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Title:
Interview with A. Dumay Gorham, March 16, 2007
Date:
March 16, 2007
Description:
Interview with sculptor A. Dumay Gorham III. Here, he discusses his background and education, his commercial and commissioned work, his preferred tools and techniques, and his projects for UNCW's Marine Science Center and the City of Wilmington.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Gorham, Dumay A. Interviewer:  Hayes, Sherman / Jones, Carroll Date of Interview:  3/16/2007 Series:  Arts Length  120 minutes

 

Q: Today is March 16, 2007. I'm Carroll Jones with Sherman Hayes, University Librarian for the Randall Library Special Collection Oral History project. We're visiting with A. Dumay Gorham III, in the Acme Art Studio, in downtown Wilmington. Dumay is nationally known for his metal sculptures commissioned by a number of corporations as well as private sources. Good morning, Dumay.

Gorham: Good morning.

Q: Did I get that right so far?

Gorham: Yes.

Q: Good. You are a Wilmington native, grew up in a fairly conservative atmosphere, parents were visible in the community for their many involvements and continue to be. How did you first realize your interest in arts and primarily in metal sculpture?

Gorham: I think I've always been interested, to a degree in visual arts and design. Growing up, I liked drawing and making models and building forts and stuff like that, which I guess at some point translated into on some level what I do now. I would never say I was really focused on art until later, probably after my first round of college.

Q: Now where did you go to college originally?

Gorham: I went to-- and that's kind of another part of the story in itself. But I went to North Carolina State. I have a BA in English from North Carolina State University. And also-- well let me backtrack for a minute. I did take some individual art lessons from different people growing up, to include, Betty Brown [ph?] a well-known longtime artist here in Wilmington. She's a very good friend of my parents and a family friend. And also a few other classes, drawing classes, two-dimensional art along the way, but nothing really stuck. And I was never focused as an artist to stick with a class. And I never had a collection of work to exhibit or paintings or drawings that I wanted to show. One of the first hints to me or clues to me that I might be more of a three-dimensional artist in the making was in high school and I ended up dropping the trade to take...

Q: You went to New Hanover?

Gorham: I went to New Hanover High School. And I dropped trigonometry and substituted ceramics for that class, which I really did enjoy very much, because math was not my strong suit, but I guess I was destined not to become an astronaut or a pilot. That was probably one of the first things I wanted to be when I was little.

Q: Who was the art teacher? Do you remember?

Gorham: This lady named Ms. Brensen [ph?].

Q: Did you have a sense that if in high school if you took and art class you were going to get stigmatized or directed in that. In other words, I don't know if that was-- when I was growing up but sometimes if you took art it was like "What are you doing taking art."

Gorham: I wish I had made better use of art courses that were offered in junior high and in high school, I really-- looking back. At that point, it was never a hobby or something that I was really focused on. I did have a clay pot that I made make it to the-- I guess it was a statewide art show that they held in Raleigh and one of the pots that I made was selected to be in their show.

Q: Wow.

Q: Terrific. How old were you then?

Gorham: And I was fairly amazed at the fact that I had made something that was going to be shown somewhere.

Q: Was this in high school or junior?

Gorham: This was in high school.

Q: That's great. But you hadn't selected, kind of, art track where many kids would take an art track that way.

Gorham: I had not, and I can honestly say that I was, as far as a career track or what I wanted to do when I grew up, up until my mid to late 20s I was absolutely totally unfocused. But I did, I think, start to appreciate art, start to appreciate visual things, I've always been fascinated by comic books and comic book art, movies and special effects, and more of the design or technological aspect of art, I guess. But I never had a favorite artist or an influential-- someone that I felt was influencing me. And if I had to name one now, you know, the guys that were the biggest influence were Stan Winston and Dick Smith and Steven Spielberg and the guys that do these major motion pictures, special effects and monsters and creatures, and those were the things that really impacted me. And two-dimensionally, and I didn't realize who these guys were till later, but Frank Frazetta is one of my favorite artists.

Q: Who is he? What is he known for?

Gorham: He started as an illustrator a long time ago and did comic book panels and album covers for records, but became really well known for doing covers for fantasy and science fiction books. And has now been named very late in his life, and he may have passed away all ready, as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. But he was also primarily an illustrator, and kind of broke the barrier or the mold for that line of work because for a long time illustrators weren't considered serious artists.

Q: That's right.

Q: So really it was popular cultural art that was it. Now Carol, you mentioned his parents, we might just put on the record who they are. Because I was curious as to whether they themselves, are they artists?

Q: I was going to ask you the question. Were you at all influenced by your mother who really has quite artistic [inaudible] and is a good decorator and actually-- [inaudible] because she's a friend so we talk about other thinks but I've seen what she's done.

Gorham: I think I realized later in and in my adult life in retrospect, you know, very impressed by a lot of things that my mom has done both design wise, and she ran her own flower business for a long time. But creatively she was...

Q: The [inaudible] arranging.

Gorham: Yeah, you know, creatively she's amazing. And my grandmother also was a painter, a real artist, and we've actually got some of her work at our home. But those weren't the things that I...

Q: Now this is your mother's mother?

Gorham: Yes m'am.

Q: Because your father being an attorney, is very focused and deliberate.

Gorham: Very detail oriented.

Q: And who are these people that we are talking about for the record? Your father's name is?

Gorham: Alonzo Dumay Gorham, Jr. And Louise Floyd Gorham is my mother.

Q: Okay, good. Thanks. Well, it's one thing [inaudible] just for the outside listener to talk about these folks.

Gorham: But I don't think, you know, at a young age, that I was really all that tuned into what my mother was doing--

Q: You took it for granted.

Gorham: -- artistically. Right, absolutely. I mean, I saw her arranging flowers and, you know, knew that she was on the phone making appointments to do people's weddings, and visiting people's homes to help them with their design projects.

Q: Colors. She was really tuned into color.

Gorham: And didn't really put all the pieces of the puzzle together until later. So, I'm much more appreciative as an adult of what she has done and still does, and I probably was, you know, from age one to probably may later teens.

Q: All right, so now you're headed off to NC State?

Gorham: Well, I did sort of clue in to the fact that I follow a career in design, whatever that might entail, might be something that I might be interested in. So I applied to North Carolina State and wanted to get into the School of Design. I applied late but I got into the general college so I was asked to select another major at the end of the first semester [inaudible]. And a sad story to that is I did a lot more socializing than attention to anything academic my first semester.

Q: Normal. Normal.

Gorham: I actually failed out of State my first semester and went to summer school to get back in. But it was at least three or four semesters before my GPA was pulled up high enough to even think about trying to get into the School of Design. Later I did get into the Art Institute of Pittsburg and did major in industrial design and technology. But it wasn't until later that I realized everything that it would have taken to do well at design school at State. I had no idea what a portfolio was. If I'd been interviewed for the design school, I wouldn't have been able to say "This artist or that artist influenced me in one way or another."

Q: Give us a sense of-- I don't know that the normal listener-- design school. What do they usually cover? I mean, what would a designer do if you came out of NC State?

Gorham: They have a school of architecture which is one part of the design school and also part of design-- or industrial design program. And I didn't know what any of that meant either. But the industrial design field are the people that design products and, you know, all the movie designer's fall into that category. Toy designers fall into that category.

Q: Packaging.

Gorham: Packaging, okay.

Q: Everything like that.

Q: But it's a blending of art and practice. And the comparison would be your choice could have been to go to fine art college, which would be painting, or sculpture, or...

Gorham: And actually, I applied and was accepted to ECU, but decided to go to State because I was excited about getting into State and I was a bigger school. That was my basis for that decision. I mean, looking back on it now, I certainly would have been doing myself a favor to go to ECU and straight into their fine arts program.

Q: They have a very large program with a good reputation.

Gorham: An excellent reputation. And I know a handful of people that have-- are graduates from that program and some fairly well known artists in the area and naturally evolved into ECU.

Q: So you're searching?

Gorham: I was searching and graduated with-- from State with a BA in English, more or less, because by the time my GPA was high enough to make the transition or that I was even looking forward to graduation I'd almost completed my English major.

Q: Can we just take a quick break.

Q: After you got your degree in English did you ever use that or was that just a means of graduating, getting a degree and then going onto something else? For example, how long was it [inaudible] your graduation from State, and then you mentioned you were in your 20s, somehow, before you decided to go to Pittsburg.

