Katie Stout Featured in Phillips House CallsAugust 20, 2020
House Calls: Katie Stout
We caught up with the Brooklyn based designer to learn more about her unique source of materials, new written projects and the future of her practice.
Brooklyn based designer Katie Stout is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. Stout's work often features a diverse range of media utilizing unique techniques that unsettle utilitarian forms and function to create an experience that pushes the boundary of what is comfortable. Her work has been featured in the Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara, the Dallas Museum of Art and is in the permanent collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Dallas Museum of Art and Museum of Arts and Design.
PHILLIPS: Is there a specific space or object within your home or studio that you draw inspiration from, or return to, when thinking about new ideas for your work?
KATIE STOUT: When I work on new ideas I find myself drawn less to a specific object or a specific space and drawn more to pieces of many objects occupying many spaces in the shape of piles. I love scrap piles because they provide forms and compositions that are beyond what I would conceive of from a blank slate. I often use detritus for making models.
Working with trash drastically diminishes one’s choices and having to make fewer decisions is a great freedom. Even though the adage “starting is half the battle” is complete farce, using a found object or scrap makes the pieces starts itself. So instead trying to have control over what the pieces is going to look like, I get to usher it into existence by figuring out how.
It’s very important to note the significance of the pile. Piles are living which makes them infinitely more inspiring and practical than anything in a container. Unlike a box, things that are in piles are immediately accessible and they organizing themselves. Ferreting through a drawer will never provide the same shameless result as ripping through a pile.
P: When deciding which materials you use in your work, what are the most important factors you consider? Are there any materials you’d like to explore next that you haven’t tried yet?
KS: I choose materials primarily based on availability, followed by it fits into the concept and function of the piece. I answered a lot of this in my trash rant above, but I like working with trash because it’s so low stakes.
I’ve mostly been working with clay (dare I say trash of the earth?) because it’s what my space is currently set up for and the more I work with it the more I discover its infinite possibilities. Also, clay provides the best scraps as it is wont to break.
In terms of exploring new materials, I have been working with Fonderia Battaglia through R & Company to make a collection of bronze pieces covered with glass and ceramic set into large bezels. I’m also working on larger wicker furniture pieces with Nina Johnson that have ceramics woven into them.
P: What challenges do you often face in your design or creative process?
KS: General physics with an emphasis on time, gravity and space. For instance, many of the ceramic pieces I make are 3 times taller than my kiln. So I build the piece, cut it apart to fire and piece it back together. Working against gravity to build a piece once takes time.. and then I do it again. I'm getting a larger kiln, which my current studio can’t accommodate, so I’m looking for a new space. But also pandemic.
P: Having to step away from your usual day to day schedule, is there a book/film/project you’ll take this opportunity to begin (or return to)?
KS: Jeff (my husband) and I have been low key working on a children’s book called Body Part Soiree. It’s about a child who’s body parts want to reunite after gradually growing apart. As you can very well imagine, the body parts put the child at odds with themselves depending on which ones want to meet. Obviously their finger and nose know each other quite well but it gets dicey when their left and right ear want to meet. Jeff has been giving the body parts really long Russian names, like in Nikolia Gogol’s short story The Nose.
The book comes with a mirror in case the child gets inspired to introduce various body parts to each other. Very productive.
P: Where is the future of your practice headed?
KS: This is the question really got me. Thinking about the future is daunting when the present is overwhelming. If it were February, I would have talked about starting a rogue Storm King sculpture garden where the pieces kind of just rot away and a delirious Martha Stewart show. There is so much to deal with right now that I’ve put most planning on hold. Instead I’ve been obsessively making vessels, which I realized after I started is because I had never been so aware of others’ or my own.
My solo exhibition, Sour Tasting Liquid, at Nina Johnson closed this past March. Since then I've continued to explore the concepts brought forth in the patch vessels, several of the works that have sprung from these ideas will be shown in an immersive group show curated by Alison Gingeras at South Etna in Montauk this Labor Day weekend. I have a solo show with R in Oct 2021, I'm looking for a new studio, working on a public sculpture, and I'm showing a new wicker piece in a show Alice Leichtenstein is curating at Friedman Benda in January 2021.