Stoop Story 04: Ole Nelson
The Architect’s Wife has always been focused internally on showcasing our showroom space and the artists, creators, or makers within it. But given the current circumstances, we’re learning to shift our focus and connect with people in new ways. More importantly, we want to shine a light on craftspeople and the creativity they contribute to our community. In this series which we’ve dubbed “Stoop Stories”, The Architect’s Wife visits friends and makers to share how they’re staying in/spired.
Let us introduce you to Ole Nelson – a maker, builder, artist and humourist. He operates out of an unsuspecting sign warehouse near downtown Bozeman, Montana. Ole’s process involves everything from freehand drawing, digitizing images, meticulously measuring, cutting on a behemoth plasma table, and finally, assembling and welding pieces together. The majority of his work falls into sign making and large-scale sculptures. A lesser known fact: Ole designed the original logos for Bozeman Brewing Company (a beloved staple for many local Bozmanites). Exploring Ole’s space and exchanging stories from the stoop was quite a delight. We hope Ole generates some curiosity and encourages you to follow your creative pursuits – no matter the medium, the scale, or how daunting the process may be.
Tell us what you do. How did you fall into your craft?
Over the past 25 years I have designed and built a wide variety of art, signs, furniture, lighting, and sculpture. The bulk of these projects over the years have been signs and sign related artwork. My passion over the last decade has been on sculpture and large scale sign projects. I moved from Wisconsin to Bozeman to attend MSU and study graphic design with an emphasis on sculpture. While finishing my last year of college, a friend and I purchased an existing sign shop on the north side and thus began my career as a commercial artist.
What was your first ever job?
My first job in middle school was working for a small apple orchard that was a mile from where I grew up.
What have you been up to during quarantine?
My overall day to day has not changed that much, other than the bulk of projects I was working on and bidding where very effected by the shutdown and most have taken a pause in their projects. I have been spending more time on the computer than usual, learning some new design programs and brushing up on my Illustrator and Photoshop skills to make my project proposals much more photo-realistic. I have also been perfecting my new skills as a “shed-farmer”
What’s something you’ve been working on your excited about?
In the works now are some exciting projects for the new Armory Hotel and the related Armory Music Hall. Also I am working on the approved historic Ellen blade sign and hope that they will be able to open in some way in the near future.
What’s something one might not know about you?
Well, I have a mean pickleball serve
Where do you find inspiration?
I would say that I find the most inspiration from following my curiosity. I have always been fascinated with hidden energy of people, places and things. This “hidden” energy has influenced my process as an artist and it comes through in how my sculptures are conveyed to the public. This can show up in the form of motion from a static image, softness from a hard steel shape, and the motion and gesture that began as a simple black and white sketch. A sculpted piece in not finished until I have put all of my energy into it, so that I am depleted, like I have transferred all that energy into the piece itself.
Anything else you’d like to share?
I would say that over the years the thing that has had the biggest impact on my creative pursuits would be that I have been fortunate to have had projects and people that have really pushed my comfort level. Building the biggest sign project followed by the largest sculpture I have ever built in the same year has given the confidence to feel comfortable with large scale public art.
On another note: AW is happy to report that thanks to an anonymous tip the iconic Starlite sign has been returned to it’s home and is safe with Ole as its steward. See full story here.
The Architect’s Wife is focused on sharing togetherness, inspired spaces, and warmth in any capacity we can generate it. Here we shine a light on craftspeople and the creativity they contribute to our community.