Opening his studio in 1982, McDougall’s early years were spent designing and building original pieces of furniture. He has also been a contributing writer for Fine WoodWorking Magazine. His sculpted wall pieces and vessels are the distillation of this career spent pursuing economy of line and form. Jay has garnered numerous national awards for excellence in his field while maintaining an exhibition schedule that includes the most prestigious venues across the country. Jay was selected as a 2008 McKnight Foundation Fellowship recipient.
All of McDougall’s pieces are free hand carved from one solid piece of wood while is still green/wet with no glue-ups, joinery or lathe work. He works alone through the entire process, beginning with patiently selecting logs from fallen hardwood trees in the region surrounding his studio in rural Minnesota through hand buffing the final coat of wax. “To be successful my work must connect with its audience at a visceral level, it should make one feel good, or calm, or peaceful.” This is achieved in many subtle ways. His triptychs flow into one another by sharing profiles on adjacent edges; the organic patina Jay has developed for the wall sculpture’s steel backs complement the natural warmth of the wood; likewise the dyed underside of his vessels and trays create contrast and reinforce the rhythm of the shape; the hand-wrought staples in the Element Series introduce a human touch to a natural form. The whole becomes greater than its parts. These forms surpass transient trends and styles; they are timeless in their classic contemporary beauty and bring with them a calming presence that fits seamlessly into wide-ranging architectural styles.
“I have chosen to live and work in rural Minnesota. I work out of a solar-powered studio on the same property as the home we built on the beautiful Ottertail River. I’m thankful to have been able to earn a living as an artist (along with my wife who is also a visual artist) while living and raising our family in a small town setting.” Utilizing material that is very accessible is compatible with his goal of practicing, maintaining, and enriching a sustainable lifestyle. It also allows Jay to work with a material with which he shares an intimacy. These are the trees that he has played and worked amongst his entire life. McDougall strives for efficiency in his forms where less can be more, and has achieved the discipline necessary to preclude the overworking of his material. Jay continues to challenge himself to keep moving and to remain fully engaged in his process. His work progresses in steps or layers, with each one clearing a path to the next level. This allows him to remain relatively sane and highly motivated. McDougall’s career, family, home, surroundings, and the objects he creates have truly become one entity. They are inseparable and define who and what he is.