After years building homes Grant Massey built a new life, as an artist

Grant Massey went to college for art, and began a career in construction. About 20 years ago he decided to go back to his art, and he never looked back.

Grant worked construction jobs while in art school. He never finished school, instead he went to the eastern shore of Maryland where his parents lived and ended up building a home for them. “When you come to the eastern shore there aren’t a lot of jobs and building is one of the ones where you can kind of make a living,” Grant said.

While at art school Grant learned the basics: drawing, 3D design and painting. His love was sculpture. He worked in metal and wood. Grant’s mother was a painter and he would make frames for her.

Many years ago Grant took a stained glass course from a local woman for whom he had built a house. Grant had copper left over from his construction work and, “I started bending it up, and adding it to the stained glass, that sort of got the notion started,” Grant explained.

It was at this point that Grant decided that if he was going to try his hand at art, it was now or never. “If I was ever going to do art, I’d rather do it when I was younger, and do it or forget about it,” Grant said.

Grant’s first big break came when he was accepted to the “American Craft Council” show in Baltimore. The show had what they called a “new faces” room. At 40-ish Grant found himself as one of those new faces. Grant’s sister helped him man his booth, “I wrote orders down for two and a half hours solid. It was unbelievable,” Grant said.

Those orders gave Grant about 10 months of work, and allowed him to make the jump from making art part-time to full-time. He has been working steadily ever since.

Grant started out making post lights. Using oversized fish and other animals as well as stained glass to adorn the posts. The posts themselves are interesting due to the wavy nature of them. Grant of course makes the posts himself. “I make the curvy cut down the middle of the 4×4 and then turn the piece of wood inside out so that the curves face the outside,” Grant said. In other words, the piece that Grant cuts off gets glued to the other side of the board, creating the wave. You can see pictures of the work in the video above and in the pictures below.

Grant and his family haven’t gotten wealthy from his art, “But we’re okay,” Grant said. The business has been a family affair at times both of Grant’s sons grew up in the shop. “They went to shows with me, so there was a lot of satisfaction there,” Grant said.

The boys helped Grant in the shop and were good company at shows. Grant recalls his son Dan telling him that while attending the University of Delaware he realized that most of the kids hadn’t grown up with the same experiences he had. “I hope that enriched their lives, it certainly enhanced mine,” Grant said.

Grant finds the work rewarding, “I feel pretty fortunate, to be able to do what you’ve always done and have it be somewhat remunerative occasionally, is pretty rewarding.”

Grant calls his shop his clubhouse. He gets up goes outside and into the shop and spends his day in there. He has the freedom and the skills to make basically whatever he fells like, “That sort of freedom to follow your muse is a real gift I think.”

Grant says he really doesn’t have to retire – he will do it “until I drop.” “Its what I do, its what I’ve been made to do I guess”.

You can learn more about Grant Massey’s work on his website.

 

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