Artist Interview: Stephanie K. Clark – Embroidery Artist

Stephanie K. ClarkTell us about yourself, who are you, where are you from, and what do you do?
My name is Stephanie K. Clark. I was born in Portland Oregon, and raised in Urbana, Missouri.  I currently live in Salt Lake City, Utah.  I am an embroidery artist… I’m a painter and I paint with thread.

How did you get started doing what you do?
I’ve always had a passion for art and being creative in whatever life gives me for as long as I can remember.  My love for craft runs deep in my veins.  Even though I loved cultivating my hand at art during my high-school years, I never really thought of pursuing art as something other than a simple hobby; that fire to create didn’t really spark until I got to college.  Even then, I went to college to become an art teacher and thought, “Well, if I’m going to be teaching art I might as well be a decent artist”.  I never really saw myself as a gallery artist; that path has just fallen into my lap and I’ve fallen in love.  After my first offer to show in a real gallery in downtown Salt Lake City, I craved it.  I have to thank to my professors at the University of Utah who pushed me to create more than just a pretty picture and to have meaning in my work; I was able to really embrace and create conceptual art.

I majored in painting and drawing so my background in what I do now with the embroidery comes from those experiences in painting and drawing. It started when I took a drawing class one semester my junior year, the professor gave us the option to work with whatever medium we wanted. I wanted to take a break from painting. I had just gotten a new sewing machine that year, so I decided to do all my drawings on my sewing machine. Doing thread drawings then inspired embroidery and from then on I was hooked.

Stephanie K. Clark Embroidery ArtHow would you describe your style?
My style in my work I feel is a unique, cozy, eclectic, contemporary take on an old craft with a simple concept concerning life in the home. My work is an ode and influenced by the worlds of tapestry and my love for craft. My work blurs the lines between fine art and craft. I’d like to think I can reclaim the word “craft” which contains the idea of an unusual frame of knowledge and skill passed on from generation to generation.  I can’t tell you how many times my art has stirred up all kinds of arguments. Is it a fine art or a craft? I’d like to think I’m a rebel in the art world.

I once was told my work was described as “quiet and tranquil needlework …touch it and can you feel the warm and sweet in them”.  I love it and I would use that to describe my work.

Stephanie K. Clark Embroidery ArtWhat’s your inspiration?
I grew up on a farm in a very small town in Missouri. Growing up poor and in such a small town, it forced me to be creative.  My twin sister and I used to explore the forests and old abandon farm homes. I used to sing out loud, like Snow White, in hopes that the little critters would come play with me (never happened).  My mother would never buy us Barbie furniture or clothes for our Barbie’s so we spent hours creating these “extravagant” homes for our dolls. I was always finding inspiration and ways to create in my life through my surroundings. I really do give a lot of inspirational credit to where I grew up within my work. Even to where I live now, I’m always finding people, places, and things that inspire me to do something creatively. With my Dwelling series, I use a lot of Americana style Architecture, because that’s what I am most familiar with. I used images from everywhere I’ve been in my life.  From my home town in MO I used tailors and farm houses. I even used old Victorian homes from St. Louis, MO.  I live in the Avenues in Salt Lake City, UT and I’m always inspired by the homes in that area.

Stephanie K. Clark Embroidery ArtWhat is art to you?
Art to me is creating or arranging elements in a way that influences and affects the senses, emotions, and or intellect. I think creating art stirs things up deep in your being and allows you to place your imagination outside your mind. I think for the creative person creating art is a desired need. It’s expressing myself personally or it’s telling a story to teach others by documenting a place and time in history.

How do you keep motivated?
Every time I’m asked that question I never know to answer it. Motivation to create is just in me. It’s a feeling I’ve always had and I can’t describe it, other than when I create I get this satisfaction/high after seeing my creation; it’s that same warm feeling you get when you’ve done something nice for someone. It’s just in me to seek that feeling.

Stephanie K. Clark Embroidery ArtWhat do you hope to accomplish with your work?
First I seek satisfaction in my work. If I don’t like it then I’m not happy creating. I love the problem solving- through playing with the materials, discoveries are made. Which leads to that warm satisfaction/sense of accomplishment feeling I’m seeking. I grew up being a right brain thinker, learning in the conventional way was hard for me. School was hard for me, etc… being creative was the way I learned and expressed myself. So creating is the only way I have found success in my life.

Second, the concept in my work is important in order for my work to communicate. The use of craft such as embroidery fits my concept of domesticity, therefore, my process and material becomes involved in the concept of my work.

Finally, constant evolvement. I’m constantly coming up with ideas how to push a concept further and how I can execute it visually on the canvas with thread. I have sketch books with ideas and inspirations. It’s a constant daily thing that’s always happening everywhere I go. I don’t allow myself to get bored with an idea/concept.  If I feel it’s over-done, it will retired and I will be ready to evolve to the next.

Stephanie K. Clark Embroidery ArtWhat do you want others to take away from your work?
Visually, I love it when people bypass my work thinking it’s nothing other than a simple painting. Until they look a little closer and see that in fact it is fibers/thread. Then they have to proceed to look even closer and look into the windows of the home. I like to push my viewers to then question whose home is this? What kind of people live in this home? They then start to come up with a person and a story to that home. Sometimes it will even spark memories of their home and who they are. Then those little embroidered homes on the walls become portraits of people the viewers have created.

What, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
Keep creating and fulfilling your love for art and be confident in doing so.

Stephanie K. Clark Embroidery ArtWhat’s the best advice you’ve been given?
One of my dearest Professors, artist Sam Wilson, told us (a small class of young, eager upcoming artist): “The world doesn’t want you to create, and we don’t want to be spectators. Keep creating, you Art Majors. I only make 30k a year for teaching, but I do it so ‘they’ wont take creation away from me.”

Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
While attending a lecture by the one and only dearest Artist Christo, he stated: “Always create gentle disturbance in your art.”  Love those words!!

Also, my husband once told me: “You have to constantly be evolving in your work, if you don’t then your Thomas Kinkade” (no offense to the T.Kinkade lovers out there.)

Stephanie K. Clark Embroidery ArtWhat are your thoughts on art school?
Art school is not for everyone but as for me personally I wouldn’t be where I am today as an artist if it weren’t for art school.  To be honest Art School not only helped me in my academic skills of “how to paint” but more than anything it helped me learn critical thinking and “what to paint.” and what I want my art to say and how to talk about my art (aka the art of BSing). Most of all, opportunity came knocking at my door while attending school and being in the “Art World” surrounded by other artists. Putting myself in the art world I was able to get familiar with other artist, and if there’s one thing you will learn in the art world….NETWORKING is key. It’s a benefit in who you know and how to get in those galleries, etc.  Also surrounding yourself in an art community is key to helping your art evolve; having that constant support, critiques, and connections are important.

What’s your dream project?
Ha the answer to this question will always be changing. But for me most of all would be to create a collaborated piece with my sculptor artist husband Robin Clark…. Eat your hearts out Christo and Jeanne-Claude.

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