museums&MORE Winter 2013
Artist Spotlight: Scott Ellis

When it comes to art, he’s got you — and your head — covered

For Capsmith Inc. Senior Artist and Digitizer Scott Ellis, art has always been a part of who he is and his form of self-expression. He comes from a family of artists — his mother and sisters are painters and his brother is a printer — so he grew up surrounded by creative expression.

I love when I come up with a design and it’s a best seller. Then know I’m on the right track,” Ellis said. “I also get great satisfaction out of seeing someone wearing one of my hats on the street or on television.”

There are plenty of opportunities for that to occur, as 2012 marked his 20-year anniversary designing headwear at Capsmith Inc., an embroidery and headwear company that sells to wholesalers and souvenir stores of all sizes. And while styles and fashion may change, his love of the craft remains strong.

Ellis studied fine arts at the Florida School of the Arts and was then drawn to the commercial art field, working for Ivey’s department store in advertising doing signage and moving his way into the paste-up department. After Ivey’s merged with Dillard’s, he changed jobs and worked for different ad agencies and eventually landed a job at HTH, Inc. where he was the art director/sign designer for three years.

“You had to pretty much accommodate every different perspective from how people view their logos,” Ellis said. “This is where I learned about the diversity of a client base. I assisted in patent art for the original Lexas car toppers and learned about patent rendering and how specific and accurate the art must be to represent the patented product. It was almost like drawing a blueprint.”

In 1989, he started working for Capsmith Inc. in the art department “basically doing everything.”

“They did mostly screen printed novelty hats back then,” Ellis said. “As technology grew, so did Capsmith Inc. The founder of the company bought me my first computer and I learned how to use it and the programs. Besides a brief hiatus from 2005 to 2007, I have been designing headwear for Capsmith Inc. ever since.”

Capsmith Inc. now sells mostly to wholesalers and jobbers, but they also do a lot of private labeling and have made caps for Disney, SeaWorld, Universal Studios, Corona, Budweiser, Full Throttle Saloon and NASA.

“Getting to do souvenir hats for the Saturn 5 Rocket was one of my favorite projects,” Ellis said. “And because we supply such a diverse client base, I can see our products anywhere from department stores to gas stations to souvenir shops.”

Besides serving the souvenir industry, Capsmith Inc. has a line-up of warehouse stock — from Western to biker and everything in between. Product lines include caps, Danbanna Headgear (a doo-rag-style headwrap popular with bikers), officially licensed original military designs for all the armed forces on caps, knit beanies and 3-inch-by-5-inch flags, a “Branded” Western line up that includes legendary gunfighters of the old west and more current Western styles and a new “Girls & Guns” assortment.

Ellis said the ChopTop Doo Wrap — a headwrap made to look like a folded bandana — is also very popular, and that they have many to choose from, including a full line of designs with rhinestones. They also carry a full line of winter wear called Dakota Dan, which led to the creation of “Critter Caps” designed after animals that are aptly suited for zoos, theme parks and other gift shops. They’ve even designed some exclusive critter designs for specific customers.

“I design based on the product and the application process, and designing for print is completely different than embroidery,” Ellis said. “I get my best ideas when I am driving; they’ll just come to me on the daily commute. Pencil and paper is where the design starts to come to life 99 percent of the time and I scan in my sketches to the computer for assembly and layout design.”

His art canvas is only 6 inches wide by 3 inches tall, and he said 90 percent of his job is to make the most of that space.

“My work is hand-drawn to start and the tight composition makes my art unique and my style pretty distinctive,” he said. “Many people can look at a hat and know I did it. Although our hats have been copied many times by many companies using generic parts in the layout, our layouts come from scratch.”

Ellis also enjoys going to events for inspiration, as being in the geographical location of the beach or a biker event can help get the ideas flowing for hat designs. He also spends a lot of time perusing Google images.

“Old vintage fruit crate labels have inspired Western art,” Ellis said. “Sometimes you just have to know where to look.”

Ellis has found the most success in designing for bikers, Western and Americana markets, often incorporating boot stitching onto the caps along with the design. Current events are also a big inspiration for him, so the Capsmith Inc. Gun Control line is one of his favorites to design.

He’s currently working on designs for 2013 souvenirs for Bike Week and Sturgis, but said that is just a small part of what they have to do. Stocking the warehouse with new innovative items is always a challenge, and they have many product lines to add to. Ellis said many times they get called upon to do something they’ve never done before, and he gets a great deal of personal satisfaction when an item comes out exactly how he wants it to and the customer has great things to say about it.

“I think the most challenging part of being a commercial artist is getting the most bang for your buck and trying to be the most productive artist you can be without compromising your creativity,” Ellis said. “Young production artists need to learn to find their focus and still produce work in a timely manner that is appealing to their audience, as well as to their own personal satisfaction.”

He added that he misspent five years working in restaurants before he realized what he should have been doing. He was an assistant manager of a restaurant, running an entire crew of people, but was so frustrated because he “wasn’t doing what he was meant to do.”

“When I started working in commercial art, I realized, this is it — I’m supposed to be creating art,” Ellis said. “I always wish I had a bigger canvas. The bigger the canvas, the more you can put on it. But art is not about filling space; it’s about communicating what you want to say.”

By Abby Heugel
Managing Editor





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