A Gardener Makes Garden Sculptures | Dustin Gimbel | Episode 642

A Gardener Makes Garden Sculptures | Dustin Gimbel | Episode 642

Dustin Gimbel | Episode 642

Dustin Gimbel is a Sculptor and a landscape designer with over 20 years in the field of horticulture. Dustin’s current exhibition SCULPTURA BOTANICA at Sherman Library and Gardens combines a lifetime passion for plants and a more recent obsession with ceramics. Dustin started working with clay in January of 2016. Dustin has a home studio in Long Beach CA.

A Gardener Makes Garden Sculptures | Dustin Gimbel | Episode 642


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Do you see the finished product when you are creating a sculpture?

Do I see it?

Yes. Do you see it in your mind a finished product?

Yes. I do tons of sketches. Like I have stacks and stacks of sketchbooks. Back in September when I knew I was going to be on this show, I was already sketching daily, but I ramped it up and I was doing probably an hour a day, at least, sketching ideas. Just sketching, sketching, sketching permutations and then when I would to where I think I want to start making something, I’ll sketch the sculpture and put dimensions on the whole thing. Probably some of that with my landscape design it’s how you can actually create it. And then I would go and see if I could actually make it the way I thought I could make it in the studio and then I might make changes based on what was possible. Yeah, usually I have a pretty good idea unless sometimes I will make something and think, Oh, that’s an interesting shape, and I will come back to it and see if I can turn it into something else.

Is that how you approach your garden design also, is that you do a lot of sketches and a lot of drawings and then you show up to the job site with the plan so when it’s executed you know where you are going?

Yeah, well actually, I mean because I am living in the LA area, the clients are great but they are usually very specific about what they want so I have gotten to a point where I do everything in 3D on Sketch-up. Everything is 3D. I make my own plant models so it is the exact plant. Basically, you present a design and it’s almost 100 percent of what they are going to get at the end, so if they turn back and say, Well, we didn’t like this with the garden, you can always say take a look at this 3D model. So I am very specific on my 3D models. I can basically walk a client through and they know pretty much exactly what they are going to get. So that has been years to get to that point but I find that’s really helpful. I do make 3D models of some of my sculptures as well. Sometimes it is better for me to work out my ideas that way too.

When you are doing your sketching, do you also see your finished color?

Sometimes I would say so but I think that the color is…I’ll put it this way, sometimes I am just about to glaze something and I’ll change my mind.Other things are more, depending on the piece, it can be very set, but sometimes I’ll just mix something up in the last minute and it’s like total a total cowboy thing and I have no idea if this is going to work out. So yes and no. And then sometimes you do that and think, What was I thinking? I should have done something conservative and that I knew was going to work. 

I am curious about, you have your clients that you design for and then you have your botanical garden curators that you design for, was there a lot of similarities between those two relationships? The clients versus the curators-the people that commission the installation? 

Well, I would say that..well no. (laughter) Most clients are very specific on what they want and Scott and Aaron they were pretty amazing. Actually everyone over there at Sherman Library, they were so supportive. They had seen some of my sculptures up and I think they trusted me, but hey basically said, Look, whatever you want to create, let us know.  The parameters were more like, We want to have sculptures throughout the garden. I would ask, What do you think about this? And they would say, Yeah, if you think it’s going to work. You know, it was very supportive and yeah, again, landscape clients they come into it with a more specific idea of the deliverables.

How do you balance your time to do both your creations and your career?

Yeah, it wasn’t easy. These last nine months have been quite a marathon because I was doing landscape design full-time. Then often in the evenings, before that I was already making sculptures and pots and different things so when this came up I kind of work out a kind of map of  what sculptures would be where after about a month of dreaming and experimenting and what not. And I realized how many hours it would take to make everything and so I had a friend who was working a couple of hours a couple of days a week kind of thing for me, and I approached him and said, What if you came and worked for me every Friday for the next nine months? And maybe some weekend time? And he said, Sure. So he was working part-time for a company but he was there every day so he changed his schedule so he could be there. So I went down to four days a week landscaping and every Friday and almost every weekend and a lot of nights. So it was a total moonlighting kind of situation because I wasn’t willing to give up my landscape work and obviously I need to pay a mortgage. I am looking forward to stepping down a gear or two to something more reasonable now that the sculptures are up.

You have been working for nine months on this installation and now it is all installed. When your installation all has to come down what are you going to do with it?

Yeah, well all the sculptures are for sale and you can find them on my website. I am hoping that they will sell. If they don’t regardless, I have to pack them all up. So it is going to be interesting. One thing that was really interesting in the process was, I think they have been dong sculpture or an art component in the garden for four or five years now, and in the past they have done a paper catalog an I started making one but I have over a hundred and fifty sculptures. Three or four sculptures in on an old school paper catalog for this thing and I was ready to pull my hair out and I thought about my website. I just plug in my pictures and it comes out looking good, so I called up Scott and said, Please, can I just put these on my website? And he said, Yeah, just give us spreadsheet of all the prices and everything. So I did that and most of the sales, at least initially, were all out of town. People who haven’t even seen the sculptures in person. So it was just this amazing response. People are buying this stuff without seeing it in person. Yeah, it is going to be at least two weeks of work to take apart the exhibit and then I’ve got to ship these things off and install them locally or something. I don’t even want to think about it. Fortunately it is up until September 14th. So I have some time to recuperate. But yeah, it’s going to be a lot of work.


Mid-Range Glazes by John Britt



Instagram: @dustingimbeldesigns

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