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Tell me about what you’ve built down there.

I built a camper on my truck and then I also built a hanging sphere that’s a meeting room. There were some issues hanging it, so instead we built a steel frame that holds it up into the air.

Do you ever go in that space now that you’re back working there?

Well, it’s actually in storage. It’s kind of a long story but this happens a lot with my work. People are like yeah, we got to have this! Then, when it actually happens, they realize how crazy and dangerous it is.

Mark Zuckerberg came by and was stoked on it, like everyone else in the company. But they have this facilities team that’s all about making sure no one even gets a scratch. So, they just shut it down.

Jay Nelson

Bummer. What are you making for them now?

All the things that I’ve done at Facebook are slightly subversive. Is that the right word? It’s a way to say you’re at Facebook and it’s a certain type of place where you’re surrounded by computers all the time. It’s a very particular world. So you enter these other spaces and it’s just about changing your perceptions and, in turn, changing your relationship with the person next to you.

This time, I’m making a spherical sitting room on the roof with circular seats and a round window at one end looking out on San Francisco Bay

This time, I’m making a spherical sitting room on the roof with circular seats and a round window at one end looking out on San Francisco Bay. It’s designed to be a totally neutral space – everything is symmetrical and no one has a better position in it than the other person. It breaks people down to just humans interacting. It’s nothing groundbreaking, just subtle small ideas. It’s hard for me to talk about things until I’ve made them – honestly, it could be a total flop.

There’s a strong element of improvisation in your work which probably makes it difficult to talk about because it could very well change.

That’s true. I’m also a painter and painting is what taught me that. Maybe also building the tree houses. But, yeah, that’s a very strong thing in my work and it’s more than just improvisation. I don’t know where things are going and I have to constantly ask myself, Is this good? Do I like this? Is this interesting? I like to just see where it takes me and go along for the ride. I take the same approach with building.

For example, this studio that I built, I got a few poles randomly from a friend and they’ve determined the shape of the whole thing. I’ve slowly gathered materials that inform the structure’s appearance. Every single piece of wood, I know its story and exactly where it came from.

Jay Nelson

How much painting are you doing these days?

I’m doing a lot of painting. I wish I could just be a painter sometimes. All the building projects is kind of how I’ve made my money. I’ve never really been able to make money as a painter, but I also really value that because then it’s just mine. Painting is tough – a lot of people don’t really get it.

You think people understand your structures and vehicles better?

Totally. These are things that people need and use every day – architecture and cars – it’s just so easy. Anyone can get it.

When you’re painting and really need to be productive, are you an early riser or a night owl? Whats your routine?

I only work for about an hour at night and I don’t even work every night, but an hour is a lot. If you worked an hour every day on something, you’d have an insane amount of work in a year, or two years, or ten years. The paintings I make now, I make them really fast and I’m into that. I like how they are disposable and I just make ‘em, make ‘em, make ‘em. Some of them are just total shit, some are okay and some are bad but later I might decide they’re good.

A big thanks to Effie Efthymiadi from who crafted this interview

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