For this month's Stroll, I headed over to Atelier A.F.A. for its showing of paintings and pottery from Stephanie Hillman. I chat with Hillman today about her work and being a part of Stroll, along with pics from the showing, which you can check out in this gallery here.
Gavin: He,y Stephanie. First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Stephanie: Well, I absolutely love art and I have, since a very young age. I really enjoy fine arts, especially, creating something so beautiful and original out of nothing. Art comes straight from your heart and I love that. I own a business called Stephanie Hillman Design that specializes in watercolor, pottery, and fine-arts design. I also teach children's art classes at the Petersen's Art Center in Sugar House. I love what I do and enjoy creating and teaching art as a career.
Gavin: What first got you interested in art, and what were some early influences on you?
Stephanie: My dad told me, when I was young I was inspired by drawing Disney characters after our trips to Disneyland. But, my youngest memory of being inspired by art was by my third-grade teacher. I don't think I learned much in that class except for art, and I am okay with that. I would spend all day in class and all night in her after-school art program, drawing and doing crafts. As I got older, I always stayed in school art programs. I helped paint a large part of the mural downstairs at East High School and shortly after that time, I started taking classes at the Petersen Art Center in Sugar House. The art center is where my career in art really began. I was so inspired by Harold Petersen's watercolors and by the students who took classes there. There is so much talent radiating around that studio, it's a great place to find yourself. One of my favorite quotes they have hanging on the walls says, "Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time."
Gavin: You've spent a decade studying art at the Petersen's Art Center. How did you get involved with its program and what made you stick with it for so many years?
Stephanie: I first learned about the Petersen Art Center when I was attending Highland High School; they have a whole art wing dedicated to him and so I decided to enroll in classes. After being there for three years, they asked me to start teaching children's art classes. Over the years, they have become my family and I have been there ever since. I absolutely adore that place; I have made great friends and I continue to be inspired.
Gavin: What first drew you toward painting, and what influenced your style over the years?
Stephanie: I tried out watercolor classes when I first started at the art center because the medium intimidated me and I wanted to learn something new. After a year of taking classes, I fell in love with the medium. I started out painting more tightly and also doing more realistic paintings. As I grew and became more comfortable with watercolor I started experimenting with more design techniques and learning how to paint more loosely. Once I felt comfortable with the medium, I could really start experimenting and having fun with my paintings. I enjoy painting, especially with watercolor; sometimes the medium really paints itself and its fun to see how the colors move and shape themselves.
Gavin: How did you get involved with pottery later on, and what was it like learning a second form to master?
Stephanie: I was approached by Cynthia, who teaches pottery classes at the art center. She asked me if I wanted to try out a class to see if I liked it. At first it was incredibly frustrating, but I liked getting my hands dirty so I kept at it. It took me six months before I made my first good bowl. I haven't ever felt so frustrated, but that's what kept me going, I was determined to master this form of art. Now, four years later, I am finally at a point where I can make almost anything I want to. It has been really fun and I love creating art that is functional and beautiful at the same time.
Gavin: What's the process like for you when creating a new painting or pottery form, from idea to final product?
Stephanie: It usually starts out as a dream or random thought -- nothing too complex, it may even just start out as a combination of colors that I like. Most of my ideas take months of just thinking of them and never laying them out on paper; I start slowly building the ideas in my head. I don't like to force my imagination, I like to just let it come as it comes. I would say from start to finish, each piece takes about six months. Typically, they end up similar to how I want them to turn out, but sometimes I change my mind in the middle of a painting, or some really cool mistake happens and my painting takes a whole new direction. It's really a lot of fun and I love painting my thoughts onto paper.
Gavin: Do you usually play around with your creations as you make them, or do you stick to the idea from the start?
Stephanie: I guess I kind of answered that in the last question, but it differs from painting to painting. I just let the creativity flow -- if it changes direction, I just go with it; if not, that's okay, too. It's fun seeing my imagination run wild.
Gavin: What was it like for you breaking out into the local art scene and contributing to exhibitions?
