Artist Katie Stout takes us inside her latest work in progress: a church she converts into a studio for her whimsical ceramics

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From her ceramic “Lady Lamps” (caricatured clay women, sometimes appearing to be made of fruit, holding lampshades above their heads) to her purely ornamental “Wall Jewelry”, Katie Stout’s practice straddles functional design and abstract sculpture. She skillfully references sources as disparate as Victorian lace patterns and suburban kitsch, while subverting expectations of traditionally feminine form, function and craft techniques, and with humor.

Born in Portland, Maine, the 30-year-old artist and designer described her work, which is now part of the permanent collections of the Dallas Museum of Art, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, like “walking the line between beauty and vulgarity.” It’s candy-colored and oddly playful. He also criticizes the many stereotypes that still govern the way women work, present themselves and live.

Not Stout, however. This spring, she and her husband moved from Brooklyn to an early 20th-century church and rectory in Hudson, New York. She is transforming the church into her studio – a big work in progress, serving her many works in progress – with a bell tower, cemetery and stained glass windows. “Space,” she said, “offers many opportunities for world-building.”

As she prepared new works in clay for group exhibitions in Paris (with Nina Johnson Gallery in October) and at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (with “Designed by Women” next year), the artist-designer gave Artnet News a look inside.

A pendant light made of ceramic by Katie Stout, 2021. Photo: Joe Kramm.

What is the studio task on your calendar this week that you are most looking forward to?

Crushing wax for certain bronze chandeliers.

What atmosphere do you prefer when you work? Do you listen to music or podcasts, or do you prefer silence? Why?

I love listening to mind-numbing pop to get me out of my body – anything anthem works.

Can you send us a picture of your studio’s most essential item(s) and tell us why you can’t live without them?

Impossible to choose between the finger or the credit card!

Courtesy of Katie Stout.

Courtesy of Katie Stout.

Who are your favorite artists, curators or other thinkers to follow on social media right now?

As for social media, I’ve become a Reddit voyeur, so I mostly follow hike posts. But I love Alissa Bennett since she met Bjarne Melgaard. Before his podcast The C-Word, which I loveshe had these amazing zines that felt like love letters to women everyone hated.

What trait do you most admire in a work of art? What trait do you despise the most?

I think crafts, and crafts.

Is there a photo you can send of your current work in progress to the studio?

Yes:

Courtesy of Katie Stout.

Courtesy of Katie Stout.

When you feel stuck while preparing for a show, what do you do to get out of it?

I go for a run, I sleep eight hours, I abstain from sugar 🙂 Or, usually, I spin in circles until it’s over.

What is the last exhibition you saw that marked you and why?

Taylor Baldwin and Serra Victoria Bothwell Fels, “Honest Bodies” at International Waters in Brooklyn last winter. Space and work complemented each other so well; both were so weird and strange. International Waters is actually just a tilted room, so you look into it. Serra’s work disturbed your perception even more with these puffy, drop-ceiling pieces, and Taylor’s work, if shown in a different context, could have been perceived as obsessive garden art. This energy of being on the brink is something I respond to. The whole thing was so wacky and beautiful and the use of the material was new and heartfelt.

What images or objects do you look at while you work? Share your view from behind the canvas or your desk, where you spend the most time.

Right now, I’m looking at the stained glass windows.

Inside Stout's new studio under construction in Hudson, New York.  Courtesy of Katie Stout.

Inside Stout’s new studio under construction in Hudson, New York. Courtesy of Katie Stout.

What made you choose this studio over others?

My husband and I purchased a church and rectory upstate, and I’m building the church as my studio. Space clicks with us and offers many opportunities for world building.

Describe the space in three adjectives.

Apple, horse, bird.

How does the studio environment influence your way of working?

At the moment it’s very dark because of the stained glass windows and the lack of electricians, but I like not to see. There’s less to peer into if you can’t see it, which is very liberating.

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