Jay Nelson: Artist turning reclaimed wood into treehouses, customised vehicles and boats

Creating objects and structures from reclaimed wood and other discarded materials has always been a natural and normal process for Bay Area-based artist, Jay Nelson.

Jay Nelson’s structures, made from discarded wood that he personally goes in search of and hunts down, include everything from treehouses, customised vehicles, boats, and various dwellings.

The artist and surfer began working with wood when he was young and in school, building his first treehouse at the age of 10. Growing up in Redondo Beach in Los Angeles County, the ocean and surfing was naturally “in his blood”, and was is where Jay Nelson learned the history of surf shacks – shaping his own with driftwood, concrete and palm fronds, as well as building patios into beach cliffs.

He said: “When I was a kid I used to work a lot with wood. My dad was often remodelling our house, so there was always a lot of scrap lumber lying around. It was simply accessible to me. All through high school I was building stuff with friends and that was kind of a hobby that we all took up – building forts, pulleys, tree houses and skate ramps.”

The artist and family man has always lived a simple and sustainable existence. He built a camper shell over a Honda Civic and lived and travelled in it extensively, including to New York where he completed his master’s in fine arts at Bard College. The Honda Civic became Jay Nelson’s home for five years, saving him on renting.

At his home in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset neighbourhood, Jay Nelson has built a studio that he shares with his wife, Rachel Kaye, in their backyard. The artist, who also paints and draws, says tapping into his inner child is of utmost importance in creating art.

He told surf brand Vissla: “When I was a kid, I built a lot of weird treehouses and things. I like to tap into my inner child when I’m building,” Nelson says. “I think that kids make the best artwork. If you look at the kinds of things my daughter makes…I think that’s what I’m trying to get to with my painting and drawing.”

“As you get older, you put all these judgements on artwork. When you’re young, it’s just flowing out of you, when you’re a little kid. When do you start to feel self-conscious about it? All kids are artists when they’re little. All kids are like, ‘I can make a drawing.’ But then adults will say, ‘I don’t know how to draw. I don’t know how to paint.’ Obviously they do. They just don’t think they know how. At some point in our lives, we develop inhibitions around artwork. With painting, I’m always trying to get back to the feeling of what that’s like — an inner-journey back.”

Images Credit: Jay Nelson

Jay Nelson

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about sustainable lifestyle and green living for publications, and offers content services to planet-friendly businesses. Find out more at Rosamedea.com 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.