Gorham: And that's another chapter in this story.

Q: I don't want to rush you.

Gorham: At that point in time, it was-- my goal was just to graduate from college with a degree with absolutely no idea on what I was going to do with that degree. And professionally, I still had little to no idea, you know, what I was going to do with myself. I was very excited; I think my parents were also that I actually did walk in graduation at North Carolina State. And that was...

Q: And graduate. And that's something we all have-- hold our breath about.

Gorham: And I will say also that towards the end of my first college career, once other required courses were out of the way, you know, that English became very interesting and I major in literature; had some excellent instructors and professors and, you know, learned a lot. And really did enjoy a lot of the classes that I took, you know, those last couple of years, and went from a 0.6 to making the Dean's List a couple of semesters.

Q: So you were a serious English student. It wasn't that you were...

Gorham: I figured out that there was a correlation between class attendance and good grades. And I also learned to, you know, to pick the classes that I thought would be interesting, and the course work that I knew I would enjoy and that made a lot of difference. Those last couple of years I-- also in retrospect probably should have taken the education track so I could have gotten my teachers certificate while I was at State. That came back to haunt me later because having an English degree, I did at one point think about teaching professionally, but since I didn't have an education-- any of the education credits, I really would have to jump through some hoops to make that happen later in life. So I graduated, spent a summer trying to get into shape and get focused because I enlisted in the Army right before I graduated.

Q: Did you?

Q: As an artist?

Gorham: As an infantry solider.

Q: So you were at [inaudible] country?

Gorham: I was. I enlisted shortly before graduation and went to Fort Benning, Georgia for basic training that following August. And was in the military for about three years, which was another thing that I had always been interested in and always intrigued by. My father was in the military, one of my uncles was career military, and my grandfather graduated from Annapolis and was in the Marine Corps.

Q: What was his name?

Gorham: Alonzo Dumay Gorham, Sr.

Q: Oh, I think we see a pattern here.

Q: There is a pattern.

Gorham: And he actually was a CB, an engineer, and after World War II came back to the states and taught drafting and mechanical drawing at New Hanover High School and then went-- and then at Wilmington College before it became UNCW.

Q: So there has been a direct line of interest with Wilmington College, now UNCW in you family for generations.

Gorham: That's right, yeah.

Q: And you can't read too much into it but it's almost like a generational skip there that you have this kind of same mechanical and...

Gorham: And both of my parents did some undergraduate studies at UNCW. I never took any classes at UNCW but I did spend a fair amount of time at Seahawk Square because some of my friends went to UNCW.

Q: And your mother is still involved; she is on the board of trustees isn't she?

Gorham: She is.

Q: So your grandfather was a professional military but came back here as an engineer, is that then what you would say-- he had retired at that point?

Gorham: He was retired military at that point, but took a teaching position or a couple of different ones. I think initially he taught at Randolph-Macon Military Academy.

Q: Oh, good.

Q: Now was this grandfather in World War II?

Gorham: Yes m'am.

Q: So he graduated in Annapolis.

Gorham: Yes m'am.

Q: All Annapolis graduates at that time graduated with engineering degrees.

Gorham: Oh, okay.

Q: Is that right? Interesting.

Gorham: But he...

Q: You learn how to drive a ship.

Gorham: And he, if I'm not mistaken, I think he helped with the layout and some of the initial construction at Camp Lejeune but was also stationed in Guadalcanal and, you know, was in some of the thickest engagements in the Pacific.

Q: So logical, that the military was of interest. Anything from that experience you want to share as far as that?

Gorham: My military career, I think was fairly-- I hate to say insignificant, but uneventful is probably a better word. I mostly trained. I was never deployed. I was in three years; I did go to Air One School. I also went to graduate from Officer Candidate School, and was kind of in and out in between any major conflicts or deployments.

Q: Were you in the reserve then? [inaudible].

Gorham: I was not. I reserved my commission and at that point made the decision to sever my ties with military.

Q: So you did become and officer then?

Gorham: Yes, for a short amount of time.

Q: So you had a choice or you could have decided to make that a career but you choose not to. And I think...

Q: Or it [inaudible] reserves, yeah.

Gorham: Right, and I think I realized, although, I did find it interesting and learned a lot of things and did some things that I was really excited about and would never of had the opportunity to do otherwise, still realized that I was probably not a very good fit professionally for the military.

Q: Too constricting for you mentally?

Gorham: It-- in some ways and, you know, but I met a lot of people that I have a whole lot of respect for. And with everything that is going on now, you know, I'm certain that some of the guys that I was in with, you know, have-- have been deployed and have been engaged, you know, wherever the American Military has been in, some have probably lost their lives.

Q: What years were you in the military?

Gorham: '91 to '94.

Q: So you came out as a first lieutenant?

Gorham: First lieutenant.

Q: Oh, good. And what was the...

Gorham: Second lieutenant.

Q: Second lieutenant. And what was the final designation of the unit that you were in?

Gorham: I was in Fort Knox in one of the training units there. It was an armored unit.

Q: [inaudible] troop, yeah.

Gorham: And I know I have the paperwork somewhere.

Q: But you weren't able to really practice or use any movement towards art in this time period?

Gorham: It was not a huge, you know, demand from tank platoon commanders. And then I got out of the military.

Q: It was like a whole other [inaudible].

Gorham: Right and there is, you know, like I said, I learned a lot of things, and I did a lot of things that I thought were exciting and really cool. But that didn't necessarily translate into civilian life. And when I got out of the military, I came home and before I took my next step, I worked construction. Because, you know, even though I had a BA in English and, you know, three years in the military, you know, those skills really-- I remember having a resume and looking for some jobs, but at that point, you know, there was just wasn't a lot going on. But one thing that did happen that time that I spent in the -- in the time that I spent in the military, was I really started to think about what I wanted to do, how to go about achieving that and I kept coming back to the design school, and that design really interested me. And so I started trying to figure out what questions I needed to ask, what information did I need to make the connections to go back to school or call somebody or, you know, to make that happen. And so I started doing research on schools, got a lot of different information through the mail, and on the phone and narrowed it back down when I got out to in an industrial design program because I wanted a design background but I also wanted something that would translate into the job field. Being a fine artist doesn't necessarily translate into employment. I mean, I know a lot of fine artists, you know, have another source of income besides their art. I was 25, I guess, you know, and getting to the point where I really needed to-- when I finish school that second time or whatever, I really needed a job and wanted to be employable and hopefully sought after. So industrial design became the kind of career track that I selected, and then I narrowed it down to a couple of different programs; one was at the Savannah College of Art and Design-- or different schools; one was Savannah College of Art and Design, one was the Art Institute of Pittsburg, and State. I ended up ruling out State because I had been there once before and, you know, considering the way my first college term went, thought it would be a good idea to go somewhere where I didn't know a lot of people and would be able to focus. Actually, the College of Art and Design in Savannah, I don't think they did have an industrial design program, but they had some other things that I was kind of interested in. But the Art Institute of Pittsburg, when I read the information and was looking at it online and everything just really-- I could tell there was going to be a fit there. I know it was really interesting to me. There was actually a course-- the tracks were industrial design related, but they were all mostly special effects and product design related, so. You know, I went-- I took courses-- or classes in, you know, simple robotics and animatronics and mold making, model making, drawing and airbrushing...

Q: Oh that must have been fascinating for you?

Gorham: And it was-- to me that was like pulling the sword for the stone.

Q: It was a whole other world.

Gorham: I had some just amazing instructors.

Q: Was this is right in Pittsburg?

Gorham: Yeah, and I had never even been to Pittsburg. I got accepted, you know, made all of the arrangements on paper that I needed to make. But you know when it was time to report for classes I packed up my car; a friend of mine had AAA and they printed me out some trip-tics [ph?] so I could get there, you know, mile by mile.

Q: Heading north.

Gorham: Drove into Pittsburg, stayed in a hotel...

Q: [inaudible]

Gorham: Yeah, came through the tunnel and saw downtown Pittsburg, drove to register at the school which is right downtown Pittsburg, stayed in a hotel the first three nights until I found come roommates on the message board at school.

Q: And that was in the mid 90s?

Gorham: That was '92, I think.

Q: Oh, was it?

Gorham: No, '95.

