Sunday, September 30, 2012

An Interview with Artist Stephanie Stouffer

Stephanie Stouffer lives in the quiet and beauty of rural Vermont, a place that nourishes her and her art. She graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design, and for ten years was a designer with Hallmark Cards. There she received extensive experience designing for the social expression and decorative accessories markets. Since 1983, Stephanie has been working freelance, and her art is licensed on many products, including Rugs, Tapestries, Needlepoint Pillows, Stoneware, and Caspari Cards. We sat down and asked her how she got started in her career.

HCZ: When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
Stephanie Stouffer: Ever since I was a child, I've enjoyed drawing. I have always found pleasure in art and the process of sitting and working on art. It is very peaceful and healing.

HCZ: How did you get started in your career in art?
S.S.: I was at Bennington College planning to major in English or Psychology, but then decided to follow my heart to get a more structured and disciplined art instruction. I attended the Rhode Island School of Design.

HCZ: Did anyone help with your decision to become an artist?
S.S.: Yes, the counselor at Bennington College helped me realize my dream.

HCZ: Do you feel that being a woman has ever affected your career?
S.S.: I majored in sculpture at the Rhode Island School of Design and at the time, it was very male-dominated, masculine work. The workplace was hot and much of the work dealt with using bronze and similar metals. It was in the mid-sixties.

HCZ: What companies have you worked with throughout your career?
S.S.: The first job I had was working for a toy company called Hasbro Toys. I worked modeling doll heads, but then I got married and moved to Baltimore. There, I got a job working for a man creating heraldic arms, or rather, family crests. My next job was teaching art at a public school, but after my divorce, I took a course and became a Montessori teacher. I did not make enough money to support myself, so I went to work for Hallmark. I was now living in Kansas City because that was where the headquarters of Hallmark were, and I worked for Hallmark for ten years. I moved to Vermont almost thirty years ago and started working with a representative who enabled me to go beyond wrapping paper and greeting cards. She would take care of contracts and large corporations because I did not want to deal with that.

HCZ: What made you decide to become an individual artist and was it a difficult decision?
S.S.: I decided to go out as an individual artist after I began to realize that I did not want to live in a city and go to a tiny cubicle each day. It wasn't a hard decision but I had to be very self-disciplined. I was able to free-lance for large companies but at my home studio.

HCZ: How do you get your ideas for the paintings and designs?

S.S.: I get my ideas from catalogs. They are my research. I also go to stores to see what's being sold and I try to stay informed of the trends on the market. Most of the work I do comes from my own imagination and sense of design.

HCZ: What tips do you have for young women interested in pursuing art?
S.S.: My advice is to believe in yourself and that your work has value. You must
also have basic drawing skills and a solid foundation in art, whether you're
female or male. Self-discipline and being able to organize your workspace and
time is also vital.

BOOK WE LOVE: Apron Anxiety

Apron Anxiety: My Messy Affairs In and Out of the Kitchen by Alyssa Shelasky (Three Rivers Press).

Alyssa Shelasky is the New York editor for Grub Street at New York magazine, and is the creator of the blog Apron Anxiety. She wrote this witty, heartwarming, and entertaining book about her tumultuous relationship with a famous chef, and how she conquered her kitchen fears. Shelasky writes, "Alas, I am sorry to admit that I have had many pleasures that far exceeded even the most celestial meal. It's just that those pleasures didn't change my life. Something else did-something sweet, savory, salty... and oftentimes unattractive, overcooked, and underseasoned. The truth is I was accidentally anchored by the apron" (2). Shelasky is a free spirit with a glamorous New York City lifestyle full of glitzy parties and hot sex when she meets Chef, a career-obsessed but charming man who she ends up following to Washington, D.C. In the move, Shelasky leaves her career, support network, and busy social life, and intense loneliness sets in as Chef spends much of his time at the restaurant or on the road. In her unexpected free time, she decides to boot her kitchen phobia with a scrumptious, homemade mac 'n' cheese and arugula salad. The book is part memoir, part cookbook, and beautifully written. It is an honest account of one woman's journey to finding herself and discovering happiness in an unexpected place: the kitchen.

Clearly, I like a delicious romance story with a sprinkling of recipes. I also recommend this book.