Sculptor Chris Schofield, the 30-year-old owner/founder of Schofield Designs, has completed more than 300 commissions in Boise and other Idaho locales. His project résumé spans sculpture, sculptural installation and fabrication work, and the artist clearly harbors a love for work that not only challenges his technical prowess but also stretches his artistic sensibilities to the limit.
The baptismal font he created for the Risen Christ Catholic Community (2003-2004) near Kuna, for example, represents his first project sculpted from marble. "I love working on a large scale," he says, "and it was amazing to stare at 6,000 pounds of stone and actually see the piece within. To not be afraid and start hacking. That job spoiled me for life. There is no going back. I would love to do another one!"
As the sculptor commissioned to shape foam and concrete walls for Boise Peak Fitness, Schofield mentally conjured the climbing areas he encountered during his "days as a traveling climbing bum," and created an indoor version of them. When he talks about the project now, he cannot contain his enthusiasm. "We spent three months on scissor lifts sculpting foam for 8,000 square feet of wall," he says. "We then shot about 50 yards of concrete out of hoses and sculpted it before it set. The final step was a crazy four-day painting marathon, where we painted 16,000 square feet of surface area to finish the job."
Schofield's time and energy is currently focused on the new Flying M Coffeehouse under construction in Nampa. He describes his role as "recycling the steel from the past lives of the building into the new coffeehouse." Schofield's personality and outlook meshes well with the Flying M aesthetic, and he previously created the benches and tables for their location in downtown Boise.
Schofield grew up destined to become an artist. His dad holds a degree in architecture, one of his uncles is a mixed media painter and childrens' book illustrator, and many others in his family have demonstrated artistic talent. He spent much of his childhood training as an illustrator, and showed so much talent that a prestigious prep school awarded him a scholarship to further his studies with them.
After prep school, he enrolled at Virginia Tech but quickly burned out on art and switched to forestry. He concedes, however, "In the end, my art skills could not be suppressed and I returned to school to focus on art after a few years of traveling around the country looking for what life had to offer." He studied illustration and photography and earned a degree in graphic design from Boise State while ending up just one class short of a sculpture degree.
Schofield clearly excels in many art genres, but it was a house flood that ultimately inspired him to focus on sculpture. He recalls that many of the paintings and drawings he had stored in his basement were destroyed by the water. As he surveyed the damage, however, he found a small bronze sculpture that was fine and intact. "I called in late to work," he says. "I poured a whiskey, and walked to the front porch to try to get a grip on the situation. I had always liked working three dimensionally, but the added durability of certain types of sculpture became very appealing to me during that little 'moment' in time. Perhaps as a sculptor, it's a way of connecting and leaving a mark on the world that can outlive our short human existence."
After graduating from college, Schofield worked for a time at Boise's Classic Design studios as a sign maker. He also worked in construction and assisted other artists' with their projects. He never lost the desire to focus his creative energy on sculpture, though, and in 1991, he established Schofield Design.
He cites two main reasons for founding his company. "First of all, I had begun to form a passion for the field of sculpture and Boise had very little opportunity for sculptors looking to 'get a job.' I also noticed that there was a need and that there was very little competition. I began to realize that the only way to work as a sculptor in Boise was to work for myself and try to put together a business."
Schofield is the first to acknowledge that melding art with business has been a constant struggle -- but he is clearly up to the challenge. As an artist fresh out of college, he worked as the aluminum fabricator for Amy Westover's public art piece, "Grove Street Illuminated and Boise Canal." Due to contractual and other misunderstandings, Schofield says he ultimately had to "donate" about $10,000 worth of his work to the city.
This significant financial loss, however, failed to deter him from pursuing a career as an artist. "Everything that happened on that job has made me a stronger and more savvy businessman," he says. "What does not take you down, in the end makes you stronger."
At the current time, Schofield admits that running the business leaves him no time to create art just for art's sake. "For the sake of survival, I have taken what ever commissions I can find, whatever will pay the bills ... I try, however, to acquire the large commissions because they allow me to focus more [of my creative energy on them], which results in higher quality in the end product," he says.
"Sometimes I do feel like an art whore of sorts," he continues, "but in order to stay working in a small town, it has been necessary to build art that fulfils the needs of a diverse clientele. Hopefully, someday, as my business stabilizes, I will be able to pursue more of the art I enjoy."
Toward this end, Schofield opened Studio 518 last summer. He says, "I had been looking for quite some time for a space that would provide me with a good place to meet clients and promote my business. I also had severely outgrown my small home shop."
Studio 518, located on Americana Boulevard, is a large, open space. Schofield hosts parties and other events there, and also rents out space to other artists. "I think Studio 518 could easily host four to five artists," he says. "Its location in the Linen District also helps to promote the growing art community in this area."
Schofield further believes there is a need for a communal art studio in Boise, and Studio 518 is already bringing this idea to fruition. The artist's friend and mentor, Boise State professor Francis Fox, is currently utilizing the space to work on his latest sculptural commission. A glass dragon, the result of a collaboration with Boise artist Zion Warne, snakes across the rafters of the studio's largest room.
Schofield believes Boise is on the verge of becoming a productive place for artists, and has made it a personal goal to be a part of the solution. "I'm ready to take part in steering the boat," he says. We'll find out soon if Boise is ready to jump aboard and go along for the ride.
See Schofield's Web site at www.schofielddesign.net.
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