Survival Tools

Meet our newest production artist—Kyle Regan!

Thanks for making time to sit down with me—excited you’re on-board. As your mentor, I’ve been tasked with getting this interview put together for the blog. We got to know each other a little during the onboarding lunch, but yeah, let’s get to know you a little more so we can share with everyone else! First off, how about a quick overview of yourself—who you are and your role here.


Ok, I am a production artist here at McCullough. So far that's been shop-related work—building stuff, going on installs, and also assisting in the graphic production side of it. That hasn’t been too much, but I can see that eventually being more of the job. Just building stuff using tools, painting…it’s been good so far.


Cool. Cool. So, what led you here—like hobbies, passions growing up, schooling, career path—how’d you get here?


I grew up in a family where all the men are super handy when it comes to building stuff and woodworking. My grandpa has always had a full shop of tools, and as a kid, he’d let me take stuff from the scrap bin to use. Now, a lot of my personal art is found materials, and I think that definitely influenced my process—to make do with what’s around—instead of buying wood to fit the piece, just finding stuff and making the piece fit the materials.


Some recent personal work Kyle has completed.


Then for college I went to Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) and was in design for a bit before switching to sculpture and drawing so I could fit in the woodworking side more. I moved home after college and did labor-intensive jobs for a bit. I roofed for a decade and then more recently was working at a brass and aluminum foundry for over a year. So when this opened up—this is kind of like THE place around the area where I can do something career-wise with what I went to school for—so when Pat reached out, this was a really big deal for me.


That's awesome your grandpa helped build your interest and your passions just by encouraging you to be creative with scraps. Did you ever make any pieces for him? Does he have your artwork at his house?


He does. For my thesis, I tried to hop into furniture a little bit. Like when I was in design, one skew of industrial design is furniture, but the program at MIAD is more geared toward phones and shoes, stuff like that. So, I thought I could tailor my own furniture-design program by going into sculpture. A lot of my thesis was wall pieces dealing heavily with patterns, and some were more resolved furniture pieces. The crown jewel of the show involved this process I came up with to make wood patterns look like woven baskets, so the main piece for the show was a weaved table. Once I moved back, I gave my grandpa the table.


That’s so cool, he must have been super proud.


He was, it was great. But he’s extremely talented and skilled, and he was very happy about it and then figured out how to replicate the jig I made and ended up making his own version! He presented that to me, so that’s my bedside table now. It’s cool because he’s way into craft and I’m more of a concept guy—I’ll come up with cool ideas but maybe not execute them the best, and the way he did it was the right way because it’s way more sturdy and will last longer.


The similar tables Kyle and his grandpa made for one another.


Well that's cool. It sounds like he inspired your interest and then after you gave him that table YOU inspired him, so it kind of came full circle.


Yeah! And that jig is something he still uses to make different things, like he’ll make boxes with that pattern and some crucifixes and small things, so yeah, it’s cool.


A bench and additional pieces Kyle built and has on display.


You guys should collaborate on a project sometime.


In the past, I’ve gotten some commissions—I did the Impact Awards for Dubuque365 and when I got that commission he was a big help. Anytime I have something a little out of my depth I’ll go to him and he’ll help with those things, so within the last two years we’ve done some stuff together.


Sounds rewarding. Thanks for sharing that. What excites you the most about your position at MC? Is there something you can’t wait to dive into or anything more general?


One thing is really learning the ins and outs of the CNC router. The impression I’ve gotten is it’s cool to come in on our free time to use the shop, and I know the other guys are pretty good with the CNC and build files for their own projects. I’d like to try planning around that and using it in my own work.


Another dimensional, pattern-based piece of Kyle's.


Yeah, it’s an amazing machine and it’s limitless the things you can do with that. I’m excited to see as your career progresses what creative things you can figure out to do with that machine and how you can incorporate that in your work. You’ll have to keep us posted on all the cool things you’re making! Ok, so let’s do some fun questions. Do you have any passions or hidden talents we don’t know about?


Hidden talents…hmmm…


You’re not like an amazing opera singer or anything like that?


Definitely not an AMAZING [laughter], but I do sing a little bit just for myself. I guess one thing, it’s not amazing, but I make a lot of custom liqueurs, simple syrups, stuff like that. I’m not really a big drinker—I do it super casually, but try to do fancy cocktails.


