Hannah Stouffer has been with 1xRUN since the very beginning, joining us for RUN #00178 back in March of 2012, since then we have been happy to see her work continue to evolve and grow. 1xRUN Contributing Writer Miya Tsukazaki recently spent some time with Stouffer in California and the two caught up for a quick studio visit and to discuss her latest show Ingress/Egress which opens with fellow 1x alum Hilary White at Paradigm Gallery this week in Philadelphia. The show explores passageways vs. departures, where Hannah and Hillary highlight themes of meditation, belief and faith – from both a spiritual and physical standpoint. Read on for a look inside Stouffer’s studio and for a quick peek at the works in Ingress/Egress…
This past April, my other half and I were extended a very intriguing invitation to travel to Big Bear Lake, California to spend a weekend with Hannah and her closest crew in celebration of her birthday. Coincidentally, her birthday falls the day before mine. It was a no-brainer and we packed our bags. Despite the fact that we only knew Hannah out of a group of her ten eager-to-get-their-wilderness-on homies (and five of their dogs!), we ventured with bright eyes and bushy tails along the treacherous, narrow road up to the lake. Aside from the foggy memories of tequila bottles shaped into shotguns, endless group strolls through the mist, and squeezing 12 people into an average-sized jacuzzi (and loving every minute of it), there is one thing that stuck with me. These people were some of the most down-to-earth, ultra-talented, creative, and hilarious humans that I’ve met on my 33-year existence in this realm. Every single one of them was unique, genuine, and made me laugh to the point of tears non-stop the entire weekend. It’s one of those experiences that hits a nerve, a constant reminder you that there are endless varieties of spectacular people in this world – you just have to open yourself up to find them.
These gems are those people that Hannah surrounds herself with. They are all cut from the same cloth and it is no surprise that they adore her just the same, traveling from around the west coast to spend the weekend honoring the day she was born. I’ve always had the impression that Hannah is incredibly driven and talented, but this trip allowed me a glimpse into just how special she really is. Aside from the fact that the striking, Aspen-born, LA-based artist and designer has seemingly done it all, she continues to push herself, expanding as a creative (and human being), making her one of those people that you want to surround yourself with. She’s made quite a name for herself on all points of the spectrum, a phenomenon much more difficult than you’d imagine in this competitive, cutthroat industry. Hannah is well-versed in creative media, contributing significantly to art mags such as Juxtapoz, (during her 4 year run with them), she’s collaborated with brands such Vans, Chanel, and Dior, and illustrated for print, advertising, and editorial campaigns such as American Express and Nike. She’s traveled the world, showing, curating, and art directing at galleries and museums, transforming storefronts with her installations, and transferring her illustrations to the streets during art festivals such as Art Basel, Pow! Wow! Hawaii, and PangeaSeed’s Sea Walls. Despite her laundry list of major accomplishments, these incidents are just the tip of the ethereal iceberg, the metaphysical realm that Hannah allows the you to transcend into – friend, fan, or first-timer.
1xRUN: Hey lady! Can you share a little about the story behind your studio space?
Hannah Stouffer: I share a gorgeous, 2 story open loft with 3 close friends – Esao Andrews, Johnny Vampotna, and Ali Gallagher. We are all creatives on slightly different mediums but need the creative space to function. I’m pretty much the only one in there all day every day but sometimes I get lucky with a little human interaction from a few of them.
1x: Nice crew. Where is this creative hub located?
Stouffer: In between Koreatown and Silverlake in Los Angeles, about a mile commute from my house, The Westmoreland Lofts. There is a variety of amazing creatives in the building from photographers to fashion designers and producers, and animator and illustrator-friend Jay Howell. Thankfully I never have to deal with the LA commuter-life traffic, though I still drive, of course, because it is LA.
1x: When and why did you move here?
Stouffer: I moved to LA for the second time about 2 years ago. I’ve bounced back and forth from SF to LA a few times in the past 10 years or so.. mainly for the art scene, or to escape wherever I was before that. I’ve found that nowhere is perfect- except maybe Hawaii, or some remote areas in Mexico… it’s pretty perfect there.
1x: What’s the average studio time you put in and what are the pros and cons?
Stouffer: Usually around 6 days a week, something like 9 hours a day – full time grind. I’m a pretty regular human with my studio time, because it IS my work day. I pretend like I have to wake up in the morning and get my life together in somewhat of a laid-back rush to hopefully be there by 10am. With the studio, all pros, no cons… though it does get pretty solitary, but the AC is amazing.
1x: Ah, very important for surviving the LA heat. Onto your creations – your pieces and clients seem to range on all ends of the spectrum. What is your process in developing each project? How do you generally begin a piece?
