Tell me a little bit about you!
I’m a ceramics sculptor living and working in Jersey City, NJ. I’ve been working from my home studio and firing work at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, but am moving my workspace to a formal communal ceramics studio in Hoboken, NJ in September. I always loved to draw since I was a little kid and ended up going to Pratt in Brooklyn and graduated with a BFA in illustration. I had a “shadow career” in graphic design for 15 years but was never really in love with it deep down inside. When I began meditating last year, everything opened up and I decided to make the leap from design to fine art as a full-time pursuit.
When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?
I discovered art when I was about 5 or 6. I went to a small kindergarten run by a lovely old German couple. The husband had built an amazing playground filled with life-size mushroom swingsets and flowers–it was like a mini sculpture garden for kids. He looked at one of my stick figure drawings one day and showed me how to add more details to the body. I was hooked from there! I became obsessed with anything Disney-related…Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty, you name it. As a child of the 80’s I was also heavily influenced by movies like the Neverending Story and Labyrinth for their escapism and fantasy.
What is your process like?
My process is very dreamy. I start each morning with a 15-20 meditation. The silence allows my mind to settle. Sometimes during meditation, I’m bombarded with insights and ideas for sculptures and new projects. At other times, my mind is still and the insights come either during the day or while I’m sleeping. I keep a notepad by my bed to write down ideas every morning and keep an additional sketchpad to make little thumbnails of the beings that I imagine. I’m very interested in the subconscious mind’s power over waking life and the ability of meditation to access untapped creative potential.
Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?
I have so many mentors. Here’s the shortlist: 1. My mom-She’s an occupational therapist who’s been working with children with disabilities for over 40 years. She loves what she does. I’ve learned from watching her that if you love what you do, you will never “work” a day in your life. 2. The amazing art teachers that I’ve had-they’ve all taught me to be present and to see. 3. Mistakes-I’ve always been afraid of making mistakes. But it’s ok. I’m learning that perfectionism is b.s. The greatest beauty for me now is found in the flaws, which is why I love clay so much. The imperfections like the crackling, the fingerprints, and the unexpected mixing of glazes become the heros of each piece.
Describe your studio.
My studio takes up the entire basement of my house in Jersey City. It’s got a tiny window but that’s all I need. It’s filled with bric-a-brac and mood boards. I try to surround myself with inspiring things to keep me in the creative headspace. I work at a beautiful old architect’s table that my husband’s brother found in a dumpster.
What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?
The hardest part is finding time to promote your work. Because I’m relatively new, I’ve got to get my name and work out there in the industry. Creating pitches and submitting work is time consuming. I’d rather just be making but you still have to pay the bills.
If you could sit down for dinner or a drink with anyone, who would it be and what would you chat about?
I would love to sit down and pick the brain of Picasso. I like his work (though he’s not my favorite) BUT he was so prolific. He was constantly generating work and exploring new styles. He seemed to be very successful in overcoming creative block and constantly being in a flow state. I’d love to ask him what techniques he used to access this state of being.
What are three words you would use to describe your work?
Strange, child-like, ethereal
What do you do when you find yourself in a creative rut?
I go on a walk or take a break.
What do you love most about your medium? What challenges or surprises you most about it?
There are 3 different stages that you can work with clay in: the liquid form, the standard moist form, or the leather-hard stage where it performs more like a substance to be carved into like wood. It’s transformative much like water which exists as liquid, ice, and steam. I love clay because it encourages you to be present.
What do you need or value most as an artist?
I value my freedom which takes the form of time. When I have time to do what I love, I feel happy and free.
What keeps you creating?
The constant flow of ideas keeps me creating. All these things are begging to be brought to life. If I stopped, I would feel totally off and unfulfilled.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a series of sculptures called “Hypnos” which are a caravan of nature spirits and imaginary friends that I dream up at night. I’ve made about 20 so far but want to keep the little family of sculptures growing. I’m making a miniaturized version of my favorites for another idea that’s currently in the works.
Find more at shamonastokes.com and on Instagram @shamstoked!
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