Maker of the Month: Art Thou Inspired

Victoria Williams Steen of Art Thou Inspired makes paintings, jewelry, and found object art. She began her business three years ago, and she is celebrating her recent transition from part-time to full-time as well as her move to the RUCKUS Makerspace. The artist believes in the principle of letting her tools do the talking and her mind do the listening.

The Plan

What piqued your initial interest in designing your product(s)? Letting the Spirit of a material or a place speak through me. It’s interesting to notice how much we, as humans, impose our will on everything around us. It was nice to play with a role reversal there and see what would happen. I rarely end up where I thought I would with a design.

What principles do you use when designing? For my paintings, I consider what the board would want to be and what paints would want to be used. I try to listen; humans are not the only ones speaking. I use this same principle of listening when creating jewelry and found object art.

I try to listen; humans are not the only ones speaking. I use this same principle of listening when creating jewelry and found object art.

Who and/or what influence your design style? How would you describe your design aesthetics and values? My greatest influences would be my Professor Stephanie Lewis Robertson and my mentor Vicky Kelm Williams. They have encouraged me to experiment with my design style and have connected me with the right tools for that expression.

How would you describe your design aesthetics and values? My design aesthetic is meditative — intentionally connecting with something deeper, something subconscious.

What comes first for you, the design materials or the design concept? That’s a tricky question. It varies by project. Found object art and jewelry pieces are definitely materials driven. Paintings, however, are usually born out of an initial concept I’m wanting to express.

The Process

Could you describe the process of creating a piece – from conception to finish? The creative process as well as material selection and labor process, too? Most often, I will encounter something in my daily life — a conversation, a place, an experience, an item from nature. Then that pull will begin. I know I need to capture that. I begin by touching in with whatever inspired the process that day then intuitively start with layers of paint. As I am painting, it will become clearer to me what wants to come out from that expression. I try to find a sweet spot where the image is not overly defined so the viewer can pull from the piece what is inside of them. The paintings are often like mirrors for the viewer to see inside themselves, much like an oracle card. I have experimented with many materials and passed a lot of things on that just didn’t work for me. I really like the push back of painting on wood panel. There is an element of resisting that happens that really works for my aesthetic. My painting instructor, Bernadette Ostrozovich, lead me to Golden Open Acrylics which stay wet more like an oil but respond to water. It gives me a really broad range to work with. She also helped me fine tune my palette.

What is your favorite tool, and why? I just got this new tool called a Frame Master Point Driver. It’s amazing! I am super picky about frames for my work. I have been ordering handmade hardwood frames from a friend on Etsy but they are SO HARD to get the Glazier Push Points in. This tool saves me so much time. It’s so easy now! I also love my brushes for obvious reasons 💖and my mind for keeping me positive and motivated even when I don’t wanna.

Describe a piece you’ve created that you are most proud of. What was special about it? Al Cascada Tana for sure. She was the first large piece I ever completed and the experience of painting her was totally magical. I feel like she taught me a lot — a lot about what is up for me and a lot about what is up for the whole world right now.

Describe the commissioning process. What are the best and worst aspects about doing commissions? The commissioning process has definitely been like the snake, shedding skin and growing as it moves along. As a creator, I am moving more exclusively towards work that expresses the energy of a place or an event in the client’s life. My favorite part about commission work is getting an inside view of the client’s life… hearing their story. Worst aspect… knowing how to set a time frame for a project.

The Product

What advice you would give to aspiring makers like yourself? Keep at it! Take risks and believe in your work.

What is one thing that the creative/design community can do in Indianapolis to help grow an audience for custom or handcrafted work? I feel like it starts with education; seeing the impact that every single item we consume has on our environment and global structuring. Noticing the importance of character and meaning in the objects we welcome into our home. Involve your whole household in an art purchase. It’s fun! It’s not about running to a box store and acquiring a lifeless object anymore.

Dream commission/client? PATTERN!

What makes your work different from anyone else’s? There is an abstract and realistic element to the pieces that you don’t see married well often. I have heard that my work has an energy to it, and I believe that is true. It holds that potential of going with the flow — listening to what is around us and connecting to something outside of ourselves.

What’s your most rewarding memory in your business? When I got to hang my work next to Jaime Locke’s work! She has been a long time favorite local artist of mine and it felt like I really made it to get to hang work next to hers.

Involve your whole household in an art purchase. It’s fun! It’s not about running to a box store and acquiring a lifeless object anymore.

Follow Art Thou Inspired on Instagram. Clients can shop online, at the RUCKUS Makerspace, Essential Wellbeings, and local festivals.

All photos taken by Aubrey Smith.
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