Time and Space is a journal series exploring creation, human connection, and intimate spaces.
This week, we were lucky enough to be invited into Katie Stout’s enchanted Brooklyn studio for a tour. Katie’s “navie pop” pieces serve as part sculpture, part furniture - we sat down with her to discuss this duality and how she brings her whimsical visions to life.
What is your favorite time of day and why?
6 am if I’ve actually had 8 hours of sleep, everything feels exciting and calm
Becoming an artist isn't always a linear path. How would you describe your own journey? What moments of adversity stand out in your mind?
My mom dying was while I was a freshman at RISD with a defining moment of adversity. We were very close, and she was my greatest advocate. My brother and I had to sell the house we grew up in, so I went through RISD without a mother or a home to go to for breaks. I had to figure out a lot of things very quickly, and it made me very resolute. I also dealt with the trauma by making things for domestic spaces, bc it made me feel like I had a home. And then when other people lived with it made me feel like a little part of me lived there also.
What sources of joy, strength, or pleasure do you draw from? What inspires you to create?
I don't always know what inspires me to create, sometimes it feels more like a compulsion. I have always loved mashing and mushing - it’s a great source of joy, strength and pleasure, and also a great source of pain and agony. Half the times things break and don’t come out how I imagine, it requires a lot of psychological flexibility, humor and resilience. If I’m looking for pure joy I usually find it by being in nature.
What advice or words of encouragement would you give to your younger self during challenging times?
I think I would have told myself that I’ll eventually find a sense of home.
Your work incorporates various mediums and textures. Can you tell us a bit about your creative process? Do the mediums inform the pieces? Or do you start with a vision, and from there choose the mediums that will bring the vision to life?
I usually start with a vision, do some drawings and models and then start making the piece and allow enough space in my vision to let the materials inform the piece. The process is intuitive so it’s hard to be concise.
There’s such a duality to your work - part sculpture, part furniture. It’s not just art, there’s functionality to your pieces. What significance does this have on your work? Does this theme extend into other areas of your life?
I love a blurry boundary. I suppose this extends to other parts of my life in that I have a hard time keeping my studio and pedestrian clothes separate, a lot of my friends are also people that I work with and I don’t really have studio life and home life - instead of buying things my instinct is just to say “I’ll make it”. In terms of the functionality of my work, I like the connection that the user creates by physically be being able to touch the work. I like the patinas pieces accumulate from use and the story they tell, I think it enhances the piece. I think I’m going to start referring to myself as a decorative artist, just because I hate the hierarchy and the decorative arts seem to be at bottom of the pile.
Female forms and sexuality are prominent in many of your pieces. These forms seem to defy traditional gender roles by commanding domestic spaces rather than merely serving them. Can you speak more to this?
I LOVE that! Commanding domestic spaces rather than serving. YES ! I always thought that the use of the female form in architecture and furniture was subservient. I think you said it well.
Do you often find yourself abandoning the original design or idea of a sculpt as you combine materials and is there a process you employ that helps you problem solve?
Many ideas get abandoned or altered as I see them come to fruition. I tend to leave space in the design or idea to allow for improvisations and intuition. I like to think that the pieces kind of make themselves.
There’s a notion of the solitary artist, however, most artists don’t fit that mold—art hardly exists in a vacuum. Who are some artists that inform your vision and people in your life that give you the energy to work?
I have a little community of artists and creatives that I love and admire. Misha Kahn, Nick haramis, Chris Wolston, Simone Paasche, Zoe Fisher, Anne Libby, Nika Kanamoto, Zac Kresl, Mira Putnam, Nora Normile, Adam Hyman, Rebekah Campbell, Brianne Garcia, Rebecca Manson (to name a handful!)
You mentioned your mother being a textile artist, in what ways did this influence you early on? Has this informed any particular parts of your own creation process?
My mom was a photographer and a textile designer, she also went to RISD. Her influence came more by way of support of anything creative. Every time I wanted a toy she told me to make it. Someone gave me an American girl doll and I made all other clothes.
Your latest exhibition of work, “verdant malformations” at Venus Over Manhattan features an amalgamation of fruits, vegetables, fauna and various organic shapes shaped into mostly female forms. This may be that I haven’t had breakfast yet, but do you find yourself getting hungrier making your work or is it a cook feeling less hungry after cooking situation? Second question, fruit and vegetables have often been used as a metaphor for life, death, decay, and gender; in what ways do you interpret these symbols?
Haha ! I’d say on average I always veer toward more hungry than less hungry. This appetite is unwavering. One thing that I have found interesting is that I don’t actually know what a lot of common fruits or vegetables actually look like. I’ll do little exercises where I make them from memory and they are so off. It’s like trying to draw a map of the US from memory, its something you’ve seen so many times and then every state looks like a deflated balloon. Fruit and vegetables have such strong metaphorical connotations, It’s hard not to see them as either yoni’s or phallus’s but I try to just keep an open mind about it. I also realized the other day that the use of fruits and vegetables from all of the world could be interpreted as a commentary on globalization. A lot of the flora aren’t even real, just little notions. I think the fruits and veg just kind of mean everything, life, death, decay, gender, consumerism, preservation, fantasy, truth, lies. I think the pieces are really about tenuous connection to the earth and to ourselves.
If you had the ability to bend time to your will, what would you slow down, speed up or freeze altogether?
Ooooo my concept of time is so warped, I would love to be able to bend it! aside from slowing down the week before a big deadline, I would speed up the growth of trees, freeze environmental degradation, and slow down time with friends and family.
Explore More - www.katiestout.com