Stephanie Trowbridge is a ceramicist, woodworker, and an all-around fantastic artist. You can check out her work on her website at www.stephtrowbridgeshop.com. Steph creates household items that combine style and utility, taking functional tools and forming them into pieces that can also be decorative objects. Trowbridge was supposed to be Moon + Arrow's Fourth Friday Visiting Artist for April. Since we are closed due to safety concerns with COVID-19 and Philadelphia's stay at home order, we are highlighting Steph Trowbridge through our blog and social media accounts! We sat down with Trowbridge to learn more about her practice, living in Philadelphia and navigating our new normals.
Q: Tell us about yourself and your background.
I am a woodworker and ceramist based out of South Jersey/Philadelphia. I took a ceramics class two years ago at Black Hound Clay Studio in West Philly and had been working casually with wood for about five years after I had my brother (a wood/metal worker) teach me how to make a spoon. After my first year of ceramics, I found myself doing more woodworking and thinking of this work as more than just a hobby.
Q: What made you decide to work with both wood and ceramics?
Both types of artists inspire me, so it came down to not being able to give up one for the other. Some weeks I find myself working solely with wood, while others, it's the opposite. I think they complement each other in interesting ways.
Q: We absolutely love the shapes you create (we have a thing with hands too!) What inspires these forms?
I've gotten inspiration from paintings, nature, other woodworkers, and ceramists. Sometimes I create something in clay and try to make it with wood or vice versa. For as long as I can remember, I have always loved mid-century modern pieces; it feels like every piece from that time period is a statement piece while also being functional. I like to strive to achieve that same standard.
Q: What is the most challenging part of working with wood? With clay?
As far as working with wood goes, realizing the one-dimensional concept I've drawn as a three-dimensional piece is challenging. This can be determining the proper tool to use, how to use angles, etc. There is limited flexibility when working with wood, so achieving smooth, round edges can require extensive work and brainstorming.
Clay is a more delicate material, which is almost the complete opposite of wood. I have to be mindful of any minor movement during the process of making a clay piece, as it could significantly change the outcome. Each phase in making ceramics (throwing, attaching, firing, glazing, etc.) feels like a gamble.
Q: What is your favorite part about being an artist in Philadelphia?
This feels like a given, but I love the community of artists in Philadelphia. I've benefited greatly from others' support. When I decided to transition my work from what was essentially a hobby to an actual business, there were so many people eager to help me make it happen, and I'm very grateful.
Q: How has the Covid19 shutdown affected your day to day + your business?
My husband and I have been renovating a house we bought almost a year ago that needed to be completely gutted. It's unfinished, but we moved into it about two weeks before everything shut down. So, our days have become even more consumed with finishing it. (Hopefully soon our living room will have furniture other than scaffolding and sawhorses.)
In terms of the business, it's been strange. Up until the start of this crisis, I worked part-time as a painter, which has obviously been paused for the foreseeable future. I can now work on my pieces full-time from home, but it's also forced me to rely on them as a main source of income. (I realize for many artists this is always the case.) It's been challenging to determine how it works, but it's driven me to figure it out.
Q: What simple pleasures do you indulge in since our "normal" has changed?
Slower mornings. The urge to be productive is strong right now, but I've started trying to take time in the mornings to ease into work. Going for walks, drinking coffee at a table instead of in a car, accomplishing small house tasks that would otherwise be ignored.
(Images by Linsday Wernil and Peter Murray)