Katie Stout, Furniture Designer
What were you doing at age 24? Muddling through grad school? Working as a CAD monkey? Moving back in with your parents? If so, you might be more than a little jealous of recent RISD grad Katie Stout, who at that tender age already holds the post of gallery director at New York’s Johnson Trading Gallery, where Paul Johnson not only represents her work but encourages her to introduce him to that of her peers (like Noho Next alum and future SU subject Misha Kahn, for example). Before she landed the job, Stout’s only previous employment was a one-summer college internship for the novelty housewares brand Fred and Friends: “I showed the creative director my portfolio, and when he saw a table I’d made as a sophomore that was an udder with milk squirting out of its teats, he asked me what I was on,” she recalls. “Obviously I said nothing.”
Perhaps Johnson also saw serious creative potential in Stout’s eccentricity — her first project for the gallery, presented this past May, was a series of lumpy lamps made from hand-pinched clay, one of whose light-up feet makes it look like a little blue alien. Stout describes her practice as an attempt to “make things for this dream dwelling I have in my head, a super-saccharine, cartoony life-size dollhouse where I would ideally live,” she says. “I think it’s a reaction to growing up in a vanilla New Jersey suburb where every other house was exactly the same. I definitely spend a a significant amount of time in the ether daydreaming about filling this house — except when I’m working for Paul, of course!”
1. Describe your most recent project and how it was made.
“My most recent project is a collection of ceramic lamps made in collaboration with philly-based artist Sean Gerstley. The process is pretty simple. We draw forms in our sketch books, pick which ones like, figure out how hardware and secondary material would work and then pinch the form out of clay. Once the piece has been fired we attach the hardwire and wire it. After making a few lamps, we discovered that the primary uniting element in the collection is the pinch which gave us the freedom to make each lamp entirely unique in terms of form and secondary material while still being a part of a cohesive collection. Though some of the lamps in the collection are definitely lampier than others, my feelings are that a lamp is a lamp as long as it emits light. Sean and I are still working on the collaboration and we’re focusing on introducing more forms and secondary materials into the series.”
2. Describe your next project and how you’re currently making it.
“My next project is for a show at Johnson Trading Gallery in early October (in cahoots with Misha Kahn). It’s a collection based on fire. Basically I’m designing a collection of furniture/objects that looks like it’s on fire. But not in the Martin Baas sense where he actually burned iconic pieces ~ I’m talking superficially. Right now I’m experimenting with holographic laminates. I am most excited about making a rocking chair with fire holographic laminates so that when you rock in it, it is looks like it’s on fire.”
3. Tell us one thing that’s been inspiring you lately and why.
“Right now I’m inspired by fire. It’s difficult to explain why something inspires, it just sort of does. I guess fire is a source of inspiration right now because it’s usually the last thing that we want to happen to our stuff.” (Above: “The Ladder of Fire” by René Magritte, 1939)
4. Show us your studio and tell us what you like about it.
I’d say my studio is still in the works. I recently described it to someone as “a prepubescent excited to get out of her training bra and braces — she has a crush on young Macaulay Culkin and middle aged Dieter Rams” I don’t think they got it. Or they did and thought it was weird. My studio is in Sunset Park (BK) and it’s perfect for now. I have very little in terms of tools – I mostly use the space as a place to think. I don’t even really have a chair so I usually sit or sprawl on the floor with my bowl of crayons and draw. I share space with a few other people, we call it So What Space – someone could probably use it as an example for an astute observation on millennials. I’m not really dedicated to any material so not having a functioning shop poses zero problems because I outsource a lot of projects or venture else where to have pieces fabricated. The studio is filled with good people and good vibes which is what I want for the time being.
The Volcano Curtain by Stout in collaboration with Katie Fox
Detail of the Desert Curtain by Stout and Fox
Stout’s 3-D printed Architect sculptures