Wednesday, January 27

Carving out a niche

So after a long and yes harrowing expedition, of digging art sights I am feeling much like an archeologist. . I dug and I dug and I dug. I found artifact …errrr artist after artist that were NOT treasures. Ohhhhh… so not treasures, just lumps of clay and then finally I made it past the first layers and struck on the treasures. I unearthed treasure after treasure. The line up for the blog could now be housed in the Smithsonian. Okay maybe that is stretching it a bit far. I did however find a plethora of great items and artists to bring to the blog. I still, sadly have to reply to 36 emails of “I’m sorry” . Those are the emails I just hate having to write.

I want to bring only the best. Sometimes the work is great but what lurks behind the work just isn’t. The answers mundane, the tone really unfriendly. And yes, we artists are temperamental I realize this. But, you know, there really is a vibe you can pick up …even on the net. And all things considered, I am putting myself out a bit by bringing you guys these folks…so I want only the best. I am very selective and really try to do my research before just flinging someone at you guys.

Today I bring you none other than....

 ~River Otter Rustics~

Otters are fun. Jon is fun! I really have enjoyed our repartee back and forth as we prepared for the story and interview. Most of all I liked his work. My eyes literally had become blurry scrolling page after page after page of pictures on the sites. I was growing weary and suddenly the most beautiful wood carving I have ever seen pops out at me. I literally snapped to attention and said “BINGO” out loud. Enough it made the dogs think “uhhh here we go again, with her talking to herself” I clicked the picture to go to the store. I was great. The welcome message “Welcome To River Otter Rustics, where you will find my whimsical woodworkings and fantasy pieces inspired by nature. Waves a paw! Come on in!” I am now thinking okay, could have something here. I start scrolling down the page and each and every one of his items are incredible. They are stop in you tracks, take another look kind of beautiful! I had to instantly fire off an email.

The response I sometimes get from artists is not friendly. Not here. Not Jon. He had me giggling audibly, much to the dogs dismay. He was polite, funny and just everything I thought it would be from the moment I opened the store. Seriously, someone with an otter for a logo and probably can’t go wrong! And you certainly wouldn’t go wrong with any of his art work. Jon miraculously balances color and tones it is so striking and yet so simple at the same time. Ornate, detailed swirling with motion-emotion and at the same time, quite, simple almost quaint. I

I cannot capture Jon. I just can’t. I have written, re-written. Sat back, humph-ed I just can’t seem to know where to go with it. His work is just …I don’t know it blows me away. I work with wood as well, so maybe I understand how delicate and how complicated it can be…whatever the reason. I just cant seem to capture all that is him and all that is exquisite about his work So I decided we will do a River Otter Rustics info and Gallery. I really don’t like to do the Q and A’s but my reader feedback on them has been great, …give the people what they want right? And who knows, I sorta like this format!

Can you tell me your name and a little about yourself and your studio/creative space?

My name is Jon Gosling I am 31 and I am the artist and owner of River Otter Rustics, my home based studio on the outskirts of Detroit Michigan (Moving to Minnesota in late Feb) I am an avid outdoors enthusiast, and can be found in the summertime either in the forest looking for dead trees to harvest wood from, or along rivers and lake shores as well. I only use found wood to make my carvings, so no live trees are hurt in the process. :) Originally from Florida, I moved to Michigan when I met my wife online and am proud to say will have been married 12 happy years in Oct. I also draw wildlife and incorporate Pyrography into a lot of my art.

Do you have a family and if so what role does your family play in your art?

No family just me and my lovely wife of 12 years. and a bunch of spoiled cats, a German Shepherd named Oakley and fish

Where do you live and what is it like?

Well, as of this interview I am living on the outskirts of Detroit, which is one sad place right now with the job losses. I have been out of work since April (used to repair Automatic doors until company closed), and am Moving to the great state of Minnesota at end of Feb. My father lives there with his wife, and he has offered to retrain me in Computers.

How do you know what the next step is?

It depends on whether you mean next step as in where I take my art next or the actual process used to create. With carving there are indeed set steps, such as drawing out the piece, stop cuts and working the different layers. From an artist's perspective, I find where I want my art to go, just comes naturally, if you force it in any direction it will stop like a stubborn mule in it's tracks.

