The weather was dreary with rain pouring down and thunder causing a ruckus. I was recovering from a dreadful vertigo episode, and honestly, I was prepared to cancel my work day and climb back into my Nissan Cube to head home. Then my day shifted from gloomy to bright as soon as I walked into the humble abode of Mark Noll, owner of Mark Noll Designs, in Downtown St. Pete.
The home was a 50’s dollhouse with charming character where hand carved skeleton buddies sat on a chair and animal skulls hung from the wall. Most importantly, it had Mark Noll, a shoeless man with a sparkle in his eyes. He seemed a bit reserved at first, but something about him radiated and when I shook hands with him, I instantly forgot that I was feeling less than my upbeat self.
Who the heck is this guy? I asked myself.
“I make stuff.” He said, but I was eager to know more, “ I don’t like to call myself an artist. Some of the stuff I do is art, but I do so many other things. I paint, I draw, I carve, I sculpt, I make and design jewelry. It’s me. Everything I make is me.”
I have chosen to define this personality of Downtown St. Pete as a creator of, well, everything. In his workshop located in the back of his house, he creates one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry for high-end clients, earrings we can all afford, and sculptures carved out of upcycled materials including wood, Corian, graphite, palettes, carbon fiber, and even paddle handles.
Noll got the idea of creating these handcrafted jewelry pieces in Hawaii and started his business in 2007 (although he has been woodworking since he was 11 in California). Many of his designs include fluid curves and spirals, which are inspired from shapes or forms seen in nature. Another influencer of his art is Fibonacci, the most talented Western mathematician of the Middle Ages. With a laugh, Mark said, “if you don’t know who that is, I don’t want to talk to you.”
Taking a peek at his creations displayed in his home, workshop, and website, I couldn’t help but notice that he fancies carving skulls out of his materials. As this may come off as a tad uncomfortable to some people, I was intrigued. (Of course I was, my dad owned a sideshow and oddity exhibit with shrunken heads when I was a kid.) Noll, a long time student of anatomy, sees skulls as a vessel for our brain, which is the center of our consciousness. He also believes that this lifetime is a temporary nature of our existence.
To be honest, I found Noll’s level of awareness quite alluring. Diving a bit deeper into conversation, he explained his belief of society creating plenty of distractions such as certain TV shows, constant enthusiasm of sporting events, and the idea of what may be right for you, isn’t always right for someone else.
Instead of sitting and becoming absorbed in front of the television while watching sports, Noll says, “I rather go paddle boarding and have someone with me who gets excited when they see a fish or see a beautiful flower.” He is surrounding himself with positive influences to allow him to continue to create his positivity; which in turn will motivate him to keep making his products. (Keep creating Mark, we love what you add to the world!)
Noll appreciates his loyal customers who he has built relationships with because they are the ones assisting him in persevering, despite whatever obstacles life presents. Whether you are a tourist or a local, Mark Noll Designs has a piece that will call to you. Good news, he also creates custom pieces and even pet relief carvings!
It was a pleasure to meet and chat with Mark Noll, owner and creator of Mark Noll Designs. Be sure to check out his website to browse through his pieces and you can find him at the local indie markets. Don’t forget to tell him that Downtownstpete.com sent you!
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