Rob McGowan from Fin Art “No matter what you do, you’re going to make mistakes and you need to be okay with that.”

I came across Fin Art on the Denver Egotist when they posted a video about this crew, which is posted previously.

Definitely check out the interview below to learn about salvage yards and what it was like for Fin Art to go from building furniture in their backyard to where they are today.

Happy News Year and enjoy!


What projects are you currently working on?

Right now we are working on Old Major; it will be a restaurant in the Highlands.  It’s the biggest job we’ve gotten so far including all  the benches, light fixtures, 76 seats, 30 tables,  and the bar.  We’ve been doing design consulting with the owner and architect too, so we’ve helped choose the colors and where walls will go, etc.  It’s really fun, but challenging at times.  We’ve run into a a few different roadblocks and hurdles, but these kinds of things come up in any project.  For example, we had all of these hanging lights designed, but realized the garage door would come up over them, so we had to redesign the entire lighting scheme.  Everyone is really nice though, so we’re having a great time and really excited to see the end result.


Did you guys design your logo?

Actually a friend we knew from bartending came up with the logo.  He used to work at CP+B.  I haven’t spoken with him that much since he had a few kids, since that took him out of the social realm.  For our pieces, we always add the logo; some people add their signature to art, but adding our logo is our thing.


What are some of your favorite projects you worked on in the past?

The last big project we did was the Matthew Morris hair salon on Ellsworth and Broadway.  We’ve done a lot of restaurants and homes, but never did a hair salon before.  We weren’t familiar with hair salons, so it was a little strange to take it on; we weren’t aware needs of that type of business.  However, we did a Fin Art take on how to do a cool hair salon.  We found all of these old warehouse carts, took them apart, kept the wheels and welded a steel structure that lifted it to the proper height with a cabinetry underneath.  Then we added holsters for the tools, frosted glass on top and then a framed mirror.  We did about 14 or so of these carts.  We were working 18 hour days for 2 months; the final product was great, but we really slaved away.  A lot of the time I slept in the office, woke up and just kept working.  At the color bar and reception desk, we used big airplane wings.  The colors stack up, so it looks likes a stereo equalizer.  It came out really cool and fun.  That was definitely my favorite project to date.

What are you initial thoughts on the importance of creative spaces?

It’s incredibly important.  In general, to be able to come to work every day at a place that you like is inspiring on its own.  Around our workshop we have a ton of stuff, but we make it a point to have the place organized and fairly clean.  We have different pieces around at all times to have a little bit more creativity when we have a problem; we do a lot of salvaging.  This space lends itself to good ideas, intrigue and curiosity.  I believe it’s very important to have a comfortable space; if you’re going to spend the majority of your time and life somewhere, you want to have a comfortable space.


What are you most important items to have around?

Beyond tools, of course, I’d say our materials.  Our materials lend ourselves to their own design.  We will find weird things like airplane wings and all of this other stuff we have no idea what to do with for awhile.  They’ll usually hang around and collect dust for a year, but then the light bulb will go off and you’ll finally have the inspiration and idea.  It’s all the random stuff we find really.


 Are you part of a creative community outside of Fin Art?

Not particularly.  We support other artists and furniture designers.  We go to a lot of local band concerts and what not.  A lot of this comes through mostly friendships though.  Work is definitely my creative outlet; I like going home at night and hanging out.  I’m really tired after I leave.


Were you creative when you were younger?  Also, was there a pivotal moment when you knew you were meant to be in a creative profession?

I never fancied myself as a creative person growing up.  Ben and James were much more creative doing art.  I’m a terrible artist; I can’t draw or paint to save my life.  Ben and James are quite good though.  But, I always cooked a lot, so that was a creative outlet for me.

We all had the 9-5 jobs and didn’t like it, so that’s really how Fin Art started.  We hated our jobs, wanted to do something else and one thing led to another.  We started making stuff in our backyard and friends would pay us.  Then we got  a house with a garage, found some more tools on CraigsList, outgrew that shop and then we found this shop.  We’re a real company, pay taxes and do the business things that businesses do.  I would just like to hang out and build furniture all day, but it becomes this whole business with rent, insurance, income tax, etc.  I had no idea what we were getting into.  We had to become businesspeople against our will, in a way.  At some point you have to make that leap; it’s a part of growing up.


 How did you learn all the skills?

Ben helped his dad build a house, so he had some background.  But really, we made every mistake you could make and learned from it.  We use to make horrible things that would fall apart, felt terrible, but we thought they were cool.  We always had a good eye for design, but we had to a lot of techniques, get spray finishing down and obtain better tools to get straighter cuts.  We really just figured it out by making mistakes and learning from them.


What helped you make the leap into opening Fin Art with one of your best friends?

Ben and I were both cooking in a kitchen, talked about doing it for a while, so and we eventually quit our jobs to do this.  We were both worried about it, but after one specific conversation,  we decided to go all in and make it happen.  That was six years ago.  It was always sort of obvious.  We couldn’t do it without one another.  It would never cross our minds to do this without one another.

What is your creative process?

The creative process always starts with the demand; someone needs something.  We think about it and our first thought is, “What really cool thing can we make to use this?”  Sometimes we have something in mind and, if not, we go to salvage yards that always has cool stuff.  We’ll scour those for a while.  Sometimes the answer will pop up instantly or we’ll kind of run around and think about it for a few days.  The three of us will check things out and we’ll disagree, one person might think it will really work and another won’t, but generally we can tell which is the best idea and we’ll go for it.  We always find something that works well.  We also like to juxtapose old and new; retro and modern.  We’ll salvage old wood and contrast it with a shiny white piece or steel, so it doesn’t look like it’s from an antique store.  So it has a sleek modern feel; we try to mix those in there somehow or another.  And then it’s onto building and designing.  The piece designs itself in a way with the basic ideas, but from there we have to figure out how it’s actually going to work.  Like an airplane wing isn’t flat, so how are we going to make it so.  While building, there are problems that we solve along the way. We might be mistaken, but we learn from or we really nail it.  It’s a constant learning process.


Is there a space you feel the most inspired in the world?

[Asks Ben and James that are around.]  Not really sure.  Maybe the shop?  Salvage yard?  We solve a lot of problems in the salvage yard.  Salvage yard and… the beach.

What exactly is a salvage yard?

Junk arts in a sense.  There are a couple places we go that are demolition services, so if you’re tearing down a building they will help you and haul it away.  Nice windows, bricks, wood.  Salvage yards are in the middle of nowhere and are on the cheapest land possible.  So there are just piles of stuff from when businesses close.  So basically, it’s  a junkyard business.  Some people call them architectural salvaging, but that means it’s a little more expensive.


Any advice?  Words of wisdom?

No matter what you do, you’re going to make mistakes and you need to be okay with that.  Don’t be afraid to try.  We try stuff we don’t know how to do all the time.  We didn’t know how to weld and we tried it.  It might be intimidating at first but with repetition you’ll be good.  It’s really important for that.  If you’re interested in doing something that’s motor cross racing, making clothing, etc.  – if you really want to do it, give it your all because if you half-ass it you’ll just be disappointed with yourself.  That’s what we did.  We’re nothing special, but that’s what we did.  We were originally building stuff in our backyard for a while and now we’re here!  So yeah, just don’t be afraid.

Thanks Rob, Ben and James; you guys are great.


Upcoming Interview : Rob McGowan from Fin Art

Interview with Rob McGowan from Fin Art:

To get a glimpse and what they do, check out this video made by Boyte Creative: 

[vimeo 53623459 w=560 h=315]

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