Name: Stephanie DeArmond
Current Location: Minneapolis, MN
Education: BFA University of Washington / MFA University of Colorado at Boulder
Preferred Medium(s): Ceramics and drawing
Children (ages and genders): one boy 9 yo and one girl 6yo
Website address(es): stephaniedearmond.com
What is your background (where are you from, education, important details, where are you now, etc.)?
I grew up in Seattle but I have lived many places including Minneapolis where I live now, and Boulder CO and Arnhem NL where we lived while my husband and I did our respective graduate studies.
Was there any part of your formal or non-formal training that prepared you for being a creative maker and mother simultaneously?
I think encouragement from my mentors helped me and seeing other mothers do it- but lots of times I felt there was a stigma to being a female artist and having children. So I think, like others have written before me, it’s good to normalize women artists being parents and being visible.
Are there any women that you find to be an inspiration for you as an artist/mother?
My close friends help me make it through all crises , large or small. I am inspired by contemporary and historical figures in art such as Lucy Rie, a refugee; and Kara Walker, an African-American woman, as well as folk artists, indigenous craftspeople and those who created yet their names are forgotten in time. When I teach students about contemporary art, I include artists from different backgrounds than mine, and talk about the role of contemporary art in activism, and how art can bring a focus to an individual’s experience and identity- one that is marginalized in society.
Can you talk about how you balance your role of artist and the role of mother? Did you take time off after the birth of your children? How did that work? What about childcare? How did you navigate making artwork?
I felt overwhelmed by the idea of balancing my role of artist and mother; that’s something that many people feel, and it’s important to validate all the complicated feelings around motherhood. I love my children to the moon and back, and I treasure my identity as an artist– but I felt like I wasn’t good enough at either. I took time off after giving birth, and I felt sad that I wasn’t able to do it all. At the same time I felt enormous joy to have my babies and I knew I would get back to the studio, but I wasn’t sure when. I realized I had to have a block of time where I had childcare to get anything done. So when I had that, I saw my work start to happen again. And that felt amazing. My studio is at home – that is so convenient and I’m grateful; but subject to distractions.
Your work is a three dimensional amalgamation of word and typography. When you begin pieces, what starts the process? Do you find more inspiration in the words and their actual or implied meanings? The shapes and negative spaces a letter can make? How much does the style of the typography chosen for the words play into the end result and meaning?
It’s difficult to ascribe a large importance to a bit of text that I am turning into a very labor-intensive process, so I usually just try to dive in. It can be intimidating. I start text pieces by drawing the text full-size, making a paper pattern to use. I get to recreate a typeface. I love when the pieces become abstracted and enjoy the negative spaces created by the forms. It’s an homage to the artistry of conceptual graphic design practices, which is linked to my husband’s area of study and the community we were a part of in the Netherlands. I like seeing the typography obscuring the meaning of the words. I love looking at the letter forms.
I really enjoy the functional pieces you have been making recently. Like your sculptural text forms, these too have similar visual elements, but the words or letters are much more subdued. Where are the visual elements in these pots coming from? And the color palette? How does this body of work speak to, inform, and/or compliment the sculptural text objects you make?
I look at historical illustrations as well as manufactory marks on pottery that have long been an inspiration. The work nods to historical Delft and Chinese blue-and-white pottery via its palette; I find soft, feminine colors soothing; as well as feeling an explosion of love for bling (gold luster). The pinched forms capture a feeling I enjoy of being uncertain, embracing the mark of the hand, and the individual nature of hand-made objects. I have some new ideas for incorporating the text work through forms that I am starting on. I’m really excited about them.
Crowns Is a traveling exhibition featuring the work of eight women reflecting on the experiences of motherhood. What kind of ideas were you working with in the work you will be showing in this exhibit?
The form of the vessels reference being nourished when you are down or ill. Nourishment represents an ideal in motherhood. Parenting can feel a bit endless, it’s a struggle to retain your own identity when you are constantly helping your children with their feelings, needs, wants; and teaching them to be independent beings. My work in Crowns is about balancing needs to help yourself, your community, and also nourish your children. And, importantly; my feelings of sadness, anger, and grief about families who are victims of bias in the United States.
Can you talk about the impact that comes from women discussing this subject (motherhood) in the gallery setting?
Parenthood is a path many of us choose to take and the show asks the question, how can we fold these separate parts of ourselves together, and how do we let go of our old selves and integrate and grow into a new person who always cries a lot, including during Moana; or when hearing about someone’s story of injustice, etc. For me, it goes back to what I said at the beginning, when I was in school I felt some kind of stigma was attached to being a mother while being an artist. I think the Crowns show helps normalize motherhood for women artists. Our career path as artists requires a lot of sacrifice and persistence.
Are there any projects, hobbies, or activities (ex. running, knitting, tea connoisseur, arts organizations, volunteering, etc.) outside of your artistic practice that you feel passionately about? What are they? Do you find that they feed your practice? If so how?
Exercising clears my mind. I volunteer at our community school, it gives me a chance to contribute to making children’s education better. Also I love to knit and sew. I also love to hike in our national parks and study flora and fauna there. That extends to my love of native plants and making my garden a haven for birds. I like to read.
Finally just for fun. If you were to make a playlist today what would be your top 5 favorite songs?
All the Stars by Kendrick Lamar, SZA
Give a Little Bit by Supertramp
Despacito (feat. Justin Beiber) by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee
Applause by Lady Gaga
Tenderness by General Public