By Leah Matzke
Featured in Make It Minnesota’s Fall 2014 issue.
Skramstad’s medium of choice for his artwork is wood and has been for as long as he can remember. “With my background of 27 years as a cabinetmaker and co-owner of a custom cabinet shop, I still enjoy working with wood and it seemed natural continuing to work with wood after the cabinetmaking years were done,” says Skramstad.
Though he has a lifetime of experience working with wood, Skramstad started his “artistic” pursuits seriously in 2007. Skramstad says, “As I was approaching the end of my working career and selling out of the business, I was faced with the big question….now what? I have an awesome 1100 square foot shop full of woodworking equipment so I kind of had to stick with something I knew. So I prayed! I spent hours searching the internet for “different” ideas of things I could do. The problem was that there was a lot of everything out there and I wanted to go in a direction that wasn’t “common”. At this point while still looking for the “big different”, I started painting with acrylics, something I hadn’t done since high school. One day I came across a site selling lath art kits (craft stuff). I started researching lath art and found very little, but just enough to feel led. Finally a “lost art form” that I could jump into that not many people had ever heard of or had ever seen before, come up with my own designs, be my own expert and follow my own rules on how I wanted my pieces to look. So that is how I started with Lath Art.” Skramstad branched out to other genres of artwork from there, seeking out “the obscure” or seemingly “lost art forms.” Skramstad says, “Pyrography seemed a bit obscure also so I started looking into it, bought some equipment, and took to it. The decoy carving was again something that struck me as being a bit different. Everyone carves ducks, but to make a working decoy that is lead weighted, using steel for fins, oil painted bodies and to be able to come up with a vintage or unique look seemed to be a good challenge. Routed boxes, reclaimed frames, rustic carvings… I guess one thing seems to lead to another pretty quickly.” Skramstad knows how to get the look he wants while saving materials. Skramstad explains, “I really like to “recycle” or use reclaimed material which seems to lend itself well to the primitives that I create. I try to create pieces that look like they have been hanging on the wall, or sitting on a shelf for 50-60 years. The use of rustic materials (materials that most people would see as waste) seem to add to the charm or authenticity of what I am trying to achieve.”
The most challenging part of Skramstad’s work is pleasing himself, which he explains by saying, “I guess I am a bit critical of what I do. I want my work to be different and unique and not what people are used to seeing. “Skramstad’s hard work is rewarded every time a piece comes together and he can share it with those around him. He loves it when people say, “I have never seen anything like that before,” whether it be for a good reason or not! Skramstad goes on to say, “I am stoked when people ask if I will be coming to a certain show or when contact is made from a gift shop asking if I would show in their store or when people say they saw my stuff and Googled me on the internet…and when someone actually is willing to part with their hard earned cash for some of my work, well that’s just gravy. I give credit to my Lord for any positives coming my way!”
When asked if he had a favorite piece from his collection, Skramstad responded, “The next one I do. There’s always something about the new one”. Skramstad likes to “change it up” to keep his artwork interesting and with a “new twist”. He is currently focusing on some fish themed pieces for some upcoming sportsman shows he may be attending. Apart from being an artist, Skramstad enjoys a wide array of hobbies and activities. He says, “Being a grandpa is probably my favorite thing. Traveling with my wife, motorcycling, doing outdoor stuff, snowmobiling, taking care of our place, pontooning on area lakes, trying to teach myself to play the guitar, and trying to cook (my wife never complains!).” Closing comment from Skramstad? “I like to be creative. Good thing I’m retired!’”