This month’s artisan spotlight features Nate Ricketts of Nate Ricketts Design. The way Nate uses natural materials in his designs and his beautification of earthly treasures is inspiring. He is also an inspiration in his dedication to his community and beyond as he has worked to give back in the midst of the pandemic. We can’t wait for you to learn more about Nate Ricketts and his work!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am an artisan who, for the past 20 years, has created high-quality art pieces from nature’s most interesting materials. I have always been enamored with Victorian-era Seashell Applique Mirrors and collectibles from Europe. I started making my own seashell mirrors while in school and selling them easily in my hometown of Newport Beach, CA. I was always so impressed with the craftsmanship of the era, and how the pieces still hold their charm and appeal after hundreds of years. From those first mirrors to my current work, I make it a priority to create pieces that will stand the test of time and be appreciated for centuries to come.
Who are your biggest influences?
I would have to say the countless seashell applique artists that came before me are definitely a major influence, but the single biggest influencer of my work was the amazingly talented designer, Dan Marty. I worked for Dan for many years, and he was influential in honing my artistic eye to a finer design aesthetic. He tragically died in 2014 of an aggressive brain tumor just as he was reaching status as a superstar designer in Hollywood. I am also a huge fan of the work of Christopher Marley of Pheromone, and the marvelous Objet de Curiosite who both use nature’s wonders so cleverly in their designs.
When did you first realize you wanted to pursue your artistic dream?
Nearly every year of my early 20’s, I embarked on a new and different career path. Still, I always kept my artistic drive to create beautiful objects and spaces. It was always a “hobby” I maintained on the side simply for the love of it. Until the day I asked a good friend, what was the secret to his success? That friend told me to pick one thing and stick with it. Thank God my 26 year old self was wise enough to choose the career path I loved the most: my art. Thank you, Steve Riggs, for your wise words. They changed my life.
Describe your creative process.
Every day I am so inspired by the natural and wondrous creations found on our planet. I can easily lose myself in the intricate and unique patterns on a seashell or the complex structures found in crystals. It is within nature’s details that I begin my creative process. So much of my work is inspired by the mediums themselves: seashells, corals, crystals, and stones. My sea-life pieces unfold organically as if plucked from the ocean floor. I am always creating an underwater fantasy as each piece evolves into its own personality. Likewise, my crystal work reflects the more rigid and organized structure of the minerals themselves. I find myself accentuating the clean lines of Selenite Crystal, and emulating the almost floral arrangement of a Quartz Point Crystal cluster. My process begins with the material itself, and as I mold that element, the intention becomes to create an object that feels like its components formed over millions of years in a cave underground in order to finally become this beautiful piece of art that it was always meant to be.
What is your favorite medium/material to work with and why?
Of all the materials I have used in my art, Selenite Crystal is definitely my favorite. Selenite a gorgeous, clean, luminous white stone. This crystal has the ability to be rough and organic while simultaneously feeling clean and organized. There is nothing else quite like it. In my work, I continuously open up these huge crystal ‘logs’ to get to the gleaming, pristine center. This newly exposed layer is what gives my pieces that impeccably clean look that cannot be found elsewhere . I never use a saw to get into the crystal this way. I prefer to quite literally crack them open, a process that is an art form unto itself. I “listen” to each piece in order to discover how to rightly expose and unearth the beauty within. This is the key to extracting the most beautiful pieces of crystal to use in my artwork. As a wondrous bonus, it is said that the specific crystalline structure of Selenite harmonizes with angelic energies. My studio has since been filled with a wondrously gentle calming vibe. It is truly a special stone and a pleasure to work with.
What current trend are you following?
Crystals are quite popular right now so I’m definitely enjoying the trend. Since I’ve moved to Joshua Tree, I’ve transitioned into a modern, minimalist mood. My current work has become very clean and structured. I try to honor the materials in each piece, allowing them to speak for themselves; to create pieces that are as bold and awe-inspiring as the elements with which they are made. I try to mold every piece into a strong, quiet structure that can make a bold statement even as the only thing in the room.
What is your proudest accomplishment as an artisan?
My proudest accomplishment as an artisan occurred earlier this year, when COVID-19 upended our lives. I started a Sample Sale, selling Nate Ricketts product samples and donating proceeds to Feeding America. With schools shut down and unemployment on the rise, I know a lot of people need food assistance and Feeding America is an excellent organization to deliver that relief. The response from my clients and community was amazing, and we have given a sizable donation I am proud of. I know giving to the community has made a large difference for Americans who feel hopeless this year and don’t know where their next meal will come from. Sometimes it helps so much just to know that someone cares about your situation.