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Surf Shacks 050 – Ty Williams

Ty is truly an artist in every sense of the word. Whether it’s through his colorful, tropical themed paintings, t-shirt graphics, ceramics, or even local sign paintings done during his travels to remote parts of the world, Ty’s art is easily recognizable and he definitely has his own unique style. He recently worked with his father to design his St. Augustine, Florida, home, which is a perfect reflection of his character: traveled, eclectic, simple, mellow, and quirky.

Who are you? Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Ty Williams. I am getting better with turbulence on airplanes and I wear a watch that hasn’t worked for two years. When I’m not procrastinating, I’m making things.

Where are you from?

I was born in the northeast, and spent a decent chunk of my childhood in the Caribbean before moving to Maine.

How did you land in St. Augustine, Florida?

I was attracted to St. Augustine because of its beautiful college, rich history, and surf.

Tell us more about your home and the design / build process.

I found a small postage-stamp-sized piece of land in the historic district. After countless hours of sketching ideas and taking inspiration from tiny homes, my father and I settled on a design that maximized space, was cost effective, and could withstand the elements. We drove materials from Maine to St. Augustine, assembled the walls offsite and erected them onsite. We had to work around a lot of the town bureaucracy with sea level (the house foundation is set 9 feet above sea level), height restraints, and special storm-resistant materials. Sometimes not all aspects of a design are permitted, forcing you to work creatively within the confines of what is allowed. I have to give credit to my father’s knowledge, creative problem-solving skills, and patience with my lack of carpentry experience.

What are your favorite parts of your home?

Hands down; the loft, the high ceilings, the natural light and the salvaged claw foot bathtub from a historical neighborhood house. I love having guests and opening my home to others when I travel.

What are your favorite parts about St. Augustine and the area in which you live?

St. Augustine is considered the oldest inhabited city in the US, and it provides so much history and beautiful European architecture. I can bike or walk almost anywhere and definitely to all of my favorite places. It also has a strong, young creative community. St. Augustine is a refreshing place to call home, and with the Jacksonville airport only an hour away, it makes it easy to fill my travel bug or get out of town for a big-city fix.

What do you want people to know about Florida?

Florida has much more to it than close-minded politicians, elderly people, bizarre tragic headlines, and amusement parks. It has the most gorgeous springs and it is relatively affordable—and affordable for young people to start creative businesses. There’s occasional surf, beautiful beaches, and it’s a short flight to the Caribbean or Central America.

What do you not want people to know about Florida?

I don’t want people to know that Florida might be underwater soon…

Tell us more about your parents’ horse farm up in Maine.

My parents bought the horse farm when I was finishing up high school. It’s an 1800s farm house that my father has restored. Almost every year I look forward to staying in the loft above the barn. It’s a nice creative contrast to life in Florida—my yin to the yang.

How often are you up there?

I spend most of my summers and sometimes part of the fall there depending on waves.

How would you describe your style of art?

Whimsical, varying in mediums, often with an element of nautical subject matter. “Playful, minimalist, tropical.”

Where do you draw inspiration from for your art and life in general?

I’m inspired by traveling—seeing new people and cultures feeds into my creative process and I tend to get new ideas when I’m on the move. I frequently get inspiration from surfing, skating, music, children’s illustrations, and primitive design.

When did you go from doing art as a creative outlet or hobby to making it your profession?

Creating art has always been enjoyable to me. It earns a modest living and occasionally I have to work the odd job. I realized I could turn it into a lifestyle once I didn’t have to reach for work and instead others started reaching for me.

What have been your biggest challenges and rewards as an artist?

For me, seeing value in my work and being clear about what I want has been a huge hurdle. Unless you value your work and process, why should anyone else? I have also had to overcome procrastination and stop comparing myself to others. On the other hand, meeting people, making connections, and building relationships because of my work is one of the biggest rewards. My work also allows me to travel and participate in charitable art projects and international art shows. Not to mention I have flexible hours (so I can sneak in the odd surf trip).

Any parting thoughts, words of wisdom, sage advice?

Just know you can live on beans and rice, don’t forget to smile, and say please and thank you.

/ Photography by Kelsey Heinze and Jason Gregory, interview by Matt Titone

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