Our Featured Artist of the Month for April is an educator and artist that uses her passion for knowledge – and the sharing of that knowledge – to drive her practice. Working primarily in clay, Stephanie Seguin creates functional vessels and tableware that she says generate a bridge into thought, reflection, and interpretation.
Read on to learn more about Stephanie’s practice and how this love of knowledge continually challenges her in her work.
“For me, art is beautiful, complicated, and nuanced. It can embellish and it can challenge.”
What is your artistic background?
I was always interested in creating and making things as a child. I loved exploring objects and ideas, breaking them down to the most basic understanding and then building back to all their complexities. I was a tactile learner through and through. In late high school, after taking every art class that was offered, I knew I wanted to pursue art as a career. I began as an Art Education major in college but quickly shifted to focus on Studio Art. After receiving my BFA from Minnesota State University Moorhead, I worked, taught, and studied at various clay facilities as a means to travel and learn as much as the field had to offer. In 2017 I received my MFA from Pennsylvania State University. Since leaving undergrad, teaching has gone hand in hand with my studio practice. I find the creativity required to be an effective teacher is just as satisfying to me as the creativity I find in my studio.
What are your favorite materials to work with/types of items to make?
I enjoy exploring all materials but my primary material has always been clay. I use the pottery wheel from time to time but my real interest is in hand building, with coil and slab work as my preferred methods of building. My work has always revolved in a space of function and decor, and in the last 5 years or so I’ve narrowed my making almost exclusively to vessels and tableware.
From where do you draw your inspiration?
I love examining historical pottery. Persian, Buncheong, and any tradition using Terra Cotta are my personal favorites to explore. I wouldn’t say that I directly pull influence or inspiration from these works into my own work, but my love and knowledge of these pots definitely plays to my work’s aesthetic sensibilities.
What is your creative process like?
I like to work in multiples and in stages. It’s a rare day when I sit down to work on a single piece, or see a piece through from building to surface in one fell swoop. Instead I prefer working on 5-15 similar forms at once, moving back and forth between the in-progress works until they’re ready to set aside and dry. Then I move onto making the next 5-15 pieces. This goes on until I have a large collection of greenware (not yet fired) pieces ready for bisque (the first of two firings). After the bisque firing, I transition my studio and mind set into glaze/surface mode and repeat my above process until all works are ready for the glaze firing (final firing).
What is the most rewarding thing about your practice?
In addition to being a tactile learner, I process ideas best while using my hands. As someone who loves to learn, being a maker means I’m always learning. This comes in the form of challenging myself to push my work, but also within the mundane and repetitive processes. At times when my hands know what to do without me having to think about it, I’m able to recharge my mind, daydream new ideas, and work out problems I’ve been pondering.
And what challenges do you face as an artist?
Time is a challenge for any artist. I’m getting better at accepting that I will always have more ideas than time to execute them, and have developed systems to allow me to work efficiently without compromising the quality of the work or ideas. Finances are the trickier challenge. Artists have always had to navigate costs of materials, value of time, and market value. Add in rising housing costs and a growing awareness that a 24/7 hustle is not sustainable, and the financial challenges of being a professional artist become harder to tackle.
Outside of your practice, do you do any other creative activities/what are your interests?
I love to garden and find it an incredibly rewarding activity. It’s been a while since I’ve been in the position to properly garden, due to time or space limitations, and I’d like to find more time for it in the future!
What role does the artist have in society?
Artists provide new perspectives through their artwork, which in turn expands the perspectives of viewers and users. From the simplistic version of a beautiful cup adding a little extra joy to someone’s day, to the larger impact of conceptual art that draws awareness and brings change to social injustices. Artists use their chosen medium to express their experience within the world, allowing for others to share in an otherwise unattainable experience, that of viewing the world through someone else’s eyes.
What is art/craft to you?
Art is an outlet, a window, and a way for me to broaden my experience in the world, both as a maker and a viewer. For me, art is beautiful, complicated, and nuanced. It can embellish and it can challenge. I love the ambiguity and possibilities that Art holds!
Tell us about your favorite artist or artists that inspire you.
A few of my favorite artists to visit and get lost in their work are: Betty Woodman, Magdalene Odundo, Eva Hesse, Lousie Despont, Nancy Blum, Gorgio Morandi, Agnes Martin, James Turrel, Helen Frankenthaler, Constantin Brancusi, and Carmen Herrara.
You can find a selection of Stephanie’s work in our Store, both in-person and online at https://contemporarycraftstore.com/collections/stephanie-seguin.
You can also find Stephanie on Instagram at @StephanieSeguinStudios and @SeguinCeramics.