i met stephanie this year when the downtown district teamed up with spacetaker to activate storefront windows in houston's historic district with local art. the installation was provided by stephanie toppin - and when she handed me her business card i got pretty excited and immediately thought we could be pals. (learn more about the window project here).
after googling (ahem, researching) her work, i found tons of colorful work that ranges from pretty paintings to plush crocheted sculptures and eclectic baked goods. plus, she’s a total catch when it comes to following her on pinterest. so much eye candy.
i wanted to learn more about her work, and lucky for me, she agreed to be interviewed in my first installment of 'people who make things.'
where are you from and where do you live? And how does it relate to your work?
i was born and raised in houston, texas and still live here. my parents, being from england and trinidad, were a greater influence on me than my own city. my home kept houston, in a lot of ways, foreign to me. my personality contributed to it as well, I didn’t consider myself texan for a long time. it made me wish for other places, to see other things, and i left right after high school to london. i saw italy and i came back to finally meet houston. i feel that i am still figuring out how it relates to my work; we’re just getting firmly acquainted.
what were your favorite creative outlets growing up?
i was the kid in the corner, possibly from birth, who was lost in a world of markers and paper, legos, and i remember being entranced by k’nex. i was determined to not learn in piano class and i convinced my parents and teachers both electives should be art. i fixed my torn bears with thread and needle and made crafty alterations here and there. mostly i doodled, drew from magazines, and then cut up those magazines to make collage pieces.
what are you favorite materials/medium to work with?
painting will always be my first love, but i am currently transitioning into textiles creating soft sculpture. The change came naturally after crocheting for fun -- making presents for friend’s kids.
what influences or inspires you?
nature. music. those sound like things a hermit would say; a mind that never shuts off. constant nights with little sleep; strange dreams; those are all influences.
wanting to forget what you know will only fade, but never disappear. wishing eternally to be alone.
how do you work through roadblocks on a project or piece?
i have so many different projects going on at once if i am tired of one i just leave it to work on another. if i’m getting stressed i turn off the talk radio and i put on music. if music is not helping, i just settle in with the silence. there is always a tower of books lurking in the corner i need to read. there is always something else to do, but it is important to make sure i am eventually completing a project and not just looking for a distraction.
what has surprised you most about how your work has evolved, if at all?
i never saw the crochet coming. it was all on a whim and as a joke that i personally felt only i would get. i was wrong, so i am proud of myself for putting it out there and trying. it is one of the most fun things i do.
painting has not changed much, but the importance of it has deepened. i’ve continuously held art as my safe place and it has been proven over and over again to keep my sanity. it doesn’t matter if anyone ever sees it because i need it.
if you could pick the brain of one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
i would like to have a dinner party with tycho brahe. Two reasons: 1) a silver prosthetic nose 2) menagerie of rare animals.
cool, right? join us at char bar on tuesday, march 14 at 6 pm for the opening reception of stephanie's window installation. it's free and open to the public. plus, you can see more of her work.
find stephanie on pinterest, twitter and her awesome blog. all photos provided by the arts. thanks, stephanie!