Encinitas artist draws inspiration from nature in metal and design work

Artist Taylor Morgan and his team used the topography of Mission Trails Regional Park as inspiration for one of the custom pieces they created as part of a collection of public art in North City, the mixed-use development in downtown San Marcos. The sculptures and murals throughout the 200-acre site include a recycled junk-art sculpture and a 100-foot mural, along with Morgan’s custom “Prominence Desk” at the Mesa Rim Climbing Center.

“We began designing the project prior to the pandemic, and like most of our projects once COVID-19 hit, there were several delays and pauses in the actual construction process. There was a point in which we filed all of our designs away and moved onto other projects. I believe a year and a half had gone by when we were called up asking if we were still interested in the project,” he says of the resulting cut plate steel desk with two 20-foot-by-3-foot locally sourced Douglas fir slabs.

“The scope, timeline and budget had changed, but we knew we had to do everything we could to produce the pieces we had already put so much thought and effort into, so we took on the challenge to complete this piece within 45 days. It took many long nights, but miraculously … the pieces came together beautifully.”

Morgan, 27, is the owner and operator of Taylor H. Morgan Designs, his design and fabrication company specializing in metal work, public art, interior design, furniture and a few other media. He lives in Leucadia and took some time to talk about this project, staying away from Pinterest as part of his creative process, and an ideal weekend in the desert.

Q: Tell us about this public art program with North City.

A: The North City development is placing a large focus on public art and collaborating with local and regional artists, whether they be painters, muralists or sculptors like myself to bring unique and inspired works to the community. The installation of murals and sculptures throughout the North City grounds brings a voice and artistic inspiration to this type of urban development.

Q: Why was this something you wanted to participate in?

A: We are always looking for ways to challenge our fabrication and design expertise, and this has been a unique opportunity to help play a hand in creating the artistic culture and atmosphere in North City … which has been exciting.

Q: Can you walk us through your creative process for this piece?

A: Like most of our conceptual projects, my lead architectural designer and I spend several days and nights playing with layouts and forms, oftentimes modeling and rendering a handful of options using different materials and form. We were fortunate enough to witness the construction of the facility from concrete footing to structural steel erection and were most fascinated with the form, design and assembly of the actual climbing walls at Mesa Rim.

We looked into the background of Mesa Rim and notable climbing destinations in and around San Diego and ended up finding the GIS map of Mission Trails Regional Park. We used the topographic model to create the layout and undulations of the desk.

What I love about Leucadia …

I love the Encinitas/Leucadia community and the small businesses here. There aren’t many places in San Diego with walkable streets that lead to such a concentrated amount of truly mom-and-pop retail shops like La Paloma Theatre, Landmark Plant Co., or Bing Surf Shop.

Q: What was your inspiration for this piece?

A: The Prominence Desk was inspired by the topographic layout of Mission Hills Regional Park, and the shapes themselves were semi-generated using a parametric script utilizing the shapes on the actual climbing walls. The functional rock gabion wall behind the desk is actually the Mesa Rim Logo from a bird’s eye view, as you’d see from a mountain, and utilized locally sourced beach rocks as the infill, an ode to mountains meeting the ocean.

Q: Are you a full-time professional artist?

A: We are a full-time team of artists, craftsman, designers and architects. Our project scope ranges from furniture, products, interior design, to architecture and development. I personally began fabricating fine art in high school and further pursued my secondary education and career in welding, sculptural art and architectural design at Mesa Community College. My work began in Phoenix, Ariz., crafting pieces for local coffee shops and other places when I was 20, before moving to San Diego to fulfill a few contracts six years ago. We’ve since grown and have worked with several local brands, including Mesa Rim, Ironsmith Coffee and Prager Bros.

Q: What drew you to pursuing visual art in this way? What was it about this form of creative expression that appealed to you?

A: After graduating college, I had no interest in continuing to weld and had no background in design or architecture. I wanted to pursue wilderness therapy and nonprofit work with the Boy Scouts of America. I started welding for local shops in Phoenix while pursuing a second degree in recreation management at Northern Arizona University, when I was invited to come to San Diego to do some welding contracts. Everything else was learned and evolved from there.

Q: What inspires you in your work?

A: One major rule I have is “no Pinterest.” I try to design things you’ve never seen before. I’m also inspired by the process of other media, and as soon as I learn about a new process, I research it and try to reinvent a way that it can be used in upcoming projects. I also take inspiration from my surroundings. After working with North City, I was inspired by the vision of the growing development to create custom and unique pieces that resonate with the community.

Q: What’s been challenging about your work?

A: Taking time away from work and delegating responsibilities. I insist on being a part of every step of the process. Between admin, designing, fabrication and installations, I tend to work from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on any given day, including weekends. Custom fabrication always has its own challenges, as there is no instruction book on buildings the items you design.

Q: What’s been rewarding about this work?

A: I love seeing my work come to life and become part of a community. The sculptures and work I’ve done with North City are now part of the lives of so many people who are strangers to me. However, my artwork is something that they see and walk by everyday. It’s also rewarding to work with local business owners, artists, and even other trades to learn about their process and passions, whether it’s baking bread, roasting coffee, ceramics, etc. It’s crazy to hear individuals speak about their worlds and the materials they use, tools, sourcing process. Whenever I hire a subcontractor to help me out with a trade I’m not versed in, I’ll sit there and help them and observe them.

Q: What has this work taught you about yourself?

A: I’m a “yes” man. There’s always a way to do something.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

A: Recently, I’ve been hearing from more people in the trades to outsource, delegate, subcontract. I used to spend my nights attempting to do things outside of my scope, whether it was painting, electrical work, caulking window joints, or programming security alarms. I’m learning more to find the right people for the right job, and that I don’t always have to figure things out myself. When every project is different, consult the experts if you want every detail to be expertly done.

Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?

A: I was born deaf! I had restricted ear canals when I was born and was essentially mute until the age of 5, later learning to speak at age 7.

Q: Please describe your ideal San Diego weekend.

A: I enjoy exploring the desert, and I’m making more time on the weekends to camp, hike, and ride around the desert.