Inspiring thoughts from a recent interview with sculptor Steven Stairs…
What is your first memory of creating art?
I think of myself more as a Maker, as opposed to an artist. I’ve been making things as long as I can remember. First it was leatherwork that I sold at the Farmers Market, furniture making soon followed in my early teens. Then there was sketching and watercolour painting.
Do you have a precise vision for each sculpture before you begin?
I work from sketches and or clay models so yes, I have a pretty good idea right from the start. Still, the process is fluid, things change along the way, there is endless fine tuning…
Is each form carved from one piece of wood?
How do you select the wood you use for each piece?
My approach is largely intuitive, it is a process of reading the grain of the wood, anticipating what surprises there may be and working around knots and cracks. I try to match the form I have in mind with the wood in order to highlight what is going on in the grain.
How do you think your experience as a furniture designer/maker has influenced your sculpture?
A respect for wood, an appreciation for the variation there can be in each piece. With furniture making, the creative part is in the designing, after that everything that follows is technical.
Making a sculpture, the creative process is very much ongoing, the form evolves, lines shift, more curve, less curve, volumes change. I don’t have the patience anymore that furniture making demands, making sculpture fulfills my need to be creative.
Your forms feature a simplicity and minimalism, what has brought you to exercise this restraint?
I suppose that the sculpture I make are an extension of my personality. Quiet, reserved, understated. A true introvert, I dislike drawing attention to myself. I don’t have it in me to do loud attention-grabbing work! My cousin once commented that my sculptures are zen like… I like that…!
Who has inspired you artistically?
Barry Jeeves, a Prince Edward Island painter was a major creative mentor for me. His encouragement, intensity, energy and passion still resonates.
Later, as my interest in furniture making developed, I discovered the books of James Krenov. I can’t adequately sum him up here or convey the feeling of connection I felt. Krenov’s work moved me, his philosophy, his patient approach, the self-doubt before beginning each piece, the intuitive way he approached his furniture, it all fit. Around about 1983 when I was finishing the wood program at Holland College, I applied to the school where Krenov taught in Mendocino CA. I my complete surprise I was accepted but was unable to find the money to go.
Emily Carr and Vincent Van Gogh for their passion, perseverance and the spiritual component in their work. From the world of sculptors, Henry Moore, Constantin Brancusi and Barbara Hepworth.