People

Ben Skinner

i. I work as an Artist and Visual Display Art Director/Designer.

ii. I do this creative work because:
I have a natural drive to make things and put them out into the world. The art director job pays the bills and is a fun and challenging creative outlet for me.

iii. A ‘typical’ day for me under Covid lockdown involves:
A typical day involves a lot of texting in multiple group threads about Aritzia work-related stuff. Some design file reviewing, feedback etc. Exercising at home and going on long walks or bike rides through residential side streets trying to avoiding people.

With my personal art work, I’ve been having fun writing nonsense poetry, some lines of which might find their way into future text-based artworks. I also have worked on a new edition of my 24k Golden Girls done in two-tone, real gold leaf on glass, and I finished a new series of text pieces on mirrored gold panels for UpRise Art in NYC. (Which were to be shown in the Affordable Art Fair in late March before it was cancelled). I’ve also played around with papercraft and some marbling of Easter Eggs and some fabric.

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iv. Personal qualities that help me in my work are:
I have a great love and respect of language and word-play. I also am interested in design, innovation, material exploration, uncommon artistic processes, manufacturing etc.

v. The greatest challenges around doing this work are:
Managing my time between Aritzia work and my personal art projects would be one of my biggest challenges. Also staying motivated and productive in times with no or little feedback or deadlines.

vi. Creative childhood hobbies:
I really loved drawing from a very early age all the way into art school.
Also some community theatre acting / improv in high school.

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vii. Other creators who inspire you:
Oh, too many to list, but a few of my favourites are Olafur Eliasson, Tom Sachs, Jenny Holzer, Douglas Coupland, Micah Lexier, Christian Bok, Gertrude Stein.

viii. Training that has helped me in this career:
I took as many art classes as I could in high school. I was lucky enough to have a metal sculpture class offered at my high school where I learned some basic welding skills.

The two great art schools I attended – NSCAD in Halifax: BFA  2000 Interdisciplinary Studies, and SAIC in Chicago: MFA 2003 Art & Technology – taught me critical thinking, exposed me to inspiring contemporary art projects and discourse, as well as a few technical skills I use to this day.

Experience and learning on the job as a Display Artist at Urban Outfitters and as Visual Display Developer at Aritzia.

ix. A common trap that can hurt people in this career:
Pigeonholing yourself.

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x. Some proud career moments:
Some that stand out are the opening of the Aritzia in Soho NY in 2011 and then the 5th Ave location a few years later, where we got to go all out and design and produce bespoke displays that were ambitious and really fun to work on.

Also having a solo show in Paris and when I had a large feature wall installation at Pulse Art Fair during Art Basil Miami in 2016.

xi. If you want to work in my field, I suggest that you:
Find a way to get a foot in the door of a place that designs and produces their own displays (kind of rare though) even if it’s in production. Then, work your ass off and prove you have exceptional creative problem solving and design skills. Try to get a chance to work collaboratively with mentors and senior designers to learn more of the ins and outs of communicating your ideas in presentation form, then hope someone notices you when an opportunity arises. Don’t be afraid to jump from job to job or try other companies as long as you see it as a jump towards your goal.

It can be a real struggle for many to be full-time artists relying on sales of their own art to make a living. I personally have not tried it, since I’ve always had a full-time day job that paid the bills so I don’t have to worry too much about my art income. That can be freeing, but it can also be hard to time manage two careers. You really need to a strong creative drive and a job that isn’t too stressful in order to not get burned out working on your own art on evenings and weekends.

xii. A professional goal I have for the future:
I would love to do a large scale public artwork. I have not had the time yet to dedicate to a project like that, so that has kept me from applying or thinking too seriously about public art concepts. I’m very interested in art that is for everyone to enjoy instead of in galleries or private homes. I also understand how once the art is out in the public, there are so many more issues at play regarding the specific community, the site’s history, where the funding is coming from etc, along with a long list of public safety and outdoor resilience issues to consider.

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xiii. If you want to see my work, go to: www.benskinner.com, Instagram: @benskinnerart, or visit any Aritzia store (after the pandemic is over) and look at the window displays.

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www.creatorsvancouver.com

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