Passion: Pursuing a self-sustaining lifestyle through art.
Chet began his artistic pursuits with photography, and he originally thought his career would be satisfactory by working in businesses that merely interact with the arts in some way. Over time, Chet realized that the jobs he did with photography became more about the work and less about fulfilling his creative desires. This type of work eventually wore him down, and pushed him away from seeing art as something to explore. In an effort to come back to his love for art as a creative outlet, Chet developed his artistic abilities with different mediums, eventually learning to create wire sculpture pieces.
Ultimately, it became clear that Chet’s goals and dreams were to be able to support his family with his art, but without the distractions and constraints of a nine-to-five job. He wanted to be able to pursue art in his own ways, not held to the expectations of a company or to constrict himself to someone else’s vision for his art.
With the support of his wife, Chet stepped out and began blazing his own path to seek ways to engage with his art on his own terms, and offer his work for sale in the community.
You can now find Chet’s work on Instagram at @rusted_halo_42 and at the local brick and mortar shop named Rejuve Good Bones in Dalton, Ohio.
In my conversation with Chet, you’ll get to hear the voice of a man who has understood his need to do something against the grain of typical societal norms related to work. Chet has a healthy view of the roles that he has held in various jobs, because he knows that they have helped mold his understanding of his purpose. Chet is balancing how he can be what his family needs, while also staying true to his artistic desires. I hope you’ll hear the voice of someone authentically doing what they feel is best for their own well-being, while also being cognizant of the needs of their loved ones. You will be inspired to hear how someone is searching out their own path for all of the right reasons.
“I started doing photography when I was 12 or 13. I learned some good things through school, then I worked at a photo booth in the mall and printed pictures. I did everything that I could to immerse myself into photography, even working as an assistant to a professional photographer for a while. The business aspect of photography is very difficult, and that’s always been a challenge for me.”
“I had a part time job that turned into a full time position, and I got drawn in by the prospect of a regular income that didn’t require me to pick up a camera or really even think very hard about my work. Instead of being a great thing for me, I realized that a day would turn into a week and then time just passed me by.
Everybody needs some sort of outlet, whether that be physical and working out, or maybe it is creative, or both. I was really lacking that for a long time, and I became angry with myself that I wasn’t doing anything for that outlet.”
“In 1997, a friend showed me a wire sculpture he had done, and I was like, ‘That is the coolest thing ever.’ So I asked him how he did it, and he showed me. It began with just tiny wire figures, and then it evolved into experimenting with stained glass to try to incorporate wings into the figures. The first ones were very small and generic… just wrapping wire, and learning, and trying different types of wire. Then, it led to these larger pieces with more detail, and they are more like a sculpture. Now, my sculptures look like they have an emotion and feeling in them. It’s no longer just a stick-person made with wire.”
“When I first started doing this, the only places to showcase my art were just local art shows. Before the internet, it was really hard to find that specific audience that would love this wire art. Now, there are those social media places where people can easily find my specific kind of art.”
“When it comes to pursuing this as my lifestyle, there has to be a reward somewhere. Maybe it’s having spare time or being able to spend more time with my family. I want to be able to have those experiences that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to have. I do not want to feel like I am wasting my life at a job that I really don’t care about.”
“I truly appreciate the support of my wife, she’s with any decision that I would make. All of my previous full time jobs were with wonderful people as employers and coworkers. I actually walked away from a really great job to pursue these opportunities to do art and be self-sustaining without that regular nine-to-five job. And really, at that time, I didn’t know what it was that I was pursuing, but I knew I had done it before and that I could do it again. The stresses are still there, they are just different from a full-time job. Our finances are in order, and I knew that I could afford my share of the bills, so we decided to just try this. We’ve been together 16 years, so she was with me through the hustle, when I had decided to stop doing photography and art to be more reliable and make more money. At the time, it was the right thing to do, but then eventually I found out that it was not the place I really wanted to be. I started to resent not being able to spend time creating art and learning.”
“Initially, I think I feel the most excitement when I make something that I am proud of, and when I sell something, and when I’m generating interest on social media. But ultimately, my drive comes from wanting to be successful for my family. If I didn’t have my family, I think I could let myself set the bar a little lower and not give as much effort into this world of art.”
“Mentally, over the last three years, everybody’s been a wreck. There’s been so much stress. For me, over the past 6 months I have been able to sort those things out and gain confidence. I definitely don’t feel like I am wasting away my time. I feel like I am on the right track, doing the things I am supposed to be doing.”
“The projects vary… for example, right after Christmas, I spent time getting ready for Valentine's Day. I created these metal roses, using tin cans and other materials to upcycle things that would otherwise be tossed into the trash. I’ve also been making music boxes with tin cans and wire sculptures. Using different materials and techniques have really helped me to continue to evolve my art.”
“My wife is also very artistic, both of us are very creative. She has a degree in photography from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. Our daughter has also shown interest in creativity and art. I have my little setup in the basement and our daughter has her little setup right beside it. She loves drawing and painting, she’s very good at it and she’s only seven years old. She enjoys it. She makes some really awesome things when she gets to create something on her own terms. It is so cool to see her own style come out in her art.”
“A lot of what I’ve done is simply what I have access to when the creative urge hits me. The family of the friend that introduced me to wire sculptures recently gave me a bunch of tools for woodworking. They were getting rid of a bunch of things and they sent me woodworking stuff. I had been thinking about how much I have always wanted to do this, and I had never been able to. Now, I have so much woodworking stuff, I will be able to take these metal sculptures to the next level by incorporating woodworking into them. I’ve started to see a vision of where this could progress. It’s exciting to learn new things. I look forward to seeing what I can do to take my art into the next form and the next version of what I will be doing.”
“Between the pendant lights, music boxes, photography, etc. I love that when I get tired of one thing, I have so many different options of things that I can pick up. I feel like it is all coming to a point, making a convergence in some way. In the future, I hope to sell more stuff at the shop, and become better known, and one day maybe be a draw for people coming to Dalton… become a part of those local attractions that bring people to this area.”