Stephanie: This is one of my first exhibitions. I have done some shows with my pottery and just recently the Farmers Market with a local company called Tea Leaves & Melody. But, this is my first show with my watercolors, so it has been really exciting putting it all together. I first broke into the art scene after being introduced to the SLC Photo Collective. I have always had a talent for art but didn't know how to get it started and into galleries. At the Collective, I started meeting all these incredibly talented people who worked very hard to make a career out of what they loved, and that were successful at it, too. I was so inspired that I continued to go back to shows and events, eventually networking myself into the local art scene. Very shortly after that, I started up Stephanie Hillman Design and it has done so well -- better than I had ever hoped for!
Gavin: Tell us about the artwork on display for this Stroll.
Stephanie: My artwork is a series, from the very beginning stages of my art to the present. I wanted to show a timeline of how I have grown as an artist and how my style has changed. I named the show Inspiration Through Art because you can really see how my art has progressed over the years.
Gavin: How has it been for you working with Atelier A.F.A. for this showing?
Stephanie: Atelier A.F.A has been so great. I started working with this company back in 2005 when they were still Borge Andersen. But recently, with the start-up of my business I have become a regular customer. I work with M.P. all the time and she has been so fun to have around. She has also been so helpful and supportive with the show. I am very grateful for their support.
Gavin: Going local, what are your thoughts on our art scene, both good and bad?
Stephanie: I think our art scene in Utah has been growing in very positive ways. I see more and more art popping up everywhere. We have so many talented and inspiring people in Salt Lake and I meet them on a daily basis. But, I do think we have a lot of room to grow, and I am excited to be a part of that.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?
Stephanie: I think people in general need to be more supportive of the art scene. Buy local art, go see local bands and support local photographers. Supporting and buying local is so important and it builds a stronger community. Also, for the talented artists out there: Share your talents and don't let anyone or anything hold you back. Surround yourself with strong, talented people who inspire you. It's addictive to want to be around people like that -- you will find yourself more driven to reach your goals, and in return will inspire people in your path.
Gavin: Who are some local artists you like checking out or recommend people should look for?
Stephanie: I have been very inspired by Nadia Rea Morales. She currently has a show going up at the Library called Skin Deep; you should all go check it out, her work is amazing. I have also been quite mesmerized by IHSquared. I don't know him personally, but I follow him on Facebook and during gallery stroll; his work is incredible! Arash Mafi makes the most beautiful jewelry you have ever seen. He has a store in Salt Lake called Paisley Dreams; I highly recommend going in there, you will be blown away. Also, check out the SLC Photo Collective; there are some amazingly talented people working there. They are putting on quite a few shows this summer and they are part of Gallery Stroll, so go check them out, too!
Gavin: What's your take on Gallery Stroll and the work it's doing to promote local art?
Stephanie: I absolutely love Gallery Stroll and what it has done to expand the local art scene in Salt Lake. I think art is such an important part of our culture and I think it's great that we have a night every month where we can promote and support local artists. It has been a goal of mine for a few years to be a part of it. I am so excited for this opportunity and I hope there are more to come.
Gavin: What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?
Stephanie: I am currently working with a company called Tea Leaves & Melody. They sell yerba mate, a tea from Argentina. I create yerba mate cups for them and we are starting to sell merchandise in local coffee shops such as Nostalgia Coffee and online through their website. I expect to be in some upcoming events, possibly the Avenues Street Fair and the Sugar House Arts Festival. I am also currently selling mugs at Utah Artist Hands. I am always taking commissioned work, as well; you can visit my website. Overall, I am just creating, doing what I love and getting my art out there as much as I can.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Stephanie: I always love shouting out to my friends and the local art community. The SLC Photo Collective will be hosting its two-year anniversary Friday, July 26. You don't want to miss this; it’s going to be a great show. Also, my good friend Paul Duane is now hosting his own show, The Paul Duane Show. It is held once a month at The Complex. Paul is an incredibly talented photographer and talk-show host. Go check out his show, it’s always a good laugh!
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