I'd like to introduce you to a really interesting sculptor friend of mine, who also uses toothpicks to build with! Bob and I came into contact because of our mutual love for creating sculptures with toothpicks so I've been really eager to interview him about his work since the subject is beyond fascinating for me! The way he creates his little buildings and rocks and terrain in his work will just blow your mind as he can do wonders with the very ordinary toothpick! I often wish I could shrink myself down to be very tiny so I could explore his creations as they're so gorgeous and so imaginative!
As per most of my artist interviews, I sent Bob a series of questions which for me was quite a challenge as I have soooooo many questions that I had to really edit them down or he'd have received a very long list from me as I'm far too curious about his sculpting methods especially in a subject area that I adore!
So anyway please enjoy below my interview with Bob and then see below for all the links so you too can follow and stay up to date with everything he is creating:
Franceska: What first got you started building in toothpicks?
Bob: About 40 years ago, I visited the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum in St. Augustine, Florida. There were several toothpick and matchstick sculptures on display including, various musical instruments, a Model A Ford truck, and replicas of the Eiffel Tower and Tower Bridge in London, England. I was very intrigued by these pieces and thought to myself, I can do this. Not long after that visit I started creating small toothpick buildings.
Franceska: When you were growing up, what types of creative projects did you enjoy working on?
Bob: I really liked to draw and paint pictures, still do. Also, I loved to build tree forts. Sometimes I would take them apart and start over with a better design. Music is another creative outlet I truly enjoyed. I started playing drums when I was 12.
Franceska: Has there been anyone in your life who has been a big inspiration to you?
Bob: Yes, my wife. She has been my number one fan, motivator, supporter and source of inspiration since we met as teenagers.
Franceska: What were your early sculptures like and how do they differ from what you do now?
Bob: My first pieces were very small and didn’t have a lot of details. Most were like the tree forts mentioned above. Over time, I started developing techniques that helped me manipulate the toothpicks in different ways. These techniques have allowed me to become more detail oriented in my creations.
Franceska: Tell me what you love about toothpicks?
Bob: You can create with them really quickly. Hahaha, I wish. One of the things that’s cool is using toothpicks not only as a medium, but also as tiny tools. They are perfect for applying and cleaning off glue.
Franceska: How do you come up with your sculpture ideas now?
Bob: Sometimes I’ll have a dream about an idea and jump out of bed to start working on it, or at least make a quick sketch so I don’t forget. Other times I’ll start by making a window or door, or just an abstract little piece, and just keep adding to it. I like to let the sculptures “build themselves” you know, coming up with new ideas as you create. I don’t sit down and draw a complete blueprint first. I also don’t enjoy making replicas. I love to just use my imagination for my pieces.
Franceska: Describe to me what a typical "Day in the Life of Bob" is like?
Bob: Get up and grab a diet Mt. Dew, I don’t like coffee, go in my studio, turn on the radio and get to work. Monday thru Friday I usually create about 5 to 10 hours a day. I try to get in a little work on weekends, but life is not all about toothpicks. hahaha. Also, being a musician, most gigs are on weekends.
Franceska: Where do you get your toothpicks from and do you have a preference?
Bob: I buy toothpicks in bulk from an online site. I usually order 2-4 cases at a time. Each case has 24 boxes of 800 count round/square center toothpicks. They are from Royal brand, but I’ve used Foster, Diamond and other brands in the past. While I mostly use round/square center toothpicks, I also use regular round and flat for certain applications.
Franceska: Have you had any big failures in finding your style and have you found good solutions to past problems?
Bob: Like most artists, I have some projects that just don’t have the right flow. So, either they sit around collecting dust or I change the direction. I wouldn’t say I’ve had any big failures finding my style, it’s just evolved for many years through trial and error.
Franceska: What do you enjoy the most out of what you do now?
Bob: Not only do I love to create through art and music, I must create. Creating is like oxygen for me, I need it to live.
Franceska: Who is your biggest influence in your life right now? How does your life experience feed into your art?
Bob: I was born in Naples, Italy and all the beautiful seaside towns throughout the country seem to be seared in my head. That’s the only explanation I can think of as to where most of my architectural ideas come from.
Franceska: What are your hopes and dreams for your art practice now?
Bob: I hope to continue to have opportunities to share my work through interviews like this, magazine articles, exhibitions, etc. Having my art out there for the world to see the past 5-6 years has been a dream come true. I’m very thankful...and lucky.
Franceska: Are you working on anything exciting at the moment and can you share a little bit about it?
Bob: I have a few projects I’m currently working on, but the most exciting one is, I’m working on a new section of my largest sculpture, Bob’s Toothpick City. When this phase is complete, the total toothpick count will be close to half a million. It will be approximately 10 feet wide, 2 feet tall and 2 feet deep. I hope to have it finished in a year or so.
Franceska: Thank you so much, Bob for letting me delve into your world and for answering my questions about your work and lifestyle as an artist! I feel so inspired by your answers and I want to publish this and immediately get back to studio to get on with my toothpick sculptures too! I feel like I related to so well of what you have said and I'm so pleased you were willing to share!
To keep up to date on all of Bob's work then please follow these links:
*If you really enjoyed this artist interview and would like to see more like this then stay tuned every Friday at 9am (UK time) for more really interesting artist interviews!
My name is Franceska McCullough and I'm the owner and artist of Toothpickmoon. I'm interested in blogging about art materials, art events and conducting artist interviews.
*Disclosure: The links I'm using on this blog will only ever relate to the products I myself use in my own practice.