The furniture designer Katie Stout sprinkles a little glitter on T’s ongoing challenge: to make an entirely new art object in under an hour with just six materials.
By Coco Romack
The Brooklyn-based designer Katie Stout creates imaginative, unconventional housewares that often eschew utility. In fact, her pieces — which include dramatically spiked ceramic lamps and floppy chairs made from brightly hued fabric wrapped in vinyl — “could potentially cause more trouble” to live with than not, she says with a laugh. She has also become known for her ongoing series of cartoonlike “girls,” candy-colored ceramic sculptures of nude women performing various tasks, such as holding up lampshades or mirrors, that playfully call attention to the multiple roles women are often expected to take on in domestic spaces.
Stout, 31, likes to name these women after people she’s encountered in her life (“The next one is going to be named Coco,” she joked when we spoke recently) and so it was not entirely surprising that for our Make T Something series — for which participants must create something in under one hour using only some basic craft supplies, a copy of The New York Times and one item of their choosing (colorful glitter, in Stout’s case) — she called the six-limbed marionette she crafted Nancy. That sparkling creature, she explained, may have been a subconscious “manifestation of Nancy Pelosi,” the House speaker who was often in the news at that time during the impeachment trial.
The challenge was entirely within Stout’s wheelhouse: Her work regularly incorporates scraps and found objects — several of her bowlegged chairs, for example, have been stuffed with her own repurposed sweaters, and she once created a small model of the Arc de Triomphe called the “Arc de Trash” (2019) entirely from her studio detritus — and she has a loose way of working. “I’m very comfortable with not knowing what the outcome is going to be,” she says.
But a residency last fall at the century-old Fonderia Artistica Battaglia foundry in Milan inspired her to begin experimenting with bronze and glass, precious materials that require more careful engineering than ceramic. “I want them to feel really fertile, like they’re about to explode,” she says of her new folk art-inspired home furnishings in glass and metal, some of which incorporate flower and fruit motifs. These pieces — which include a rectangular bronze cabinet decorated with lumpy ceramic chains and lilies — are slated to debut in November at R & Company, the New York gallery where Stout is currently exhibiting a series of sconces in the show “It’s Lit.” “I get the sense people have been craving this feeling of home and stability because the environment is so chaotic,” she says, “So I try to make each piece its own little universe.”