Q: '95.

Q: That's when Pittsburg was being cleaned up.

Gorham: It was. It was right in the middle of their revitalization after-- there was a lot of stuff going on downtown and concerts and...

Q: Besides the really specialized courses, did they also stress the basic art, too? I mean, did you have to do that?

Gorham: They did. We-- you know, I had to take life drawing, figure drawing, and animal anatomy and basic design courses, basic drawing and shading courses, principles of design, you know. I mean-- but some of the first projects we did were making pyramids and squares out of foam board.

Q: So you were really starting-- is this a BA again degree or were you able to...

Gorham: This was-- the whole description is an industrial-- an Associates Degree in Industrial Design and Technology. It was a two year program. It was also the first time I'd been in a program that was basically year-round. They were on the quarter system. So, that was new to me. But I didn't think I would enjoy it because I kept, you know, I was so embedded in the idea of having a summer, being from Wilmington. But it just-- it flew by. I mean, the two years that I was there...

Q: So you were there two years? And you really haven't crossed the board opportunity to-- that must of opened up all kind of avenues.

Gorham: Well, I went-- I went to school full-time, I worked full-time. That's another-- when I went to State, fortunately, my parents were very supportive even when I wasn't doing that well scholastically, but I didn't work while I was at State. At the Art Institute of Pittsburg I worked full-time, I worked in a restaurant because-- at night because it was the only thing I could fit around my class schedule.

Q: You and hundreds of others.

Gorham: So, 15 to 16 hours a semester, I think once or twice I might have taken 18. And anybody that's ever been in an art and design program knows that with those courses comes, you know, for every hour in class, easily two or three outside of class.

Q: It's really a hands-on, practical application then. It's not esoteric. I mean, you did projects.

Gorham: Right, I mean, we did projects all of the time and, you know, had things to bring into class and things to show that you could touch and take apart.

Q: Was it here that you learned first to work with metal or did you develop this-- that's almost like taking engineering and architecture right there, I can imagine.

Gorham: That actually was a later development.

Q: So you didn't do any of that.

Q: So we'll get to that, all right.

Gorham: While I was at the Art Institute of Pittsburg, you know the other thing which amazed-- I amazed myself, and I think my parents were wondering what happened the first time I went to school. Because I think I missed two classes in two years and I also made the Dean's List every quarter. And that, you know, to me that was the difference between being in a program that I was really excited about, I looked forward to going to class, I had respected and really enjoyed the instructors and the course work, and the difference, I mean, it really was night and day. I wouldn't...

Q: Was the GI bill able to help too? Could you use any of that at all?

Gorham: I didn't have the GI bill.

Q: Oh, okay. I just didn't know if you had that from.

Gorham: And consequently, I still have some [inaudible] off. But it was a fantastic program. I graduated in '97. I was also, you know, back in school at, you know, 25, 26 with, you know, the younger crowd which was, you know, 18 to 20 something. You know, so I was one of the older guys. Even where I worked, most of the employees there, with the exception of maybe the managers were, you know, all college kids. And Pittsburg-- University of Pittsburg, [inaudible] were all right there and so. But I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Pittsburg. [inaudible] now.

Q: So where did you go from there?

Gorham: I came back home after graduation. Actually ended up getting a job here for a company called ExpoStar for a little while doing trade show exhibits, and working in a restaurant part-time while I was putting together my resume, and mailing those out and making phone calls and trying to line up interviews, you know, various places not-- my goal upon graduation was a really good one. I tried to get a job in the movie industry for special effects [inaudible] or whatever. I thought Wilmington would be a good place to try. Unfortunately, for me, most of the people I guess that were being hired on various things-- I mean, there's kind of a-- I guess, you know, food chain and the studio usually requires you to put in time, first as a runner, you know, and kind of work your way up that ladder. A lot of guys I knew that have done it and have become very successful. You know, start working for free, you know, work either after hours when they were working or just had-- or were able to do that eventually and this was my second time graduating from school and looking for a job and I didn't-- I wasn't-- I knew I wasn't going to be able to work somewhere for free. I basically needed to get a job.

Q: But also in the film industry so much of that really comes out of California. I mean, in other words, L.A.

Gorham: A lot of it does and a lot of it...

Q: Yeah, at your level that you're talking about where...

Gorham: Right and a lot of it is union based, and a lot of it is sporadic. I mean, even the really big special effect houses kind of run in crews depending on what productions their involved with. And I wasn't in a position to-- at that point, you know, to really not know where the next job was going to be. Or go out to California and maybe get picked up on a crew, at an entry level position where nobody knew me or my work.

Q: Thousands and thousands.

Gorham: And, you know, maybe I could possibly, you know, I really didn't-- spending the night in my car for a month and was not appealing to me.

Q: No hygienics.

Gorham: But what I did was you know, I started doing more research about different companies and different things you could do with a degree. And then there were a lot of industrial design firms out there which covers product design firms, exhibit design firms, you know.

Q: You didn't think about going to Charlotte?

Gorham: I actually interviewed with Paramount Studios in Charlotte, which does a lot of the design and exhibit stuff in some of the amusement parks. They do all the shows and all the backgrounds and stuff. And I had an interview with them and I did not get the job at that point that I applied for. But during the course of sending out resumes and interviewing and talking to people on the phone I did get an interview at company called A.W.A [ph?] in Atlanta or actually in [inaudible] which is outside of Atlanta. They were a product design firm and did a lot of really neat stuff. Had one interview with them, and then was called back for a second interview and then they, a few months later, called me back and hired me, and I moved to Atlanta. And the one thing that I thought was really great about that, I got a lot of really practical job experience and learned a lot about different tools and materials, molds and models, and processes to put things together.

Q: What was that? How long were you there, several years?

Gorham: A little over a year and this is all on a kind of dovetail into what I'm doing now. But I-- so I moved down there I was basically there-- I took a model maker and shop manager position. The thing that I really liked about that job is that, although we weren't making movies and doing special effects, we were still using a lot of the same processes and materials and approaches to whatever projects we had that I learned in school. But they were just for corporations or businesses that were putting out products as opposed to the film industry. So that worked out really well. One of their biggest clients was Coca-Cola. And I worked on a couple of different projects for them, one of which they were going to do a test market for these new coke machines. I actually had seen some here in Wilmington. There's-- put your money in and there's an elevator that goes up and gets the drink and brings it down and shoots it out the vent port. I know there's one or two at the hospital. Actually, I thought they scrapped the project; I was amazed to see it.

Q: You didn't work on that? Or did you?

Gorham: I was one of a team of people that was working on it, but I was one of the few people that was going to be able to travel and help them do the test market and study on it. So I was basically a glorified coke machine repairman for a while because the coke company hadn't provided anybody to work along with us from start to finish on the project.

Q: So, the goal was to actually visually design this. Did you have to do the mechanical insides too or just the physical, how did this look?

Gorham: Both. I mean, I helped-- I did not design the machine. I didn't design any of the mechanics or the machinery on the inside. But I did help install everything, and you know, the-- some of the mechanical workings of the actual machine and was one of two or three people in the company that could repair it. There was no manual.

Q: The reason I asked the question is I think that people don't realize the amount of intense work that goes into every product. I mean, we just take them for granted as, they're just here. But for a coke machine that was a big project right?

Gorham: It was a huge project. And so-- anyway they were going to do a test market on these machines to see how the public responded to them. Oddly enough, one of the locations, after they did all their demographic studies and computations and everything, happened to be Greensborough, North Carolina. That was one of the locations in all of the United States that they felt that they could get the best information from the public on the machines. The other place happened to be Dallas, Texas. So I stamped out six months flying back and forth. I actually got hired by the Coca-Cola Company to be their guy, as a liaison between the Coke people there in Greensborough and Dallas and Coke, and the people in these areas to make sure the machines were doing what they were suppose to, collecting data [inaudible]. And they have computers that keep track of what sells at what price, you know, how many times a day somebody buys Dasani water or Diet Coke or whatever it is. Its-- it was amazing.

Q: Quite a size.

Gorham: It really is.

Q: It is.

Gorham: I wasn't all that excited about it, but I could appreciate what was going on, and the things that I was learning, you know. I honestly, I think I was kind of a glorified Coke machine repairman. But it was a great job and at that point, you know, on a professional note, they were paying me more than the company that hired me in Atlanta to handle the project.

