By Gina Malone
Ed Doyle doesn’t have to look hard to find inspiration for the art he creates, or materials either, for that matter. “Inspiration is a lot like a heartbeat,” he says. “Once you see what is around you, it becomes an indiscernible part of who you are; it just is.” These days, as he has for the last 12 years, he creates unique lighting using found objects. “All of my pieces come from junk stores and flea markets, or are something of sentimental value a patron brings to me,” Doyle says.
With no standard materials and no patterns for what he creates, every work of functional art is different. He might use broken musical instruments, for instance. “Combining guitars, flutes, drums, clarinets, trumpets, coronets, trombones and anything else with copper musical scores and hand-cut notes—now that’s a real charge,” he says “I’m a ‘found’ artist; if I find enough parts and pieces, something always clicks.”
Doyle grew up in the country outside of Winston-Salem with two siblings and his parents who were native New Yorkers. “You may wonder how a couple from New York City could move to the middle of nowhere, dirt roads and all,” he says. “Those two were harmony personified. Dad lost his legs in World War II, but it never slowed down his lust for life or the love he and my mother shared and the passion for life they instilled in us.”
His mother had done some fashion illustrations in New York, and his father was a jeweler and watchmaker. Both were supportive of their son’s early desire to create, Doyle says. “They put the first paintbrushes in my hand. When I started my art journey, I was painting canvases, milk cans, boards, most anything I could put color on.”
In the 1970s, with paint hard to come by, he carved wooden frames for mirrors. Around the same time, he worked as a groundskeeper for Schlitz Brewery and developed an interest in collecting architectural antiques and selling junk treasures. “The most important thing to me is that we undertake a true awareness of what we throw away and how to better use it,” Doyle says. “I’ve built my life trying to leave as light a footprint as possible, using what someone throws away.” Often, people bring him a piece they want to see become art in his hands. “I enjoy taking a personal memory object and creating a déjà vu for them,” he says. “It’s really satisfying.”
Sometimes a find waits for his creativity to catch up. “I find one item and just keep it and wait for the rest of it,” he says. “Ideas come along out of the blue.” Often disparate found pieces will culminate in a theme that suggests a creation to him.
Satisfying his need to create is what keeps him going. “Artwork has never made me a rich man, but I haven’t starved,” he says. “I’m a happy camper. My life is good, sometimes lean, but always good.”
He lives near Little Switzerland now, but recalls a winter when he lived in a one-room log cabin on the Dan River in Stokes County. “Wintertime. Snowing. Not much to eat except rice,” he says. “Carving cherry hand mirrors by the light of an Aladdin kerosene lamp. No sounds except the crackling fire and the wind. That is where peace is, in my little book.”
Find Mortal Portals Lighting at One Of A Kind Gallery (OOAK) in Micaville, just outside Burnsville. Visit the collection at OOAK’s online store on the website, OOAKGallery.com. Contact Ed Doyle at 828.284.3007 or find him on Facebook.