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Designer Talks: Vicky Skelcher

Vicky Skelcher's path to design was anything but ordinary. While serving in the US Air Force, she took art courses and used her free time to perfect her craft. After landing a job sculpting toys, she went on to start Torytown Sculpture. 32 years later, Skelcher's passion for sculpting has continued to grow as she designs for major tabletop brands.

How did you get started?

I was very artistic growing up. I was always drawing and making things. After graduating high school, I joined the US Air Force, and while in the service, I took several college art courses. Also, in my spare time, from the time I got off work until the wee hours of the night, I sculpted. Sculpting was my passion. After getting out of the service, I landed a job with a model shop on the east coast and got paid to sculpt toys and collectibles. It was my dream job and I loved it. Many years later, I started my own company, Torytown Sculpture. I have now been sculpting commercially for about 32 years, working with key clients like Nambé and Lenox. I also do my own personal sculpts like Christmas ornaments, figurines and busts.

Was there a defining moment in your career? If so, how did it shape you as a designer?

The defining moment in my career was when I decided to leave the company that I was working for and launch my own. I was a single parent, so it was a bit scary for me. But my son was 17 years old, so I felt the timing was right. Within a few months I had an avalanche of work coming my way which led me to start my own company. It's been quite the adventure. I have been very fortunate to work in the field that I love so much!

What is the basis of your design strategy?

The basis of my design strategy is to relax and do some free thinking. Just start creating; nothing is written in stone. I can change anything that I want, but it's important to just do the work, sculpt everyday, draw everyday. Sometimes I just sit and write out ideas, and then I go back and sketch out those ideas to see if they lead anywhere.

How do you know when to stick it out and when to let go of an idea?

I don't think that I ever really let go of an idea. Sometimes that idea will grow and morph into something else. If I get stuck, I just work on a different part of the sculpt which relaxes me, and then I gently work my way back to the rest of the sculpt, and it all works out.

I'm inspired by life, nature, love and even anger. Everything we encounter influences us.

Is it difficult to strike a balance between your personal design aesthetic and the objective for commercial success?

I love both. With my personal projects, I have so much freedom which is always nice. They don't really interfere with each other because they are so different.

Outside of design, what things inspire you and influence your work?

I'm inspired by life, nature, love and even anger. Everything we encounter influences us.

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If you were not a designer, is there another career path that intrigues you?

If I was not a designer, as unlikely as it sounds, I would choose to be a scientist. I love science, and I was always interested in medicine and science. I could see myself working late into the night, looking through a microscope, trying to find answers.

Is there one person who you admire or consider to be your greatest design inspiration?

Salvador Dali was my inspiration, I love his work in his later years. Surrealism really inspired me on many levels. When I saw his work, it helped me to understand that in art there really are no rules, just art. Anything is possible.

What advice would you give to young designers who are just starting out in a commercial marketplace?

I believe that anything is possible, if you want it bad enough. And if you are willing to work for it, it will become yours. Passion is like a fuel - it can really take you a long way.