Q: Meant more to them, financially.

Gorham: And so during the meantime I started dating somebody and we were seeing each other, became engaged. She was working for a pharmaceutical company, but got hired by PPD to come back to Wilmington. So that's how we ended up back in Wilmington. The project with Coke, you know, was going to terminate at some point. So, I basically finished that out and came back to Wilmington to look for a job and I found out pretty quickly that although I was really excited about everything that I've done in design school and the job experience that I had to that point that there were virtually no industrial design jobs available in Wilmington. I mean, unless you're an architect or an interior designer or lucky enough to get on with the studios, you're kind of out of luck.

Q: It's not industry. And [inaudible] Atlanta are there other places that were-- I mean, you said Dallas, is that a huge area?

Gorham: Yeah, I mean, I probably could have written my ticket, you know, in some place-- well, I don't want to say written my ticket, but I probably could have gotten a job relatively easily in Atlanta or Dallas or, you know, Chicago or a bigger city that has, you know, where there's jobs available in the industry there to support.

Q: I don't think Wilmington has ever been known in manufacturing. I mean, much of this is tied around manufacturing.

Q: One [inaudible] recently that I was interviewing, it was just-- in describing a job jump they hadn't planned on. There no smoke stacks in Wilmington, industry. No smoke stacks.

Gorham: Right, very few.

Q: Few. But you're back. An interesting journey, you've come a long time, and now you're back in Wilmington.

Q: So you moved here, your wife has got a job and you're looking for something and you've come to this realization.

Gorham: And you know, I did try to-- what happened with the studio, and I met some guys out there and still know some people that work out there. But it was one of those times, you know, I think, if I could have gotten one, I may have-- probably could have been asset to somebody, somewhere, in some department. But you know, they were either wrapping up whatever they were shooting or had all ready picked up the crew for the next project and it was just kind of bad timing. But my mom called me because she knew somebody here-- and if I'm allowed to mention their name?

Q: Go ahead.

Gorham: A guy named Mark Orfuland [ph?] who owns a company called Mark Made [ph?] Incorporated. And he does exhibits and design work for a large retailers. A lot of that happens to be metal. But he is a subcontractor and gets a lot of work from a company called the-- or did from a company called the Design Companion [ph?] in New York, it outsources all, or a lot of the decorations and window dressings and setups that you see in Macy's and Victoria's Secret, and Chanel, and Calvin Klein, and Armani and all these different stores internationally. And he's got a shop in-- down near Greenfield Park that, you know, it's not giant, he has-- he runs the company and works and also has, you know, a handful of people depending on what's going on, that work for him and help him out and he hired me as-- to help him.

Q: Well, that's great.

Gorham: You know, it was pretty amazing. I mean, just the scope of work that they did, or that we did, and he still does, you know, and builds in this little shop in Wilmington and then winds up in Tokyo or New York...

Q: I was just going to ask you, the work you do-- or he does here, it wasn't just for local production, it was for all over.

Gorham: No. International and...

Q: Interesting. And the company is still going?

Gorham: As far as I know. It was a little seasonal, because when I was working for him most of the things were geared towards the Christmas season, and all of the displays, you know, the big New York shop windows that everybody sees and I mean it was-- we really did some cool stuff. And that was some good experience. At that point, I wasn't welding, he was actually doing most of the welding with another guy that worked there and I was kind of his assistant and help assemble stuff and paint things and get materials together and stuff like that. But I learned a lot from him. That job also had a kind of an ebb and flow depending on what was going on. But it also happened to be right beside another warehouse owned by a company called Truelove [ph?] Applications.

Q: That's still there.

Gorham: It's still there and the owner of the company, his name is Butch Truelove, and they do large scale, incredibly realistic aquatic exhibits.

Q: Really.

Gorham: And how I didn't find him before I found Mark is kind of a mystery to me. But I remember looking next door a lot of the times that I was working for Mark and seeing these guys, you know, make from fiberglass and urethanes and whatever, shipwrecks and reefs and fake piers and portholes.

Q: So they would have done that for like the aquarium?

Gorham: They are one of the major contractors for all of the North Carolina aquariums. Like basically-- virtually anything that you see that is underwater is fake. I didn't know that until I started working for these guys. But they make all the seaweed, and the coral, and the shells, and the shipwrecks, and the hard bottom reef exhibits. Even marsh grass and all that stuff are man made. And these are the guys that make that stuff.

Q: And so you worked for him as well?

Gorham: And so basically when things kind of started to slow down with Mark, I talked with Butch and he knew my background and what I'd done and he hired me and that was, you know-- that was the closest I ever came to working on a movie set. But really, you know, some of the things that we made freshwater water exhibit in the aquarium up in Pine Hill Shore[ph?] has, you know, 70-- 60, 70 foot cypress trees that we made here in Wilmington and then assembled on site.

Q: And do they do that because then they can control the environment? If they had natural products then what the mold...

Gorham: Well, exactly. Most of the-- the saltwater environment is very fragile, especially, when you're trying to take fish or whatever animals outside of that and put it an aquarium environment. And you've got to maintain a really strict chemical balance in the water and introducing lab species of, you know, seaweed and coral and things like that, they might have a fungus or some disease or virus that, you know, can really if it got into the aquarium environment and wipeout the whole tank.

Q: Well, you said that-- now was some of this done in metal work?

Gorham: They did some metal work, not a lot, most of its fiberglass and urethanes and other composite materials. But while I was working there Karen Crouch [ph?] who's another metals worker here in Wilmington, also happens to be my mother-in-law who's also another Acme artist, at the time was renting studio space at Mark Made. And that's where she kind of started her metal sculpture engagement. But I would walk over and talk to her and watch her work when I got off work from Truelove and just kind of see what she was doing. And over the years, you know, I have-- I was interested in welding. I always thought it was a really neat thing to watch and metal sculpturing, I wondered how people did whatever it was, whether it was abstract or-- I can't even think of the word, most of the things that I make are bigger. Just really was interested and started talking to her and she let me, you know, mess around with her welding equipment from time to time, and that's how I made the first couple of pieces that I made.

Q: Can I interrupt you here? Question. Did she at this time, she was all ready doing metal work, did she do these for-- on consignment, for example, or by commission? Because you told me you work now only on commission.

Gorham: She-- I think initially was just doing it because she enjoyed it and it was kind of a hobby. And since she began-- I mean, she has done a lot of commission work and has got some really large-- I think, I might not be absolutely correct on this but I'm almost positive that and this is probably a well-known fact, but I'm almost positive she's probably gotten one of the largest commissions for artwork in the area.

Q: A big sculpture or a big metal piece takes hundreds and hundreds of hours, so it's logical that it would cost a lot.

Q: Well, this is what I was getting to. That to do-- you can pick up a canvas and start messing, but to do what you do you have an investment there?

Gorham: We do. And it's not only an investment in and energy, but you know, materials and you know, shop rent and transportation and meetings and whatever else. But I think we-- you know, we both-- I know she sold some things in shows and has done some other things like that. But mainly does, you know, stuff for her own enjoyment and commission work. And I went from-- let me backtrack a little bit.

Q: Let's get back to your still working and...

Gorham: I'm still working and then...

Q: At this point you were with Truelove Fabrications or have you moved on from there?

Gorham: I had been working there for a while and then I quit working with them to become a stay at home dad. Was-- stayed at home with my daughter for a little over two years after she was born. And thoroughly enjoyed that, you know, always have been and always will be thankful for that time I was able to spend with her.

Q: Modern man.

Gorham: During that period of my life I was spending a little more time with Karen. I'd also met Andy Cobb who's another metal artist here in Wilmington, and had messed around with a few things and showed an interest for it, and I received my welder, the same one that I use now, for Christmas one year.

Q: Now there's an interesting Christmas present.

Gorham: And so was taking time, you know, either at night or on the weekends, you know, here and there to go in and experiment. I didn't-- well, let me backtrack again. When I first moved back to Wilmington before I found the job with Mark, I audited two courses at [inaudible], one was a welding course and one was a drafting course, because I wanted to beef up my resume to hopefully translate into that point in Wilmington somewhere. And I got hired by Mark and didn't finish either one of those courses, which is why I audited them because I didn't want to-- I was to use to not having good grades on my transcript and didn't want to go through that experience again. But the welder I got was a TIG [ph?] welder, which I hadn't used before. We hadn't covered it in class up to that point. And the sales rep came and spent an afternoon with me, showing me how to set it up and [inaudible] things.

