Cameras, robots, plumbing all come to whimsical life
Robots sitting. Robots posing. Robots lounging around. Robots holding...light bulbs?
Who doesn’t love a cute robot?
When Brit Sigh was a kid, he was a big fan of the Short Circuit movies. Today, this multitalented artist makes fantastical artworks that bring a touch of whimsy and a gust of steampunk style into our homes, offices, and even a Hollywood movie.
Robots figure heavily in his artistic vision. These small metallic friends are constructed of galvanized plumbing pipes and joints for arms, legs, and torso, and often an antique camera or another odd device for a head. The effect is pleasantly anthropomorphic; you find yourself almost talking to them, like you would a dog or cat.
“I’ve always been a sci-fi geek,” Brit says, “so I definitely think some of that bleeds into my creations. I think people—and myself—are taken aback by these little guys, because they are so cute and the kid in us is like, ‘oooh, sweet, robots!’ “
I asked him for five words that describe his artistic style, and he responded: industrial, original, upcycle, futuristic, eclectic.
In addition to groovy lighting fixtures from pipes and cameras, Brit uses rotary phones, faucet parts, bicycle components, workshop clamps, air gauges, tractor gas tanks, and copper tubing to re-envision and re-manufacture a variety of practical industrial fixtures: towel racks, wall sconces, toilet paper holders, magazine stands.
His customers use them to outfit their loft spaces, “man caves,” office common areas, VRBO apartments, garages, and workshops. He even made special order lamps for the set designer of an upcoming movie to star Naomi Watts, and he’s hoping his work will be spared from the fate of the cutting room floor.
How much is new material and how much repurposed or found objects? “It definitely depends on the piece,” Brit says, “because I do construct some pieces that are strictly from found objects, but I would say 60 percent is new and 40 percent is old materials that I try to bring new life to.”
Brit is a visual guy, very much scanning his universe for inspiration. “I always have ideas circulating in my mind, but I definitely get inspired when I see other artists’ work,” he says. “I also love searching Pinterest for pictures of loft spaces and warehouse conversions. I like to picture how my creations can fit into those unique spaces.”
He and his “beautiful wife, Amber, whom I met at church,” wanted to make some extra money for a nice wedding and honeymoon (“awww”) about 18 months ago, so Brit started making and selling his work on etsy.com, an upscale website for handmade arts and crafts, under the trade name of The Clever Raven. (The name comes from Brit’s all-black pug.) He quit his day job in February, so he’s officially launched his “craft” now onto the Stormy Sea of Making a Living at Art.
Etsy is surely cutesy, but if you prefer to see Brit’s handcrafts close at hand and to handle the handiwork before buying, he shows his creations for sale at the Chattanooga Market each Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. He will customize his craftwork with special colors or finishes, and imaginative special touches such as faucet handles in place of conventional light switches. “I also make industrial style desks, tables, and shelving,” he says. “I usually make these for local customers who have asked me for a custom order.”
Brit received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Union College, but a good deal of his craft skills have come from the university of trying-it-out. “I’ve always been one to try to learn something new or pick up a new trade every couple of months,” he says. “I have had training in painting, sketching, and graphic design, but the other trades like pipe fitting, carpentry, and welding, I just picked up along the way.”
Brit comes by his artistic ken both naturally and nurturally. “I’ve always been drawn to and inspired by art,” he says. “Growing up, I was lucky to have a mom who was very artsy and craftsy, and a dad who was very handy and mechanically inclined. I think I inherited a little bit of both from them. My dad always taught me to be a jack-of-all-trades. As a kid, I would draw my own comics, and I still actually sketch a super hero every once in a while.”
Those parents had an influence in another way, moving Brit around the country during his childhood, from his birthplace in Kansas City, Missouri, to Texas, where he grew up, to beaucoup other places he’s lived: Iowa, Minnesota, Alaska, Colorado, Nebraska, D.C., and Illinois. “I wasn’t a military brat either, my parents were just adventurous,” he says. “I’ve visited every state except for Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Montana.”
So is Brit handy around the house, beyond just changing a light bulb in one of his robot lamps? “I would like to think of myself as pretty handy, but you’ll have to ask my wife, Amber.”
I’ll bet she would say yes.