Scott Weaver was an artist that I can’t even recall how I found out about; his sculptures are made from toothpicks, an item not typically in my field of vision. But once I read just a bit about him, I had to get in touch and he was an incredibly warm and genuine person, not to mention he introduced me to Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum, which is now one of my favorite places on the planet. You can read the article in publication by clicking on the spread image below or just read the copy below.
To talk with Scott Weaver is to be enveloped in a warm timbre that ripples and bubbles all around you, rather like the Ghirardelli chocolate from his multi-generational hometown of San Francisco. (It wasn’t really a surprise to hear that he sings in a band among many other hobbies.) Picking Scott’s brain about his creativity and hearing his personal tales about the bits and pieces of his sculpture, Rolling Through the Bay, was like enjoying a mug of cocoa – both luscious and nurturing.
Rolling Through the Bay is a 9’ x 7’ x 30” sculpture that Scott built sporadically over 40 years using over 100,000 toothpicks and good old Elmer’s glue. “The last toothpick, number 104,388,” he says, sounding somewhat facetious, “was from a burger I had at AVAM (see pg 20) and I glued it on that morning!” That toothpick, like every other one in his sculpture has a story and intention and connection and it’s this adventure, along with the surprise tracks for ping-pong balls, that make Scott’s sculpture truly unique.
His creativity first took root as an emotional outlet for Scott to process his father’s leaving when he was very young. He’d spend hours drawing, expressing himself and escaping for a while. It’s my perception that the therapy must have proved effective as Scott’s work within his sculpture (and life itself) displays unbridled joy and that sense of combining work with plenty of play.
When asked about the impetus for Rolling Through the Bay (RTTB), Scott is all about the process, the freedom, the fun. He points out that he never set himself to any particular method. Different areas of the sculpture show different techniques that might simply be reflecting his moods along with needs for a repair or a new track for the ping pong balls. He also admits that his project began with a good dose of “Wouldn’t it be cool…” As it unfolded, he was inspired to keep going by the idea of letting people see just what could be accomplished with simple materials and a belief in yourself.
He held back on showing RTTB until he felt it was finished and we talked a bit about “finished” and knowing when things are ready or complete.
“I always knew I would get it done. I just never knew it would take a knee injury from my triathalons. 10 months of healing time gave me the drive. I could begin to see where it was going and the end in sight.”
Though Scott deemed the sculpture finished in September, 2011, he sheepishly concedes that historical moments for his beloved city might just find their way into RTTB in the future.
He took breaks in his project whenever he needed, sometimes for extensive periods of time that he spent on other aspects of his life. He proudly speaks of his wife, Rochelle and their son, Tyler, when he talks about taking time off. Other times, he’s worked for 12+ straight hours, sometimes without meaning to – he mentions having “Aha” moments in the middle of the night, when he would suddenly solve a kinetic problem in his sleep.
Scott seems to equally relish the functionality he’s included in RTTB along with the challenges of creating a really beautiful structure. The balls traverse an organic, well-embellished three dimensional montage of San Francisco. There are 3 different routes through town that the balls might travel, all of them passing through memories along with tourist attractions and historic geography. If you get the chance to view the piece in person, with Scott there talking about it, you’ve hit the jackpot; it’s his telling about the personal elements such as his family home and figures of him swimming across from Alcatraz or surfing or skateboarding around town that really enhance the magic of his sculpture.
This huge piece seems so delicate that I had to ask Scott how he felt about putting it in the hands of the public and traveling with it across the US. (Its current exhibit space is in the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore*.) Scott is enthusiastic about people enjoying his current masterpiece. “I’ve turned it upside down! I’m happy for people to have fun with it. If something breaks, I fix it.”
All part of putting together the little things that make a stunning whole. And then sharing that joy and fun with those around you. Thank you, Scott, for the best tour I’ve had yet of San Francisco!