Artist Profile: Windy Island Designs

Besides skateboard builders, we get a lot of interesting customers who like to use our veneer. One of my personal favorite is Windy Island Designs who make these ultra rad earrings, wine stoppers, drawer pulls and underwater-creature art!!  I sat down with Tom to ask some fun questions and you can check out their work at Windy Island Designs

Hey Tom, how are you? Can you tell me a little bit about Windy Island Designs?

Windy Island Designs was born after many years of creating art. It began in the 1970's creating wooden toys and over the years included wooden bookmarks, ornaments, custom made wooden signs and furniture to name a few. In the process of looking at new materials, I discovered colored plywood and the possibilities for what I could create with this opened up. The name Windy Island Designs was inspired by my love of the wind and water and where we live. We were living on an island in Lake Champlain in Vermont at the time the name was created. It fits well in our new home in the outer banks of North Carolina.  

How did you get into making these crazy shells, animals, skulls, mermaids, etc? What are your favorite things to create? 

Windy Island designs uses an innovative process of combining hand carving and technology to create sea inspired wood sculpture & wearable art. Each piece is individually carved and hand finished. A variety of woods is used to complement the designs. Exotics are recycled woods from furniture and instrument makers. The unique colored wood is created using veneer intended for skateboard decks. We create the color wood by laying up the veneers in different combinations. The process of liberating each piece reveals the distinct personality of the individual sculpture. This art form evolved from many years of making art, drawing from a Nordic seafaring and artisan heritage. The spirit of that heritage has been the inspiration for these pieces.

I really love the sea shells. When Michelangelo was asked how he made the David he said "It is easy. You chip away the stone that doesn't look like David".  Do certain veneers look like creatures before hand? Or do you just chip away till you get your vision? 

Sometimes the materials do serve to inspire an idea or design, and often the design comes from my surroundings and then translated into using the materials to create the piece. What I love about using the veneers are the endless possibilities of color combinations and how they play out with the designs. I love coming up with new designs and doing custom work. Some of my favorite pieces are the "Skelly" fish or bonefish. This piece shows the colors in a beautiful and unique way.  It is one of our best sellers.

That's amazing and sounds like a lot of fun. Where do you sell your products?  is this your main job? 

We sell our art primarily at art shows. We do shows locally and travel the east coast as well. We show at farmers' markets to fine art shows.  We have a website, facebook page and sell on Etsy. We are working on growing on-line sales. However, the art sells best when it is seen and touched and we are able to make a connection with people. It is a bit more challenging to translate the passion and emotion of the art on the internet. It serves a purpose in getting our art out to more people, but it is best sold in person. 

Making and selling art is my one and only job. I work with my wife, Keven. She does the organizing for shows, photography and manages the website. We have been on this journey together for 42 years and are having a blast doing it full time.  

How did you find out about Roarockit? What got you using our veneer?

I discovered Roarockit when researching where I could get the colored veneer after I lost my supplier in Vermont.  I had been getting the already made colored plywood from a company called Rutland plywood. I woke one day to the headline that it burned to the ground, so then had to figure out how I would get this material.  

I now create my own plywood using Roarockit veneers. It gives me the freedom to create my own color combinations and people love it when I tell them that I use the same material used to make skateboards.  

If someone was going to get into carving these creatures, do you have any advice or pro tips?

My advice for anyone wanting to make art is, "never, ever, ever give up". It takes putting in the time and being willing to fail and move on. No matter how talented an artist is, it takes work, passion and time.

Thanks for the passion and your time Tom.  Any last words for the folks back home?  

Thanks for your interest in our art and we appreciate the chance to share our experience with others. We love our partnership with all of you at Roarockit.