Q: Is that a brand name.

Gorham: It's a kind of welder, which is [inaudible] welder.

Q: It does certain things that others don't is that it?

Gorham: Its kind of the standard-- a standard piece of equipment in the welding industry but its really versatile, you can do a lot of different welding with it with different kinds of metals across the board and...

Q: And for the person who has no clue what we are saying when we say welding, why don't you just give us a minute here. What is welding?

Gorham: Welding is basically using a welder or a torch, some people use an oxygen acetylene torch with a flame to fuse or bind two pieces of metal together to melt metal from one piece to another.

Q: When you say welding, does that only apply to melting to metal or is there welding of other materials besides metal?

Gorham: Well, technically I guess you could say people weld-- or different businesses or companies could weld plastic or polyurethane or-- as long as the pieces are joined together...

Q: But they probably don't use that term for that. But if you say welding, to most people, metal to metal. And is it any kinds of metals, many kinds of metals?

Gorham: There-- as far as I know technically-- and I'm still very much a layman as far as welding is concerned. I mean, I learned what I learned, through the sales rep, and through kind of trial and error, and just kind of hands on training. Butch Truelove, who I use to work for, and is an excellent welder and was a professional welder for a very long time after I got my equipment, he was a pretty big help with troubleshooting things or you know, I could ask him technical questions and he'd help point me in the right direction many times.

Q: Is there any one type of metal that's easier to work with over another? What do you prefer?

Gorham: I prefer copper. And I usually work in cooper, nine out of 10 projects that I take over cooper. And I've gotten use to using it. A lot of people don't think that's a very easy medium, but I also do steel and stainless steel, some brass, some bronze, aluminum occasionally.

Q: Okay, so that's the point, almost every type of metal is potential for an artist to use then. That was my question, I didn't know if you were kind of limited but you have a wide range of possibilities.

Gorham: I do. And one reason for that is the particular welder that I use has the ability to weld virtually any metal in the spectrum. Other welders only work on steel or stainless steel or aluminum, depending how you happen to set up and welding rod and all that, some technical information that I honestly and I'm probably not qualified for this.

Q: Take a break for just a second.

(tape change)

Q: Back, tape 2.

Q: I forgot now where we left off. You were talking about the welding and moving into-- no we weren't. We weren't quite there.

Q: Okay, you had the period where you were off, and you really at that point decided I want to be more the fine artist? Is that the interim there, that you made that leap, because you no longer work commercially for a company?

Gorham: Right, and I hadn't been in the job field for over almost three years at that point, because I'd been with my daughter. But what I had been doing was experimenting with welding, and I'd made a handful of pieces at that point. I hadn't done any shows. I hadn't shown anything to anybody but maybe my parents or some friends. And I think at one point my mom or somebody saw something and said "Oh, you should show this to somebody." And I'm trying to think what my first commission was.

Q: You mean you can't remember? Amazing!

Gorham: Actually, I think one of the very first commission pieces I got was to do a logo for Copycat Print Shot here in Wilmington, and that project was pretty straightforward. There really wasn't a lot of welding involved, but they basically wanted their existing logo in metal, so I ended up making them one to go on the outside of the [inaudible]. They were relocating at the time from an old office into a new office. I made one sculpture for the outside of the building and one for the inside. And also was trying to figure out how could I make some money doing this? And made a few kind of small tabletop pieces. One of the first things I was making was steel jellyfish, and when I talked about that with some people, Andy Kava [ph?] is one, I could see the questioning look they had about metal and jellyfish just not going together, but I made some pieces, some different things, a box or two full and got a booth at Riverfest one year. And sold almost everything I took down there. It was that and-

Q: This is in a decorative, artistic, small piece then?

Gorham: Yeah, these were like arts and crafts kind of tabletop pieces, some copper, some steel, a lot of marine life, sea creatures, and stuff. I think it was near Halloween. I think I made a witch or two actually that sold.

(phone ringing)

Gorham: This will go off in a minute.

Q: That's all right. We might say for the record where we're interviewing, this kind of interesting space. We're in Acme Studios, and at the end of this formal part, we're going to take the camera over to your actual working studio which is-- are you considered part of Acme Studios?

Gorham: Yeah, it's all the same facility. Actually Michael Van Hout and I, and two other artists are in the-- I call it the Acme annex. Actually this building but-

Q: And this is on the Fifth Street in-

Q: I didn't have the Fifth Street but we did announce that we were in Acme Studio downtown Wilmington.

Q: And it's a cooperative-

Gorham: It's basically a cooperative, yes.

Q: Of artists' working space, and then they also use it for shows and so forth.

Gorham: We are-

Q: In the midst of the-

Gorham: Doing this interview in our gallery.

Q: Right, and later at the end when we actually go into the shop-

Q: We can go back and say that's where we are, your working space. Go ahead.

Gorham: After Riverfest, that went really well. I was really excited about the prospect of selling my artwork and sculptures, and then I got a call from a lady who'd seen me at Riverfest, and asked if-- and it was really short notice. It was in the fall, and asked if I would be interested in setting up a booth at Poplar Grove Plantation for a charity function fall festival they were having. I don't even think there was a booth fee involved. She just wanted some people to show up. I had a few things left and I made a few more jellyfish, because that's what people seemed to be interested in, and I really enjoyed making them. And I took those and it was one Saturday afternoon. I drove out there and set up, and one of the people who happened to be there was Dr. Daniel Baden who's the Director of the Center for Marine Science who bought one of my jellyfish. And we talked briefly and I was excited about him buying one, and I don't think I actually realized who he was when I met him. But I think a week or two after that, he called, told me who he was and where he worked, and asked me if I'd be interested in making some bigger sculptures for the reception area, the lobby area at the Marine Science Center. I did. I made some large-- those were some of the first kind of big sculptures I made like barstool-size jellyfish that are hanging in their lobby. And the Marine Science Center has been probably one of my best clients for the past five years. I've made some other sculptures for the lobby. I also, just after the first of the year, completed and delivered a large osprey sculpture that's going to go in their-

Q: Yeah, I heard about this.

Gorham: Reflecting pond.

Q: Where is that going?

Gorham: Right outside the entrance.

Q: We might put for the record, that the Marine Science Center is a large research center with tens and tens of scientists, researchers working on and even on scientific projects and grants, and it's on-

Gorham: Masonboro Road.

Q: Yeah, Masonboro Loop Road and it's Marvin Moss Road is named for a former provost, but it's a large, large facility at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington which was evidently seeking a sea scope in the sense that that was-

Gorham: They also have hosted for the past at least three or four years since I've been involved with them, and possibly longer, a lecture series called "The Planet Ocean" lecture series where they invite three or four times a year various experts on their particular marine field. Not always marine science, but usually related, to come and speak. And they've been nice enough to ask me to instead of giving the guest speakers a plaque or a sweatshirt or whatever, they've hired me to make sculptures for the speakers. I have, I guess going on five years now, been, maybe four, usually three or four times I think it's usually three or four times a year, been making sculptures for their guest speakers. That's been fantastic because originally I was just making them something that I liked whether it was a stingray or a shark or something, and then Dr. Baden asked me if they provided the background for the speaker in whatever field of study they had, if I might possibly be able to make whatever- incorporate that into the actual sculptures which I was happy to do and excited about. Because I know for a fact that I've made some things that I would never have number one, thought of myself, but number two, would have never been asked by anybody else other than-- everything from tube worms, to ribonucleic acid DNA molecules.

Q: Wow, interesting. So from a creative standpoint that was fun to be able to go with that.

Gorham: Yeah. And I've also made some things for them that some people really that I've got numerous commissions from. I think one of the things I made for one of the guest speakers was a chambered nautilus and I would have never thought of that one.

Q: A what?

Gorham: A chambered nautilus.

Q: Which is a shell.

Gorham: It's a shellfish, it's a cousin of the squid, but they have the beautiful white and brown shell that the animal lives in the shell and it's tentacles stick out. It's kind of like a cuttlefish. So I've made those, oysters, birds.

