Interview with Katie Bonadies
Pictured: Stevie McKean of New Talk Studio. Image courtesy of the artist.
Stevie predominantly works in clay as well as painting and printmaking. She has been at RWS since January 2022 when she relocated to Maine. Even when she has come to the studio with the intention of working on something specific, Stevie works in the moment. When she sits down to begin her work she ends up creating what feels right; she may have an order to make ten mugs and when she gets to the studio she decides she wants to hand build tiles instead. Sometimes the work she ends up making is an idea she’s been thinking about that’s finally made its way to the front of her mind or surface of her subconscious, “I think over time little bits of work translates and transforms.” She likes to go with the flow of what feels right, but there’s a lot of internal research that happens before the work is ready to be born. For example, she has some baskets she recently made from clay that she has been thinking about for over a year. She came in one day wanting to make something else but it was the right time and she sat down and made them.
Stevie studied printmaking in college and did a lot of printmaking and painting while earning her degree. She didn’t slow down after graduating from art school, instead she pivoted to working in clay. She’s been working with clay for the past three years and brings printmaking’s process oriented rigor to her clay work, using a lot of the same forms and shapes from her print work in a way that makes transforming two-dimensional images into three-dimensional sculptures feel like a natural progression. All of Stevie’s mediums bridge together over time through what she calls a common ‘language’. Squiggle Mug. Ceramic. 4”x3”. 2022.
When she looks back at old sketchbooks she sees that she’s still working with the same shapes. She has a black ribbed clay pot she made sitting on her shelf and it’s the same as a pot she made in a screen print three years ago while making still life drawings. These shapes and forms are inspired by found objects in urban landscapes. She loves to see how man made things come into contact with the natural world, “A lot of the time it’s garbage, but they come together in this way where it creates an unintentional still life.” Even though she’s continuing in the direction of work she was previously making, the current work is very different because of how those shapes and forms have evolved. Stevie thinks of the shapes as an alphabet, which is where she got the name for this project: New Talk. The forms that make this alphabet come from things like chains hanging on a subway car–she finds the way they lay together and interact visually interesting–or the shape of a french fry when it curls and arches. These shapes create a language between the varying forms she makes because they repeat across her different objects. “You bring them together into a piece of work and they are talking to each other. When would they have come together otherwise?” Her palette has changed but is another way to create continuity between the objects and bring them together.
Camp Mug and Ripple Cup. Ceramic. 2023. Patchwork Tiles and Baskets. Ceramic. 2022.
Stevie creates functional handmade pottery because she wants to create a connection to other people, “Bringing awareness and connection to these simple objects that people don’t really give a second thought to, but someone spent hours making it by hand and that brings a value to the things we own and use every day.” Each piece has its own personality, whether it’s brightly colored or an earth tone, and each mug speaks to a mood through shape and color that affects our interaction with these objects. Making other people happy in this way is what drives Stevie.
In Case You Missed It. Silkscreen. 18”x24”. 2018. Untitled. 64-color lithograph and silkscreen. 32”x40”. 2017. Index No. 3. Lithograph. 12”x18”. 2017.