Stagecraft to Handcraft | Mingei International Museum

Mingei partnered with Jason Lane to bring to life folk art, craft and design through site-specific “Installations at the Station” at Liberty Station.

Former partner of the award-winning design team Bells & Whistles, Jason Lane is now principal of JXL Studio. His hands-on atelier is dedicated to the design and build of sculptural objects and interiors in the applied art tradition, inspired by subtle forms of modern architecture and the cinematic visuals of masters like Kubrick and Fellini. He was studying philosophy when he left school to become a founding member of the experimental group ADRV (1987-1999), then transitioned to the world of design and the craft of woodworking. He went on to produce custom furniture, architectural elements and stage props for a select clientele, most notably Dita von Teese.

Tell us about the vision for the piece you’re building for Liberty Station.

Tessellation #1 is a meditative sculptural monolith made from hand-cast tessellated concrete with an accompanying hewn beam bench set within the shade of two existing magnolia trees. The forms and fabrication processes are inspired by the legacy of crafts in San Diego. The installation provides a contemplative place to just be, experiencing the play of light, weather and time. Inset will be a bench of timber that speaks to Liberty Station’s original 1920s grand post-and-beam roof construction and the tradition of the shipwright in the legacy of naval shipbuilding. One side will be pocketed to hold plants, and the other side will be a mandala of interlocking shapes radiating out. The walls will be about 6' x 10'. It will be heavy, but modular, transported in separate cases. There are three primary shapes that fit together. The first step is R&D, to understand how the volume will sit in the space and how it will work with the trees to develop a full-size maquette in paper.

"I’m making forms that work with light, and concrete is the most straightforward but soft material. The smoothness is like a hard velvet."

What excites you most about the project?

The opportunity to create something that has never existed for the public to discover, contemplate and hopefully enjoy, and also to experience the ways in which it will patina from time, use and nature.

What's your favorite public art installation in San Diego?

Roman De Salvo’s Ruocco Park Sculpture, murals by Hugo Crosthwaite at Liberty Station, murals by Panca and Michael Armstrong at Bread & Salt. And maybe not commissioned as such but public art nonetheless: the I‐805 Mission Valley Viaduct and the I‐15 West Lilac Road Overcrossing.

When or where did you start designing and fabricating? What was the path from musician to craftsman?

I wouldn’t call myself a musician, but I was a performer. I respect musicians and don’t think I was one. Fabrication and work in the trades was always a good thing to fall back on, drop in and out on while traveling and performing. I got into prop building which expanded the technical realm in different mediums. Sometimes we’d make props for the performances we were doing. Dita Von Teese and Catherine D’Lish are early clients.

Have you always lived in San Diego?

There’s no place I’d rather live more. New Orleans was my only time out. I was there when I turned 21.

[We pass by prototypes transformed into sound installations for Burning Man with built-in speakers, and hand-cast concrete slabs for his own patio.]

What inspires your work? You mentioned the work of Kubrick and Fellini, and your recent trip to Arcosanti.

Arcosanti vistas are beautifully framed into pictures. And yes, I love the fantasy and filmmaking scenes. As for the cinematic, I think I’m making forms that work with light, and concrete is the most straightforward but soft material. The smoothness is like a hard velvet. The concrete forms are sensual not brutalist. All great mid-century guys are also an inspiration.

What is the process for creating the components that form the larger work?

The way these are designed, I get an idea and do a quick sketch, then lathe and handwork each piece, smoothing it into the final product. The shape is created by what feels good and works with my hands, rather than designing on the computer. It’s an ergonomic way of designing to find the first piece.

You refurbish vintage pieces, too?

[Referencing a C. Carl Jennings table in for restoration for collector Dave Hampton.]

Ha! The mosaic top is crumbling and needs to be replaced, but I've been waiting for the right piece to complete it. Something could be sitting here for years, and once it’s done, within a week, the space is filled with a new project. Someone will always bring in something new.

What appealed to you about collaborating with Mingei?

It’s an honor. I’ve been going to Mingei since it was at UTC with my family.

Were you interested in craft, or were your parents craftspeople?

I was always fascinated by craft, but had to sow my wild oats to devote enough attention to be somewhat accomplished at something. Mom and dad are both painters but also craftspeople. My stepdad is a scientist.

Do you consider yourself self-taught?

Yeah. When I stopped doing music, I just concentrated on craft and went to library every week and checked things out and researched.

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