Q: Maybe we can take a slight diversion here because he's given us a lead here. When you're doing realism you could either do it in a more abstract form or a realistic form. How much research is involved? These are scientists here who are interested in your work. Do you have to do a lot of real background work?

Gorham: Usually the Marine Science Center, Dr. Baden and or his assistant who I'm in touch with quite often, we've become good friends, Christy Murray, will provide either photo references or whatever it is, or articles. And most of the things I've made are figurative, and I use photographs or information from the Internet. I've spent a lot of time in the children's section of the library, because they've got the best collection of photo books of whatever: animals, or plants, or insects across the board, so anything that is supposed to be a realistic sculpture whether it's an animal or a plant. I use a lot of different photo references, and try to get those things as anatomically correct, or as detailed as possible.

Q: Dumay, from that point on, taking a look at the photos and getting in your head your mind a conception, do you then draw this out before you start working on it?

Gorham: Occasionally I will work from drawings. Usually if I do drawings myself it's for a particular installation or a piece that I'm making from scratch that's got to go in a certain place or on a wall or in a part of a building, but most of the time I just work from photo references. But if somebody needs measurements or a size reference then I will do drawings also. And also-

Q: What's the largest piece you've done?

Gorham: The largest, probably is the sea serpent I made for the Arboretum. It's in their lily pond.

Q: Here?

Gorham: Uh-huh, down near Bradley Creek. It used to be a school.

Q: I know where it is. When was that put in?

Gorham: I actually didn't make that for them. I made it to sell, and I just thought it would be an impressive, neat piece that somebody would develop an attraction to, and I made it. I had it on display at the first Airlie Arts Festival that I took part in, and it didn't sell for probably a year or more, and then some of the folks that were either volunteers or involved with Arboretum saw it and really liked it and we talked about it, and they purchased it.

Q: Go back to define a term that goes way back in art and that's the term you keep talking about "commission." Explain to us different ways that you would make your art to try to see if it would either be purchased-

(cell phone rings)

Q: Turn that off.

Gorham: It's all right.

Q: In other words you could speculatively make something and hope to take it to a gallery. Do you do that? That would be a method, right?

Gorham: Virtually I was doing speculative works, which I would make myself for sale at a show or a festival or a whatever. And from there usually if people saw something they liked or somebody bought something I'd get a phone call where somebody said "Hey, I saw this. Could you make this or could you make that bigger or smaller?" And that's when things started kind of to roll for me professionally. The jobs for the Marine Science Center certainly helped. I was fortunate and have continued to be really fortunate in that a lot of the phone calls I got were from either businesses, or organizations that were fairly high profile, and working on some pretty big projects. I still do a lot of stuff for people's homes and gardens, but some of the custom commission pieces I do, which is when somebody calls me and says "Can you make-- we would like this, can you make it?" I don't think I've ever turned down a job, even if I wasn't sure how I was going to pull it off, but I've been so busy. That happened so fast, and I've been so busy doing commission works, that it's not very often that I have time to just make some stuff that I would like for sale. I actually had my first solo show at WHQR last year in the fall of 2006, and almost killed myself trying to get ready for the show, because I was so busy with things that people had paid for and were expecting at a certain time, that it's not often that I have a couple of weeks or a couple of months to just hold the phone and go in and do what I want to do.

Q: You came out of an industrial background, so you seem comfortable with this, but isn't there this continuous tension for a sculpture? Should they be doing their own creative work? Or are they doing a work that has to go into a garden or into-- how do you feel about that?

Gorham: That's a good question, and also a sensitive topic. I think as an artist, you've got to embrace that on an individual, personal level. What do you want out of your career as an artist? What are you happy doing? For me, I love what I do. I love going in my studio and turning on my welder and working on whatever it happens to be. I certainly enjoy very much being able to work on brand new, completely original sculptures that are my own creation that aren't client-driven or subject-matter driven. I've actually done some abstract works and the show at WHQR was all original abstract metal sculpture which I had previously never even tried and was really excited because it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it, and really not expecting-- I didn't have any real expectations for the show. I had so much fun putting those together. If they sold that was great. If they didn't that was going to be fine, and I wasn't sure that a lot of people would be able to understand or appreciate those pieces, especially if they were familiar with all the other projects I've worked on which nine out of ten times are marine life of one kind or another, or furniture or logos. So it was a subject matter, while it's a huge departure, but I also was very excited about the fact that I sold half the show opening night.

Q: That's good. I would be excited too.

Gorham: That was great, because I realized at that point there's also a market for the abstracts. Those things did appeal to people. Not everybody because not everybody is going to like those things, but as an artist, I can honestly say I love what I do.

Q: You have to.

Gorham: And certainly I get phone calls to work on certain projects that I enjoy more than others, but if I lose sleep at night because I'm making another heron or another pelican or a shark as opposed to something that I want to make that's completely original, I don't wrestle with that.

Q: I think part of it is that you worked within the business world. You worked within the product and see that for those people, they have pride in what they do, but it's more commercial. You're kind of in between the fine art. But hasn't sculpture always had this as an issue? Even the very largest sculptures almost always had to be commission right?

Gorham: For the longest time many of the sculpture in Europe, in Rome and France and all these other places were commissions for either churches or governments to honor a certain historical figure, or local government leader, or whatever.

Q: Do you have a special type of work or a piece, a sculpture that you've not done yet, but you want to do?

Gorham: I would love to do some more abstract, more contemporary-

Q: I thought you'd say that.

Gorham: -pieces, and bigger. I mean I like working bigger. I've made some fairly large sculptures, but I would like to make something that somebody has to lift with a crane at some point.

Q: Are there people in town who do that size? You've mentioned-- I wanted to get some other names. I'm surprised that you mentioned the lady who first helped you.

Q: Carrie Crowd [ph?].

Q: And you mentioned another gentleman.

Gorham: She's-- Andy Cobb [ph?] has a fairly large piece. Actually Hiroshi who is a ceramic artist, but he's probably got one of the largest metal sculptures in Wilmington.

Q: He told me about this.

Gorham: Which is out at the Forum.

Q: Oh, is that metal? I have seen pictures of that. That's Hiroshi Sueyoshi is at Cameron Art Museum, Artist in Residence. So that's metal?

Gorham: Uh-huh.

Q: Okay. What about the gentleman-- there's another Acme artist who's a sculptor.

Gorham: Michael Van Hout?

Q: Michael Van Hout, you might talk about his-

Gorham: Marshall Milton.

Q: Marshall Milton, but are they big?

Gorham: Various sizes. I mean I think we all work in different sizes, in different scales, depending on the projects and most of the time the sculptures that I make are dictated by the client, and what they need. Nobody said "Dumay, we want a ten-foot tall octopus." Actually I have been talking about a ten-foot tall seahorse. That project has yet to be given the green light.

Q: Maybe when Bank of America builds their new tower down here, they'll have you do an entry hall thing.

Gorham: Sure. One of the biggest pieces I've made was a manta ray that had about an eight-foot wingspan. That was the biggest-

Q: Did you do any works that you placed out at was it Greenfield Park or another park in town?

Gorham: Two of the larger pieces that I've done were the angels for the Minnie Evans Memorial Garden. Kenan House, Airlie Garden.

Q: Near Airlie Garden, excellent. We talk about companies, they do want to support art, and sometimes sculpture is more permanent, something they can do. So you've had good success with companies, right?

Gorham: And I've actually worked with the city. I've made a series of bike racks and some sign holders for downtown. That's an example of my design background directly translating into some of the projects that I get. I mean although the sculpture itself, the metal sculpture that I do probably falls more into the fine arts category, my design background made for a really simple and smooth transition into the fine arts world; but also I think allows me to approach things from more of a design and structural standpoint, and probably more professional than be influenced by personal experiences or whatever.

Q: Would that be an ultimate goal of yours to do a stylized [inaudible] with whatever? You've done so much in the way of marine science and birds and so forth.

Gorham: That's been my niche, but that was another reason why I was really excited about doing the abstract stuff, because I wanted-- that served two purposes. One was just creative for me, but another one was just to show people that I could do something besides marine life, and those projects across the board have been a lot of fun, and exciting, and I've worked with a lot of different entities and businesses from the city of Wilmington to the state. I've done projects for the aquariums on my own and the county and certain offices.