So, like fermenting and distilling? Or?


Its more about infused alcohols. It started with a coworker who would make apple pie shots, which a lot of people make. I did it a couple times from a basic recipe and thought there were probably better ways that I could do it a little more…”snobby” might be the word.




Oh, like a top-shelf version of apple pie?


Kyle's latest liqueur batch, waiting to be perfected.


Yeah! To start, instead of cooking the juice with the spices and adding the alcohol after, I started infusing the alcohol a couple weeks in advance. Originally it was just cinnamon each time, but now it’s cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, cardamom, orange peel—each time I try to add a new wrinkle to it. But I’ll do simple ones too like raspberry vodka. It’s not very time intensive; you just do it and then wait for it to be ready.


Nice, then you can figure out what you like or don’t like about it, keep making adjustments. You should bring some in so we can try it! Alright, I love this question because I love live music. What’s your favorite band or what kind of music are you into?


Oh, a lot of different stuff—I think there’s good music in every genre. Most recently I went to a hardcore show for the first time in a long time. I was standing on the edge of the pit and figured I was fine—like there’s guys over there kicking each other and stuff but I’m good. I wasn’t really paying attention and got caught with a kick to the shoulder! Kind of a wakeup call there. But I mostly listen to Pandora, I have a Charles Bradley station—it’s kind of like R&B or soul music. A lot of that, some blue grass, rock, a lot of oldies, too.


Nice. I used to go to a lot of hardcore shows in my early 20s and there’s something about them that almost makes you feel like you’re doing something bad, but it’s so fun. Any other hobbies outside work?


A couple seasons a year, usually fall and winter, I play rec league soccer through Clarke University. That was the only sport I played growing up so it’s fun to continue. We’re still pretty competitive but not as cutthroat as it was as kids or in high school. It’s nice to stay active like that. Another would be camping and kayaking—kind of roughing it with just a hammock and rainfly. Some friends and I have an island spot on the river we sort of cultivated ourselves with tables and cleared areas. We try to cook as gourmet as we can over fire, so that’s fun.


Not the island spot, but another found-object frontiersman project of Kyle's.


Alright, a couple more here—let’s do a kooky question. You’re on death row—for kicking someone at the hardcore show, obviously—what’s your last meal?


Yeah, alright. So, we have a family tradition I think my dad started, but we make homemade egg rolls. As I started to get older I’d do it with my friends and change up the recipe here and there. If they allowed it on death row, I’d be rolling eggs and frying them up. They’re one of my favorites.


If you could take credit for any great piece of art, song, or film, what would it be and why?


Aww man, ok, this is kind of weird, maybe a little obscure, but there’s this PBS special called Alone in the Wilderness. When I was doing my thesis, we developed an independent study for me along the lines of frontier craft, so I was trying to do everything I could with hand tools, and my instructor recommend I watch this for inspiration.


The frontiersman aesthetic at full force!


It’s from the ‘60s and this retired Army carpenter—from Iowa—went to Alaska by himself and framed and built an entire cabin by himself all with hand tools. He flew in, packed in all his tools—and he didn’t even include handles on the tools—like an axe for example, he just brought the metal head and then carved out his own handle, so he went super raw with it.


The man, the myth, the legend, the DVD that inspired us all.


The whole time, he’s filming everything on a 35mm camera and after like 35 years by himself—he’s like 80 by this point—he came back and put a voice over on top of it all. Just up in the wilderness in Alaska! Most the time was spent on upkeep, like gathering firewood and food, but the rest of the time he had ecology pursuits like tracking migrating patterns of birds, tracking plant growth, seeing what he could grow in his garden, stuff like that. It’s so interesting to me.


Is that what inspired you and your buddies to build the place on the river?


Yeah—that and growing up, one of my favorite books was Hatchet. We always camped, but more resort kind of stuff where there’s a pool and playgrounds, and even back then I wanted to do something more feral level, like survival. The trips we do now are closer—no electricity or bathrooms, all you have is what you brought—so I guess I’ve always kind of had that itch.


It’s funny you mention Hatchet—we just read it in the company book club last year. You should join that, too!