Ex-Boeing Engineer Turns to Beadwork

Article excerpt

Byline: Bob Keefer The Register-Guard

Scott Schuldt makes an unlikely artist.

An aircraft engineer at Boeing in Seattle for, as he puts it, "20 years and 10 days," he is entirely self-taught in the art world. A trim, fit-looking man of 52, he sports military-short gray hair and a single gold earring. His work, which grows in large part out of his fascination with nature and place, looks as delicately postmodern as what you'll find in any academically inclined gallery, despite his lack of an MFA.

And then, of course, there's the gender-bending fact that he sews, happily and continually and without reservation.

As visitors wandered around the galleries at Maude Kerns Arts Center one day last week, where a show of his exquisite beadwork has its last day Friday - go see it while you still can - Schuldt was the guy sitting quietly in the corner, working steadily with a needle and thread.

"It's the sewing," he says. "It's really the process. I sat on an airplane going to Europe one time and sewed for 13 hours straight. I work in coffee shops. You need to get out and hear people chatter when you work. When I'm doing beadwork, women come over and ask me what I'm doing and could they take a look?"

Schuldt was still analyzing structural aerodynamic loads for airliner engine pods some 15 years ago when he became fascinated with the art forms of Northwest Native Americans.

He started reading art history books - helped out by his wife, who has a master's degree in art history - and making wood carvings and paintings based on those Northwest native themes.

The art was derivative, yes, but it provided Schuldt an invaluable education.

The rules of Northwest native art he had learned from reading art history books suddenly made intuitive sense in the making of the art.

Soon he discovered beadwork. He continued with Native American motifs for a while but quickly shifted into his own themes and topics, from politics to mapmaking.

"I was aware that I was working in someone else's culture for a while," he says. "I began to work in my culture."

In 2003 he made a beaded knapsack themed around the Lewis and Clark expedition. …