Stouffer:I tend to base everything off a feeling. Some days, or weeks, I just don’t feel like being intricate or precise, and sometimes I do. I mix it up between acrylic inks and watercolor (my first love), to airbrushing and aerosol, pen and ink, sculptural works and everything in between. I switch up mediums pretty frequently based on that feeling…watercolor is very loose and free-form, and the fine line ink work that I do can be pretty focused. I’ve been airbrushing a lot as of late, which I guess falls somewhere in-between. I certainly have more illustrative tendencies but I like learning, constantly.
In terms of content I’m really just focusing or obsessing over different visual elements or themes that stay pretty consistent, with exploratory branches here and there. My client work is really just an extension of whatever I’m focused on at the moment- or have done in the past. I have pretty strong disability for sketching anything out, so my process usually just involves me spilling something and working on correcting my mistakes until it’s finished.
1x: How does your process change when things are moving well?
Stouffer: Same as it works when it’s a struggle I suppose, ha. Never planned, free-form existence, but just smoother… less overworked, and minimal, you know.
1x: How did you get into this frame of mind & when did you decide to explore your spirituality/seek a higher enlightenment? Were your parents into this sort of stuff, or did this begin at a young age or is it more of a recent realization/journey?
Stouffer: I’ve always kind of been on this path from a young age, but everything just evolves. I was always curious, and I remember being skeptical and inquisitive from a very young age. Growing up, both of my parents were much involved in the hippie movement of the 60’s and 70’s, so that radical free thinking and spirituality occurred naturally in our home. I have always had an affinity for people’s bookshelves and collections, my parents included. I remember being introduced to ‘Be Here Now’, Hugh Prather’s Notes to Myself, the writings of Paramhansa Yoganda and Ram Dass really early on.
Looking back, my parents also always offered a very open view of spirituality and very loose religion. We were taught that it was important, but that it could also fit your individual viewpoint, whatever that was. When I was a kid, we would attend a different place of worship for every major holiday, it was almost a joke, we would touch on Catholic, Christian, Lutheran, Jewish, Buddhist and the Natural Spirit. One of my favorite memories was going ice skating, as a family, to celebrate Hanukkah with the Jewish community, and of course sampling all of their free snacks.
1x: That’s incredibly rare and pretty fucking awesome. How do you practice this outside of your art? You seem to live a pretty healthy lifestyle and strike me as a very conscious person – of your surroundings, of others, of space and time. Does this clash at all with exploring your subconscious?
Stouffer: I meditate semi-regularly, exercise regularly and am pretty conscious about consistent healthy practices. The conscious and the subconscious are directly connected, and that’s kind of the key to awareness. Most days I try to be conscious of my subconscious ha. That IS the practice.
1x: On the meditative process – what is YOUR meditative process? Has acceptance been something that you’ve been conscious about for a long time? It’s something that I’ve been struggling with, especially in the last few years. It’s a hard thing to do, but the more I do it, the more I feel at peace.
Stouffer: I like to consider a lot of my illustration practice to be highly meditative. That’s kind of why I do it. Acceptance is a huge part of basic beingness and of course that is always a struggle. Simply accepting what is, in yourself, in others, in existence. There are a lot of outside influences that we don’t have any control over, and you could drive yourself mad struggling with always trying to change them, and people do. Its unfortunate, but a lot of the problems are way bigger than we are, so at a base level, acceptance is truly the only way to stay sane, positive and continue on your own path and with your relationships with others.
1x: That’s actually not surprising at all – it reflects in your personality. So, tell me more about this show you’ve got opening this week.
Stouffer: I’m showing at Paradigm Gallery with Hilary White on July 24th in Philly. The title of the show is ‘Ingress /Egress‘ which is about passageways vs. departures. We both really liked the contrast of the two title words, coming / going, light/ dark, rising / departing, like the tides.
The work I’m focusing on is based on meditations of different levels through patterns, symbols and organic elements. In a way gateways to personal (or the viewers’) meditations. I’ve almost been doing these circular and geometric receptive patterns, mandalas, or meditations rather. By definition they are a depiction of the universe, of elements and forces and gods that drive it.
By meditating, you focus on the symbol, or the patterns, and move mentally towards the center of it. By doing this you are made more aware of the deep levels of meaning in it and behind it. My idea is that I do this in creating them, that they are very meditative, and I hope to pass that on… the peripheral function. They are an attempt by the conscious self to recognize and integrate unconscious knowledge with the light imagery, patterns, shapes and colors that I’m using in the works.
My work is of course on the lightest side of the mandala, mantra or enlightenment but I like that they represent the realities of life beyond the world of physical forms… and to the spiritual. I don’t want to get too metaphysical with this all, but just more consciously aware and spiritual on a level of basic beingness…
Photos courtesy of Hannah Stouffer.
For more on ‘Ingress/Egress,’ visit Paradigm Gallery.