A LITTLE BACKGROUND

I would have to say that my entire life has been consumed with building and crafting environments and objects. I grew up in a household where the family professions were art and engineering. Those in my family have always encouraged other family members to pursue active roles in the arts.

My sister, Beth Van Gelder, is also trained as an artist. She passed onto me her love of pottery and sculpture. Beth heads an art department at a New England private school. In addition to being a teacher and artist, she has traveled widely in Indonesia, Africa and many other destinations to research and record her artistic and cultural experiences. She shares her findings not only through the classroom, but though organizing shows and exhibitions of artists she has met through her travels.

My wife Elaine, while managing a full time career as an elementary school teacher, has managed to establish herself as a watercolor artist and wood artisan. We recently completed an new woodworking studio where she is busy designing and building craftsman period – inspired furniture.

We live in an area rich in history and scenic beauty. It has become a home for all sorts of artists, artisans, crafters, writers and such. The setting, the people, and the sense of place have been instrumental in fostering the creative environment in which I work.

 A RESUME OF SORTS.

My first design degree was in Fine Arts in 1972 at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. My emphasis was on pottery, sculpture and printmaking. After graduation I spent most of my time working creatively in a studio environment, primarily as a potter and sculptor. Never content to have just one skill, I also spent time in welding and machine shops, learning the metal arts. Click on the image below to see my pottery.

In 1977, after spending several years in Colorado, I decide to change direction and expand out of the studio environment with a career in Landscape Architecture. I moved back east and acquired a degree in Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst in 1981. I spent nearly a decade in landscape, architectural design and environmental planning. This experience was to provide the final step in building the foundation for what was to become my focus from 1990- on.
THE BUSINESS FINDS ME

I started South River Modelworks in 1990. For a few years prior to that I was still involved in my architectural work and also teaching studio courses in landscape design as a visiting professor at the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. During that same period of time, I was discovering a new way to express my experience in architecture, landscape architecture and as an artist/craftsman - I started building historical displays of buildings. So, by 1990 I was basically juggling three jobs and had to make a decision as all three were compelling me to go full time.

By the beginning of 1991, the business of South River Modelworks was gaining momentum so fast that I was obliged to continue and, eventually, get fully absorbed into the profession I have today. Looking back, I know that I owe the success of my found profession to my experiences, my education, my teachers, mentors and my family. By the way, what do I call that profession? Well, depending on the audience or my mood, I am an artist, designer, craftsman, industrial archeologist, modeler or what have you – it all seems to fit.
If you want to hear me in an interview talking about my business, you can stream or download a podcast : Click on "Model Railroads by Scott Mason" to the left and then click on Epsiode 6, September. The interview is about 15-20 minutes into the podcast.
BEYOND THE BUSINESS

My wife and I have other interests that take us away from our full-time professions and give us that sorely needed counterpoint to put things in perspective.

Other Creative Pursuits: For me, I was an occasional knife maker. I started this to relax and unfortunately, it became a sucessful business - and that meant more work, so I stopped. You see my old website at this address: http://www.southriverknifeworks.com/ My wife makes furniture at her own pace and for her own enjoyment. We have both learned to caution people about turning a hobby into a business.

Music. My wife and I love music. We've been in and out of music over 40+ years, but a few years ago my wife and I both got serious (again) & started playing guitar again (a lot). We both play electric and acoustic. I also started playing drums. We play at open mikes, blues jams, with our frineds and even via Skype. We like most types of music. I've been a blues and jazz fan since I was a teenager, but my interests range to almost any genre. Rather than describe what gets played, I'll let just a few in the list of (seemingly hundreds and growing) influences speak for themselves: B.B. King, T-bone Walker, Mississippi John Hurt, Ronnie Earl, Freddie King, Kenny Neal, Duke Robillard, Sherman Robertson, Chris Beard, Johnny Basset, Chet Atkins, Glenn Campbell, Danny Gatton, Cliff Gallup, Buddy Guy, Django Reinhardt, Keb’Mo’, Lurrie Bell, Miles Davis, Herb Ellis, Charlie Parker, SRV, the Stones, Taj Mahal, Tommy Castro. Also want to single out just a few of the many female artists we like; Susan Tedeschi, Bonnie Raitt, Koko Taylor, Sheryl Crowe, Annie Lennox, Aretha Franklin, Joanne Shaw Taylor, Joyce Cooling, The amazing flamenco artist Charo, and also the incredible team of Rodrigo y Gabriella.  Last album purchase?  - Tony Bennett ; “Playin’ with my friends”…. Okay I’ll stop now because the list is, indeed, endless…

Cats: We are serious cat people. Yes, this does take a bit of our of time, but we enjoy being with our cats. We have a shelter cat and two Maine Coon cats. Over the years, our shelter cats have been long haired calicos. About five years ago we became Maine Coon cat owners. We can say they live up to their excellent reputation - the gentle giants. Well, ours are not giants, as they are female (and one is almost 20 lbs) , but the males often go to 30 lbs. They are extremely gentle and of the best overall disposition we have ever seen in the many breeds. However, as much as we love breeds, we encourage new owners to first visit their local shelter. There are too many beautiful cats waiting for homes. We also ask that when you are writing your year-end charitable donations, consider your local shelter or Humane Society. Click on the picture and you can see two pages of pictures of our cats.
(click on the picture)
Motorcycling. I've been a motor head for most of my life. Since 1966 I have owned and ridden countless American, British, Japanese and European bikes. In 1996 we started taking our vacations on motorcycles. A couple years later, my wife got tired of riding on the back and started to ride her own bike. We put about 8-15k miles on a year. We have ridden extensively in the US, Canada, the Canadian Maritimes (one of our favorites) and Europe. We own both American and European bikes. We don't promote any particular brand or do much in the way of rallies or meets. Instead, we focus on riding, just the two of us, and preferably where there are few people. As artists we are visual people and we find the rides and thousands of photos we take during them are just another part of the creative lifestyle we enjoy.