As a four-year-old living in Lenoir, South Carolina, Stephen Eichhorn refused to learn how to read. While everyone else in his class was singing their ABCs, he’d stubbornly deemed it unnecessary — he already knew he was destined to be an artist, communicating through images rather than words. “People asked me, how are you going to read your show cards or write press releases?” Eichhorn recalls. “My answer was, I’m going to marry someone who knows how to read! The resistance was so heavy they put me in a special ed class.” His protest didn’t last more than a few months, luckily, but his uncanny commitment to his future career did: At 14, for example, he interned for a group of Star Wars toymakers who taught him freehand drafting and craft techniques, and at 17 he attended a summer art program at SAIC before enrolling there a year later. Since graduating in 2006 he’s been living the dream instead of planning for it, working independently from a studio he shares with his wife in Chicago.
If there was one moment when Eichhorn wavered, it was during college, when he suddenly became obsessed with the idea of being an architect, and working with a completely different sense of space and scale. But instead he funneled those impulses back into his sculpture practice, using model-making materials to produce pieces that were “almost like drawing in space with white girders,” he says. The intricate collages he’s become known for lately also carry evidence of those interests: “I’m looking at plant forms as architectural elements, as recurring structures that mimic something manmade,” he says. “It’s about the complex harmony between the natural and the manmade.” To make them, he applies his laser-focusing skills in a more literal sense, spending 8 to 10 monotonous hours each day snipping out tiny plant and flower parts, with Arrested Development playing in the background to keep him from getting too lost in the process.
That’s where SU’s newest contributor Debbie Carlos found him this past spring when she visited his studio for our mini-series on Windy City artists (stay tuned for part two tomorrow). See what she saw in the slideshow at right, then be sure to visit her own site to see all the other past studio visits she’s done with talents like Ellen Dusen, Laura Lombardi, and Doug Johnston.
Portland is a place where, so the saying goes, the ’90s are alive and well. And it may very well be the only place that could have spawned an artist like Emily Counts, who deals with the self-reflective nostalgia of outdated technological innovations once found in her childhood home: dial-up telephones sculpted in porcelain and stoneware, a life-size fax machine, an interactive Mac SE computer made from walnut, casting epoxy, glass, porcelain, copper, and electrical wiring that acts as a two-way mirror after a button is pressed on the keyboard, lighting up the sculpture’s interior. “I’m interested in the mystery of these inventions that we seem to take for granted in our everyday life,” says the 35-year-old Seattle native, who we first spotted on photographer Carlie Armstrong’s blog Work.Place. “For me, there’s a thin line between technology and magic.”
It’s not every day that one of our subjects answers the phone by giddily announcing she’s just opened the mail to find the Legend soundtrack she ordered and proclaiming that 1985 Tom Cruise fantasy flick to be her favorite movie. But then San Francisco artist Sarah Applebaum has always tended to march to the beat of her own drum: Paying no mind when her work meanders back and forth between craft and art, she mostly uses dime-store materials like yarn, papier mâché, and felt. Unlike most crafters, she often turns those materials into three-dimensional symbols plucked from her subconscious. And yet unlike most artists, she's self-taught with a degree in politics, sells her objects at Jonathan Adler and in her own online shop, moonlights as a personal chef, and isn’t at all goal-oriented when it comes to gallery shows. When Applebaum makes things, alone in her home studio in the Lower Haight, it’s above all for making’s sake.
It’s a wonder that Jim Drain isn’t a hoarder of epic, A&E-worthy proportions. Sure, nearly every corner of the 3,000-square-foot Miami studio he shares with fellow artist and girlfriend Naomi Fisher is crammed full of stuff — chains, knitted fabric scraps, yarns, paint cans, talismen, toilet tops, costumes, books, prints, past works, and parts of past works that have been dismembered, all jockeying for attention. But considering Drain has worked with 10 times that many mediums in his nearly 15 years of making art, fashion, and furniture — often incorporating junk found in thrift stores and back alleys — hey, it could be a lot worse. “My dad will find something and go, I got this weird thing I think you’ll like, and my friends do it too, and I’m like, I’m not a trash collector!” he insists.