In conversation with London based Stephanie Hartman.
Can you talk about your journey into or interest the arts?
I come from a creative family so it was normal to always be making things and it was actively encouraged. I can’t pinpoint a specific time when I realised I loved collage – it’s just always been a part of my vocabulary. I remember keeping scrapbooks as a kid and during my teens I had a Sunday job at a brilliant shop in Hastings and during quiet times I was able to sit and collage. I’d take magazines with me to work and sit and make compositions in a small, square sketchbook all day long. I moved to London in 2008 for my Foundation Course at Central Saint Martins and stayed on there for my degree in Graphic Design (specialising in Illustration). I collaged my way through those three years knowing I didn’t want to be an illustrator and when I left I began working in events within the arts.
Do you use a sketchbook? I’m interested in what a sketchbook means to you and your work?, or how people develop their ideas.
I’ve always kept sketchbooks but in the last five years or so I’ve stopped working into them directly. Instead I work on loose sheets of paper and then paste them into a sketchbook at a later date. I’d become too precious with my sketchbooks and viewed them as pieces of artwork in themselves so would become annoyed if I didn’t like one of the pages. Working on individual pages has made me much freer in my approach and now I view my collages as mini experiments and not as final things. It suits me much better! I also make a lot of example collages for workshops so it’s easier if I can just take along one piece and not cart a huge, heavy sketchbook around.
You have run many events using collage, and engaged with outreach and charitable work through this. Do you see collage as having a therapeutic value?
Massively. So many people tell me they find collage therapeutic. Lots of people come to workshops after work and use it as a way to de-stress after a hectic day. It’s so easy to get lost in the process and switch off. It’s been really rewarding during lockdown to be able to send out materials to people who wouldn’t necessarily come to a workshop due to time or location, and setting different challenges on Instagram has meant people all over the world can get involved. Back in May I worked with Accumulate, a London based charity who provide art classes to people living in shelters and temporary accommodation. We sent out 200 Collage Club packs to residents.
Why are you specifically interested in collage, what does it offer that other approaches don’t?
I love that there’s no right or wrong way to approach it. It’s super accessible and people can get involved even if they have limited materials. I think using pre-existing imagery is less daunting than having to create something totally from scratch, or to scale if you’re picking up a pencil for the first time. Simply by placing two images next to each other you can dream up a whole new narrative or fantasy world. It provides a brilliant entry point into creative expression.
Can you talk about your process of working. How do you work, how often, is there a particular pattern?
It’s changed quite a lot during lockdown! I’ve been able to spend way more time at my studio, as it’s only ten minutes from my house and self-contained so I don’t have to worry about social distancing. When this all began I threw myself into making the Collage Club paper packs so people could collage at home with my usual workshops on hold, and I was spending every day here piecing them all together which gave me a set routine which was welcomed with everything else feeling so uncertain. Before COVID-19 hit, a lot of my evenings and weekends were taken up running workshops so it’s strange having that time back. My productivity comes in bursts and I’m not too good at working out when those bursts will come. Once I’m in the zone it takes quite a lot to pull me out of it and I can be collaging for hours without taking a break.