media channels (@craftlakecity) and here on our blog. Stay tuned to hear from other local creatives working to make Utah a more vibrant and accepting place to live, work and create!