Studio Visit: Joe Taylor
Studio Visit is a Q&A with a local artist. Here, a chat with Joe Taylor, the co-owner of Sleepy Creek Vineyards near Fairmount and former co-owner of Taylor Studios, which builds museum exhibits.
Are you still making "Up the Creek" webisodes?
We are but we haven't made one in a while. We actually just pitched NBC Playground to turn "Up the Creek" into a TV series. NBC Playground invites anyone with an idea to pitch it. We had a lot of views online so we can say people like to see stuff like this.
Have you shown "Up the Creek" at festivals?
The New Art Film Festival (at the Art Theater Co-op) has shown several episodes over the years. We actually haven't entered them into too much. That's the beautiful thing about the Internet: They live online and can be seen anytime.
Who's behind "Up the Creek"?
Pretty much the whole cast. The primary writing is by myself, Bill Kephardt and Mike Trippiedi. We've actually made nine official episodes and little things we consider fillers.
Did you go to college and what did you study?
I did. I went to SIU. I had two majors. One was aviation; I thought I would make and build airplanes. Then I stumbled into graphic design — I didn't know at the time that there was a commercial art and graphic design major. I ended up with two associate degrees and enough credits for a master's.
Were you an artist growing up?
I always made stuff. One of the first things I remember is I was influenced by the Pirates of the Caribbean exhibit at Disneyland. I would collect old cow bones and dress them up like pirates and charge my friends a nickel to see them.
Where was that?
Livermore, Calif. I actually grew up near a vineyard.
When did you open Taylor Studios?
I was offered my dream job before I would have gotten my bachelor's degree — making museum exhibits for Chase Studios in Missouri. They're one of the premier exhibit builders. They did a lot of prehistoric things, nature and natural history.
I worked for them for about four years. Before that, when I was going to school, I worked for a taxidermist in Southern Illinois. When you put together taxidermy and graphic design you end up with museum exhibits.
Did you open Taylor Studios after that?
Yes, we first opened around 1992 in Mahomet. At the time I was married to Betty Brennan, current owner. She had a master's degree and was offered a job as marketing director for The Spaghetti Shop. That's what brought us here. While she was doing that I started Taylor Studios in a garage in Mahomet. We moved to Rantoul in 1994. We had grown the business enough that we needed more space.
Do you continue to make things other than "Up the Creek"?
I do. To bring it all around, for the Pens to Lens program, we're working on a couple of short films. For one, I'm making a silicon model of a hybrid koala-octopus. We're doing that as stop animation; Thomas Nicol will do the animating. Bill Kephardt and I are doing the other Pens to Lens short, "Double-0 Kevin," about a worm that's a double-agent spy. I'm making a worm puppet for that one. We've converted my garage into a green-screen studio so we're going to film it all there next week.
And we actually finished up three commercials for Coppertone. We wrote three scripts and they liked them. I think they'll all run on the Internet. In early spring we did two spots for Staples, the office supply store, that were really fun. Those will probably be for the Internet too. Most often they don't tell you how they're going to use them. They don't like to commit.