As the son of a general contractor, I grew up around woodworking, backyard projects, and the mentality that you can create anything if you set your mind to it. Early on, I became interested in making furniture and later became enthralled with automotive projects. Thus, the work of artist Jay Nelson caught my eye at first glance.
Jay Nelson is an artist from California. Growing up in Palos Verdes, he spent his time similarly to me: building forts, making skateboard ramps, and constructing treehouses. Rather than abandoning these hobbies in adulthood, Jay transformed them into a career. He started building elaborate cabins, treehouses, and campers for his neighbors and friends. When word got out about his expertise and unique style, commissions started rolling in for all different types of projects.
Jay’s work has a very natural and earthy aesthetic to it. He often uses a combination of straight and linear shapes with more rounded and organic ones. A practice that is not very easy or common in woodworking. Most of his projects are made almost entirely from wood. However, as an expert craftsman, he maintains functionality as the utmost priority. He’s most well known for his wooden campers.
Jay has created campers for a variety of vehicles, many of which seem too small to have a camper of any sort. This size constraint forced Jay to become creative. These limitations have allowed him to make something that looks pleasing but is also practical; a tremendous challenge as many of us know. I think part of the reason I am so drawn to Jay’s work is due to the unlikely pairings and contrast present in his creations. Most automotive accessories are created from metal to match the appearance of the vehicle. Jay’s wooden campers challenge that notion and present something new. His use of both organic and linear shapes allows his work to look both clean and methodical as well as fun and inviting. Finally, his choice to create campers to be used with unusual vehicles embodies the idea that anything is possible.
A Free Spirit, Father, Artist, Surfer, Builder and Creative, Jay Nelson Finds Joy Doing Things in His Own Time
All images are from Jay Nelson’s Instagram:
I am drawn to his style, as I also really enjoy the natural look combined with automotive projects. It’s awesome that you are able to relate to his work, and understand what it takes to build what he builds. When were you first exposed to his works?
I think I first discovered him on Instagram back in 2017-2018. It’s been great seeing his style and expertise evolve over time.
I also grew up in Southern California and I enjoyed doing the same things in my youth! I love the very natural and earthy tones present in his work, it reminds me of family camping trips to the Sequoias. I feel like he had to have that creative edge to design for small spaces, does he mention any of his obstacles to building these wooden campers?