A maker in Northeast Minneapolis, Scott Backer's goals in life are to aspire, connect, and create. Looking for ways to express his creative side has led him to literally connect miscellaneous bits and pieces of scrap-metal together into new objects. Through his business, Lil'A Design, he creates sculptural pieces with one thing in mind: keep junk out of the landfill. From there, Scott believes they take on a life of their own and bring a touch of whimsy, a delightful textural element, and a piece of uniqueness to many homes, gardens and other outdoor spaces.
See Scott's work at the upcoming Maker Faire MSP at the MN State Fairgrounds Grandstand on June 2, 2018. This event serves as a gathering of fascinating, curious people who enjoy learning and who love sharing what they can do. From engineers to artists to scientists to crafters, Maker Faire is a venue for these "makers" to share their hobbies, experiments, and projects. More details about the show here!
Talk about the beginnings of Lil'A Design. What inspired you to begin this endeavor?
I wanted to learn how to weld and having accumulated a fair amount of old bicycle and car parts, in addition to owning a vintage car, I decided to teach myself. As I had an idea to blend industrial and organic, I started to see flowers taking shape from all the random bits and pieces of scrap metal. Once I felt confident my welds were decent, and the pieces wouldn't just fall apart, I started posting pictures on social media and family and friends started asking how to buy them. My start as a maker/seller was totally grassroots word of mouth marketing and I’ve been fortunate to develop a community of patrons in my neighborhood here in Northeast Minneapolis.
What do you find interesting/meaningful about working with the materials you use in your work?
I really enjoy the learning experience, more than anything, as I gain more understanding of the nuances of MIG-welding steel. Being able to look at a single piece and start to see a blossom, face, or vehicle is also extremely interesting to me because it supports my goal of keeping this material out of the landfill for a bit longer by creating something unique, fun, and visually interesting.
Have you always been creative?
Definitely. I’ve been drawing my whole life, which led to many, many experiments with subject, materials, etc. Ultimately I went to Art School and have been a freelance Graphic Designer for a long time now. I also believe my vintage car is an expression of my creative view of the world, and by extension the welded sculptures are too!
What forms or channels have you explored in your creative journey?
I’ve drawn in every conceivable media and scale. I’ve painted with acrylics, enamels (pin-striping mostly), gouache, airbrush (paint and ink), and dabbled in watercolor. I’ve also done quite a bit of digital work using Adobe Creative Suite applications.
At the end of the day my favorite thing to do is to crack open a sketchbook, grab one of my favorite ball-point pens and just start drawing...I find every opportunity I can to record my thoughts, as well as the world around me, and am always looking forward to bringing the idea from paper to reality. Lately it’s sculpture, but who knows where else I’ll go with it.
What role does experimentation play in your work?
I'm a student of Design Thinking so the process always involves “experimentation” throughout each phase. I enjoy the ideation and prototyping phases the most because that’s where I can really push my skills, and boundaries, to keep learning. I’ve certainly failed a lot and consider each one an experiment in their own right because I find myself circling back time and time again.
In terms of living and making in Minnesota, do you feel connected to this place?
I do. Being part of the community and sharing my work through venues like Art-A-Whirl weekend, Farmer's Markets, and “open studio” sales has allowed me to connect with a great number of people who also strengthen that connection. I’ve made the conscientious decision to only sell locally because there's more than enough opportunity already here.
Do you feel like making and creating through your business allows you to contribute to something larger than yourself?
Yes I do because this endeavor reinforces my personal ethos of “Aspire. Connect. Create.”
So being able to find new opportunities and to know my greatest accomplishments have been the times I’ve been asked to share my story with kids...being able to promote the fact that every single one of us is “creative” in our own right! Getting them to see the world around them through a different perspective (ideally their very own!) and taking chances to bring their ideas to reality is what keeps me inspired and motivated too.
Being able to also recycle/upcycle material is obviously a bonus environmentally.