Friday, July 20, 2012

Stephanie James-Manttan: Indent

Stephanie James-Manttan's current exhibition Indent is showing in CollectorSpace at JamFactory until 25 August.  She answered a few questions for us about this exhibition and her work in general.

Tell us about yourself, how did you become an artist?

I’m a bit of a late starter.  Before becoming an artist, I was a business analyst working in England and Sydney.  I’ve always loved art since good ole school days and also I was one of those people who like to draw and paint and do weekend drawing and sculpture courses. 

After moving back to Sydney in late 1999 with my husband and my beautiful 1 year old son, we settled into life, but September 11 came a long, my husband lost his job because and the business he was working for lost funding from one of their major venture capitalist from the US.  In short, we moved to Adelaide in 2002 where my husband fully supported me in following my passion for art, so I signed up for a visual arts degree at then Adelaide Centre for the Arts TAFE SA.  After completing my degree, I then took up the 2 year associate program at the JamFactory and have been there ever since.

Which craftspeople, writers, artists, musicians, anyone do you find particularly inspiring and how have they influenced your approach to making?

One of the major influences in my current arts practice is indigenous basket weaving.  I went to Alice Springs in 2008 to do a 2 week indigenous workshop from the women from Ernabella, I made the ceramics forms and the women decorated them.  While I was there I got to watch the women basket weave.  I was transfixed with how they grew from nothing and the repetition of the weave was comforting and mesmerizing.  When I got back to my studio, I sat at my pottery wheel with a lump of clay on it and just as the indigenous women of Ernabella would with a strip of fibre, I started to weave but with clay.  Well that’s the way I see.  I wheel throw the forms then I work around it with wooden tools as you would weaving.  I also love the soft organic nature of weaving and that was very important to me that this is reflected in my work.  Even though my work is evolving, it still incorporates this influence.

Are there any specific quotes, ideas, places that influence this current body of work?

I’m really liking the saying from a wise Vietnamese Buddhist monke … these a two of my favourites.

“Smile, breathe and go slowly.”
Thich Nhat Hanh

“Our own life has to be our message.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology

Are there any specific collections, museums that you have found inspiring and why?

The Museum of South Australia has a wonderful and beautiful large collection of indigenous basket weaving.   

Welcome us to your studio - where is it?

My studio is tucked away in the JamFactory’s main ceramics Studio.  I’m positioned between two wonderful ladies Helen Fuller and Maria Chatzinikolaki.  We talk, laugh and cry about life in general but we also support another’s work.  I miss them when they’re not about, but I do have all the other amazing associate in the studio to keep me preoccupied. 

The work for the exhibition: Can you describe the specific themes reflected in this body of work?

This body of work is all about extremes, what I can do to the objects before they no longer become functional.  Aesthetics play a larger part in my exhibition work than functionality.  I push, pull, squeeze and puncture the clay and push them to the utmost extremes.  Some rims quiver on the verge of equilibrium.  I love the fact that even thought I use the same process of some forms, they all look different … they have their own personality.  I’m also marking on the inside so you can see on the outside the smooth ripple effects that you would only normally see on the inside … if that all makes sense.

Describe your method of production in this current work?

All my forms are thrown on a pottery wheel and whilst they are still wet, I alter them.  I have to leave them until the clay is at a certain state before I touch them.  If I don’t do this the marks are not as clean and I don’t want the forms too dry then you don’t get that organic flow to them.  I use other materials to help support them during this process … but I won’t tell you what I use because it’s my little secret ;)