If there’s one thing that defines you, what is it?

I think that nature being a central theme in my art, defines me best. I LOVE the outdoors and being out in the woods any given chance to look for wood, so bringing that feeling of discovery back into the studio, I hope to make pieces that people can relate to and like

Why do so many artists and creators have such volatile personalities?

I don't know! Not enough hugs as a kid I suppose. The type of art I do involves sharp or very hot objects most of the time, so it requires extreme focus. I find that this is very relaxing, so between that and a nice hot cup of Lapsang Souchong, I am Jack Johnson mellow...well maybe not THAT mellow...but I'm pretty laid back

When and how did you begin to see yourself as an artist?

I began to take my artwork a bit more seriously, when I was minding a craft fair booth for my wife's sister one year at The Wyandotte Art Fair. She needed to go get some food and take a bathroom break so we watched her stuff (she sold these nice handmade dolls). I had brought along my sketch book and pencil so I wouldn't get too bored, and was just working on a falcon drawing that still needed some feather work. The next thing I knew I had a decent sized crowd standing behind me watching me work. It was exciting and scary too! Later on I had a woman hand me a card from a Wild Wings gallery she ran, and told me to call her. I never did! LOL I was too shy, and really didn't consider myself any good, but it did turn on a light in my head. This was well before I started carving, and I believe that experience helped me realize what I needed to do to enjoy life fully

What are your goals with your work?

I have only been carving for four years seriously, and since I am exclusively an online artist, I would like to change that by entering some shows and competitions, and getting known more offline. I would also like to submit work to some of the nice Wood Carving magazines out there, and maybe get some work published in one. Long term, I would like to teach beginner classes in wood carving someday, as I would like to pass on what I know to people interested in the medium

How did you come to selling online?

My wife's sister actually introduced me to Etsy. She makes dolls and sells at craft fairs, so she's up on everything craft related. I checked out the site and here I am. I started on Etsy not for my woodworking though, but for some of the steampunk style lamps I make. So my older shop is the first online store I opened. I am River Otter Rustics on Etsy for that venue of my creative side. As far as my carving goes, It took a lot to finally tell myself I was good enough to sell my work. I am very critical of what I do, and If I don't like the way something looks I won't sell it. With the steampunk shop, it's easy to do and I don't take it serious, that's my fun play with metal shop. I like to tinker with mechanical stuff and that shop has been quite successful in my eyes. My carving is my passion though.

Is art necessary?

Of course. Art it can be argued, is one of the reasons we as humans have existed for as long as we have. If we didn't find beauty in these things we create, life would be pretty bleak indeed

How do you feel about the fact that the pieces exhibited in contemporary art museums are often of artists already deceased?

I think it's nice that there are so many visual artists featured that are deceased, as their vision lives on, however in the same breath it's a lot like listening to the radio for me. SO many good artists never get exposure, cause of Britney Spears. If that makes any sense

What advice would you give to those just beginning?

Keep at what you love to do and don't listen to anyone who discourages you from your art, even family members or spouses. (mine is supportive Hi honey!) Remember that old practice makes perfect saying? If your like me, and it's never good enough, don't worry you'll get to a point where you have more confidence in your work ;) and above all remember to always have FUN

Why do you think that buying and selling handmade products benefits society?

Handmade is where it's at, and not just for art but many useful items too. I see a lot of handmade items incorporating recycling, and the quality of the items can't be reproduced in a factory, Buying handmade also helps keep the bills paid for a lot of folks, myself included. From the sales in my shop, being unemployed currently I have kept the lights on, and saved the money to move to MN, so when you buy handmade, you directly affect the person who made the item in a big way without knowing it sometimes.

So there you have it the life and loves of Jon Gosling. Can you see why I couldn’t shore it up in three of four paragraphs? Maybe it is me and having a bad night. I don’t know but it seems to me like the wood he carves, so intricate, so beautiful of a story.

Please check out his River Otter Rustics! Lets help spread the word to..pass this one along and lets get him settled nicely into his new home in MN!


  1. Wonderful interview and oh my gosh, I love his store! What a marvelous talent you've found. His ravens and Green Men are awesome!

  2. Wow, what an amazing artist! Thanks so much for sharing!
    -Michelle of CreativeCritters