Q: We might speak to that. There's a required course at the university for art majors called "Art as Business" to help people where they're going to go. It seems like in your particular subset of the art world that you have to have certain business negotiation skills as well, because you aren't just creating and then handing it to a gallery, right? You are your own agent so to speak?

Gorham: It works like that often, and I like having an hour, and I like being the person to negotiate my own contracts.

Q: I've heard creative people want control over what they're doing. It's their mind that you're paying for.

Gorham: Sure. And when I went to design school there was a business-oriented course that we had to take which was everything from designing business cards, to resume production, to interview skills, portfolio building and all of that which was huge. I think the professional experience that I have before I started doing metal sculpture has really helped me personally secure a lot of the jobs and contracts that I get. It's also enabled me to relate to a lot of different people, business-wise whether it's somebody's administrative director who calls me about something, or the head of a department, or a county commissioner, or somebody, and all that is who you are in the business world. I think I've worked really hard to establish a solid and trustworthy reputation as an artist and a business person. I've been really lucky that I really haven't had any bad experiences to speak of. Not to say that that couldn't happen, but I think the more bases you could cover, the more detail-oriented you are, the more contingency plans you can have. The bigger view you can have going into a project, the more flexible you can be, the better you're going to be at certain things. There are certain artists that might have the prospect of getting a giant job, and if you're just coming from the creative side, and you're going to stick to your guns on this particular sculpture, or this particular design and put your feet down as far as the creative background or subject matter. That's all a personal decision that you make. Like I know there are some artists out there that if somebody said "We want you to do this sculpture, but we want you to do it this way," that they would probably turn down the job. That's why I say I approach things probably more from a professional or design background than the creative final [inaudible] because I'm not going to turn down a job. And that's something I'm sure [inaudible].

Q: Or do you want to get famous and big enough that you could turn down a job?

Gorham: Sure, and I think that's a worthy goal. I joke with people and say "My goal is to become a famous living artist, not a famous dead artist."

Q: That's good. I've got to use that. You do things for friends, obviously. I have yet to go over to take a look at the owls in the tree.

Gorham: Right [inaudible].

Q: Friends of ours said that's just-- my understanding is you did this without their knowing it, and placed them in the trees without their knowing it too. Is that right?

Gorham: Actually, they were there. They were directing me where to put it, so that's a rumor in the art world having to avert owl installation.

Q: We're going to bring this part to a close and take a walk over to your studio. A question I wanted to end with is that you're in a short time successfully managing this art career and creating things in a fairly small market. Do you see yourself branching to other parts of the state? In other words where does someone go who is a metal sculpturist? Do they saturate a particular area? Do you see yourself moving with jobs other places? In other words, what's the next step? Do you have a plan for your next step?

Gorham: I have worked on projects that aren't local, a handful, not a whole lot. I would love to expand my horizons logistically in the projects that I work on and the different people that I work with. I've been really lucky that word of mouth has been huge in the local area, and I stay really busy with local projects. There are other locations, other cities, and other organizations that have public art projects and call for artists, that you can submit ideas and photos and apply to get a certain phase or a part of a project like that. And I'd like to do more of that, but-

Q: Would you have to move your base or keep your base?

Gorham: I think for the most part I could probably do it here and then ship things.

Q: I think one of the dilemmas for competitions is you end up investing quite a bit of design and thinking and even materials on the speculation that you might get the job, and that's costly.

Gorham: I think a really good way to kind of build that base client-wise and get out there is to travel and to do shows outside of the local area, or contact gallery owners outside of the Wilmington or the North Carolina locale. And I just don't have time to do that.

Q: That's what I thought you were going to say.

Gorham: If I did, that would be great. Down the road-

Q: That's a lot of paperwork. That's a lot of time just contacting, and keeping your contacts.

Gorham: It is, and although I would like to be able to do that in the future, I would like to get to the point where I can take a month or two months or three months, and just work on things that I want to do. Right now my project board is pretty full, and my schedule stays pretty tight with commission projects, but that's ideal for me. As long as the phone keeps ringing, that's a good thing. And I've worked hard to hopefully get some things out there, and allow people to see the things that I have done to this point. I've been fortunate that quite a few of the projects that I have worked on and completed have been more or less public sculptures.

Q: Right. In other words if everything was private, it would be hard to even have people see, so it needs to be a blend.

Gorham: I would say at least a portion of the phone calls that I get, or the projects that I take on on a regular basis are from people that want me to do other projects.

Q: You had some play locally as far as the magazines are concerned too. Did not both Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington Magazine do spreads on you with photos of your art, your sculptures?

Gorham: Yeah, the media has been a huge help.

Q: And that does make a difference?

Gorham: Promotional in the way that I've been promoted as an artist, and the projects that I've been involved with, whether it's just been an article about me, or something that I've worked on for somebody else, and that's huge for any artist. I've always told people who asked, I'll call somebody when I'm putting something in to make sure that it's going to get covered. It's not all the time-- I mean I've gotten plenty of phone calls from a magazine or the newspaper or whatever, but I think if you want to get the word out there, and you want to promote yourself it's worth it to make the phone call yourself. It's nothing to feel guilty about, or it's nothing that's going to take away from your whatever, how you want to be looked at as an artist. If you want people to know about you, they've got to find out about you somehow, and you're the vehicle. You're the person that's got to make that happen. I have no qualms about calling Currents [ph?] or the newspaper, or a magazine if something is going on.

Q: I think they appreciate the news because it gives them another dimension too.

Gorham: And I've gotten plenty of unsolicited phone calls too, but I also donate quite a few sculptures to different charity organizations and fund raisers.

Q: I was going to ask you about fundraising. I think I've seen something.

Q: But there's a balance there, right, because that's a lot of work and a lot of time, and you can't give your work away all the time.

Gorham: I've had good experiences with that. That's another sensitive topic in the art and artist world, but I'm not in competition with myself. Like I don't have works exhibited in any local galleries that are going to be in competition with things that I put in an auction. But I also, I don't sit on any boards, and quite honestly, I can probably donate or give more to a certain organization by donating a sculpture, than I would if I wrote a check. They're going to make a lot more money usually off a piece of artwork. And that doesn't always work. There are times I'm sure somebody has gotten a really nice sculpture of mine for a very reasonable price. Conversely there's also been many times that something has sold for twice what I would have sold it for.

Q: When you pick out-- you usually then donate to charities that you believe in, right? So you see it as a method of--

Gorham: And that helps me satisfy my own need to take part in the community and do something on the philanthropy side. And I'm happy to do it, and I've been kidded by a lot of people by the amount of work that I give to certain organizations.

Q: It's your community. It's your home.

Gorham: Right.

Q: Let's take a break and walk over to the-

Q: I hope we don't drown.

(audio out/in)

Gorham: We didn't talk about it, but I also teach at the Juvenile Day Treatment Center [inaudible].

Q: That's right over here. Isn't that the [inaudible]?

Gorham: That's the [inaudible].

Q: Oh great. That would be a nice thing to talk about. A lot of artists do things, teaching back in, but don't want to be tied into a full time- What's that?

Q: I'll be along here in a second. I want to put on my jacket.

Gorham: It's kind of funny, because it was easier like Tracy Wilkes that works at [inaudible] called me a few ti-

(audio out/in)

Q: Okay. We're walking here with Dumay, and with Carroll. That noise you hear in the background is a welcomed rainstorm for the area. We're now in your shop?

Gorham: This is my studio. This actually used to be storage space once upon a time for Acme. My brother and I put in the windows, put in the doors, painted a little bit, spruced up a little bit. Moved a lot of junk out of here, even though it looks kind of junky still.

Q: I'm panning across now various things. Why don't we come over here to a work area, and give us a sense of what your working tools are.

Gorham: This is my work table. This is where I spend most of every day. This is my [inaudible] that I got for Christmas about five years ago.

Q: And the blue container behind it there, that's gas?

Gorham: These are bottles of argon which is the gas that works with the [inaudible]. It's odorless, colorless, and I'm actually not sure of all the technical information behind the process, but I use argon.

Q: So right on the table I'm looking at is-

Gorham: This is actually a repair job for a table base that broke that I was going to repair for a client, and in addition to sculptural works and artistic projects, I still do a decent amount of repair work.

Q: I wondered about that. That's fine with you? You're happy with that?

Gorham: Absolutely fine with it.

Q: I know you did the Seahawk out at the university which was good and grateful for that. What is this mask?

Gorham: This is called a welding helmet or shield which allows me to see where I'm working and what I'm working on, because the art created by my welder is so bright it would blind you. You need to wear a welding helmet or have a shield to protect your eyes.

Q: The arc [ph?] itself in the weld is a hot- hot- hot process.

Gorham: Yes.

Q: Is there a safety question within the whole world of metal sculpturing?

Gorham: I always wear gloves to do what I do. A lot of people don't. It's mainly an issue of just being careful and watching where your hands are. I don't cut myself very often, but I burn myself constantly, and I think a lot of people do. It's just the nature of the business when you're working with hot metal.

Q: Okay, I'm looking here now, for the people here who are reading this, at a copper- is this a copper?

Gorham: That is actually a sink, or it will be a sink. I'm not quite finished with it. That's actually for one of the other artists who works here at Acme, and it actually has, or will have, a matching lamp that's going to go above it, and these are the components for the lamp.

Q: You started with a large sheet of copper. What's the tool that gets it down smaller and smaller? Is it a particular cutting device that's common for-

Gorham: For that, since it had to be a specific size and shape, I actually took it to a friend who owns and operates a sheet metal company, and he has what's called a CNC plasma cutter which is basically a torch that's driven by a computer that can cut out virtually any shape whether it's geometric or a letter or a number, and he laid out that shape, or the way that it needed to look three dimensionally in the computer, and then the computer laid out each individual part, and then it cut all the parts out of a flat piece of copper and then I rolled them to give it the curve and the shape, and then weld them together to make that.

Q: Would you say that the introduction of the computer is more collaborative work with sculptures going and using that design element?

Gorham: I think a lot of sculptors and people that work in metal use those tools and that system a lot. I don't use it very often because most of the things that I do are more free form, where I do a lot of it by hand, but there are certain projects that I give my friend a call for, because it's just a little more industrial [inaudible].

Q: I'm looking here at an instrument. Is this a belt of some sort? Sanding belt?

Gorham: Yeah, that's just a sander which I use to clean metal and sharpen the electrode on the welder when it gets dirty.

Q: And this interesting band saw?

Gorham: It is. That's a very old, very rickety band saw but it works for what I need it for, and there are times when I get bigger projects that I need either other equipment or a bigger facility to work on and so I've got other connections in Wilmington with other shops that have equipment that I don't have and materials that I don't usually have that when I need something done, I can make a phone call and get that part of whatever project it may be taken care of.

Q: Is this one your mid-size sculptures here on the floor?

Gorham: That's a chameleon that I made. I made that for a garden show a few years ago, and it's yet to find a happy home.

Q: It's out eating a- I like that.

Gorham: A dragonfly.

Q: A dragonfly, getting that. And this all starts from in your head, and so for these unusual shapes and so forth, how would you cut that metal? You wouldn't send that. That's with a hand shear?

Gorham: Actually I use clippers, hand clippers to cut the copper sheet. A really good example of how it starts is if you look up in the corner of the room over here is a wire form pelican which happens to be one of the very first sculptures that I made, but when I'm making other sculptural pieces if they're animals or whatever the subject matter is, especially if they have any size, that's how it starts. I make an armature, a wire frame, and then cut the patterns out. I'll wrap the metal around it, and trace the lines of the wire form, and then cut the individual pieces, and then weld those to the form.

Q: What's this?

Q: Oh yeah. That's interesting. Is this one of the more contemporary sculptures you did for the show?

Gorham: That is one of the pieces that didn't sell at the WHQR show, but these pieces that are over in the corner are all different abstract sculptures that I made last year.

Q: This would be a classic example of what you're talking about.

Gorham: Uh-huh.

Q: Back to the animal here, I see the creation of a skin, a dotted skin. What technique would be used to get that?

Gorham: I did that with the welder also, and basically those are all small spot welds. I just laid the material on the sheet and put a little tack on there and that's how I achieved the whole pattern. It is a little labor intensive, but it adds a nice effect to the-

Q: Would these be samples of things you might take with you in a booth at-

Gorham: Those are actually some Christmas ornaments that were left over. I was asked to make some ornaments for one of the trees in the Festival of Trees this past Christmas, and those were some of the things that I made.

Q: Those are great. I also point out, I see some marble and so forth which points to the other part of the sculpture. It's not just the sculpture itself. It's the installation, the bases; it's all of that design element too, right? What holds it up?

Gorham: I started using these scraps and drops that are marble and granite of different kinds, because a lot of the things that I needed to put on bases, needed a heavy base just to support them so they wouldn't tip over. That's a perfect example, but also realized that they added a really neat look to many of the sculptures that I've made, and they've kind of become a trademark of mine, or at least for the pieces that would be called table top pieces.

Q: I'm looking here at a small-- is this a portable heating element?

Gorham: This is a handheld propane torch that I use to heat things up.

Q: I'm looking now down at some more material. You might speak to what this is. This is copper [inaudible]?

Gorham: It's actually copper tubing in the big coils. That's all copper tubing of different sizes. These are copper coils which are individual wires that I use for different things depending on the sculpture. These are different gauges of copper wire, and these are, this is actually solid copper bar which were leftovers from a table base project that I [inaudible].

Q: Recently the news has spoken about just the crazy price increase in copper. Is this starting to trickle down to affect you seriously?

Gorham: It's actually been affecting me for the past couple of years. For example, what's left of this roll of copper used to cost maybe barely $200 with tax. Now the same roll of copper, and that's what's left of a hundred-pound roll, now the same item the same roll costs between $500 and $600.

Q: Does that make you think about perhaps switching to a- is there a better metal that's still reasonably priced? Or have they all gone up?

Gorham: All metals across the board, the prices have increased, but one of the main reasons I use and like copper is because it doesn't rust or deteriorate outside, and a lot of the sculptures that I make are for exhibit outside or in someone's garden, and a lot of them have gone in water like lily ponds or-

Q: But do they eventually get the kind of green copper patina? Is that what you're-

Gorham: They do. Actually copper will turn outside. A lot of copper that's brand new is bright and shiny and after it's been outside for a while, it turns really dark brown and then will start going, they call it vertigree or green, especially around here in the salt air and the humidity. I use a variety of patinas or mild chemicals to turn the copper different colors, especially for the animals and plants to get things as close to their natural colors as possible.

Q: So you do alter color even before you deliver the product?

Gorham: Sometimes. Some things I polish, like these things are I think some things I think look better kind of shined and polished. These are actually color samples of different browns that I used to show a client who wasn't sure what color she wanted a particular piece, and-

Q: Can you stop that forever, or does the elements still keep affecting copper?

Gorham: Usually if it's outside, and I put a patina on it, it will still change or shift a little bit, but within that color range, like that brown might get a little bit darker, or a little bit lighter depending on sunlight and acid in the rain and humidity.

Q: But it won't go completely off where you had to-

Gorham: I haven't noticed anything that does, and some things that go inside, I put a clear coat on so it will stay that color indefinitely. But all these are different colors and patinas that I use. And I don't know if you can get this on camera, but this is a good example of these dolphins all have a patina on them, but the client wanted them to look like they were swimming under water, so I used the blues and whites and light blues to give that affect, but those are patinas.

Q: So you have a lot more color flexibility than most people would assume. They remember the copper color, but you can do a lot of variations from that.

Gorham: Probably five or six years ago, the companies that made the patinas made blue and green. Those were the two main colors. There's a company in California that I do a lot of business with that has a whole color palette and spectrum so purples and yellows and oranges and reds. I also use heat. The torch that you showed earlier is another tool that I use to color the copper and give it a different look from time to time.

Q: This is a buffing wheel?

Gorham: This is a wire wheel that I use to just clean the soot and discoloration from something after I've welded it. And these are different polishing compounds that I put on the soft cloth wheel, and that's what if you do it enough, really cleans up the metal and will give it kind of that mirror shine on those.

Q: I'm going to let you repeat something I think you said off camera and we'll end on that which is you actually like to come to work every day. It's your own work but-

Gorham: I do. I enjoy it very much, and I've been here at Acme in this studio for just about four years now, and I really can't think of too many things I would rather do expect for maybe flying airplanes or being a rock star.

Q: Thank you very much. On behalf of Carroll and I, we really appreciate you sharing the story. Thank you.

Q: It was so interesting.

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