Friday, April 1, 2011

Artist Interview: STEPHMEL

Welcome to my April Artist Interview!
My new interview takes me to Athens, Greece, where I meet Stephania, the talented artist and lovely person behind Stephmel and le Petit Foyer. As soon as I ran across Stephania's photographic work on Etsy, I was bewitched. I love the dreamy, nostalgic atmospheres Stephania is able to achieve with her photographic artwork, the often oniric character of her images takes me back to long lost atmospheres and to childhood dreams. Her images touch me deeply, they speak directly to the heart, they bring back memories and convey feelings and evoke atmospheres.
Stephania is a full-time working artist and she keeps a workshop and small gallery in her native city, Athens. Mostly known as a photographer on Etsy, Stephania is an exquisite and passionate painter as well, which explains the painting-like character and feel of her photography. And it is very interesting to know that her main profession is related to Eastern Orthodox religious art, where she works in painting and restoring icons.
She tells me: "I wanted to add that I am a huge fan of your country too, which I have visited many times and will never feel tired visiting again :) I also have Italian roots from the part of my father. I guess that my love is obvious in my photo gallery :)"
Meet Stephania! Here she shares her artistic journey and inspiration with us!
Welcome Stephania!

- How did you choose the lovely names for your two Etsy Shops, Stephmel (for your photographic art shop) and le Petit Foyer (for your jewelry shop)?

- Stephmel is composed of the first letters of my name that I combined with the first letters of the name of my beloved dog Melody, my sweet companion for eight years now. Melody has followed me patiently in many photo sessions since my first steps in photography and I just felt to show her my gratitude this way.
Le Petit Foyer was a result of a longer search. Before starting my jewellery shop, I had dreamed of a little corner with warm artistic atmosphere and lovely handmade things with a vintage nostalgic feel. This finally recalled to me the foyer of a small theater where visitors can visually enjoy a relaxing break and watch things happening offstage. I also love the sound of French words, so this was my favourite and most representative name.

- How did you first come to art and creativity? How did your journey in art and creativity begin?

- As a child I was encouraged from my family to express myself creatively. During my early childhood years, I discovered the magical world of images and the endless possibilities that come by holding a pen and a blank piece of paper. I can't specify a certain moment when this journey began. It was there for as long as I remember myself.

- You express yourself artistically through both photography and painting. What does each of these mediums mean to you?

- Painting and photography help me both to visualise my inner world.
Painting is more a monologue, a confession. It needs isolation, self-discipline and concentration.
Photography is a dialogue, to discover the hidden poetry in the world around. It is my personal escape and gives me a great feeling of freedom with its endless possibilities.

- When and how did you realize art was your real life path?

- As I mentioned before, I had always the feeling of walking along this path.
Through my school years, I used to draw in my free time and read books about art and painters. During college, I took art classes and finally discovered the mystic appeal of icon painting along with my partner some years later.
Photography came much later, when I received a Nikon D80 as a present and started experimenting in this field.

- What are your main sources of inspiration?

- I find incredible inspiration in urban living and all things that suggest the traces of human presence - old decayed buildings, dark empty streets, train journeys, harbours, street markets after closing time, abandoned places, but also in poetry, music and my own dreams and emotions among others. In my photos, I often try to capture the certain mood of a poem or a song.

- What do you like most about the creative process in both photography and painting?

- The creative process in both of them is an exciting experience.
In photography, I particularly enjoy to recreate my images with digital methods, so that the final result reflects my own mood and feeling. I often like to give them a painting-like effect and a poetic, dream-like atmosphere.

- You also create beautiful vintage inspired jewelry with a romantic and nostalgic touch, which you sell in your other Etsy Shop Le Petit Foyer. In some of your pieces you incorporate lovely miniature paintings, can you tell us a bit about that?

- Thank you for your kind words. I started making jewellery quite recently, when I introduced my first photo-necklaces, trying to make my work more accessible. This attempt had a warm response and so le Petit Foyer started. Creating romantic jewellery with a nostalgic touch gives me a huge pleasure as it drives me back to my childhood. In my hand painted miniatures I choose whimsical and nostalgic themes, such as teacups, hot air balloons, owls and anything that can be part of an imaginary world. I plan to work more on this section in the future.

- How has life affected your art and art affected your life?

- I always like to put feeling and soul in my work. Art is my refuge in sad and happy moments. It is also my every day's job and hobby. I could never imagine my life without it.

- Art is about light and color! What are your favourite colors?

- The refreshing sea green, the mystical quality of cobalt blue, the rich burgundy, the deeper shades of purple are among my obsessions. In photography I love the range of black and white tones accented with sepia for a nostalgic result.

- Did you have a formal training in the arts or photography or attend art/photography courses?

- I have a degree in History of French Art. During my college years I attended courses of drawing and painting in a private school. In photography I am self-taught.

- Do you have a studio or home studio or particular part of your home you have devoted to your artwork? Besides your online shops, you also have a “physical” workshop and gallery in Athens, can you tell us a little about it?

- I recently moved back to my old family house which I converted into a workspace. There is a large room for painting and printing and many more little corners for other jobs. There is also a small apartment at the basement where my family business is settled. We use it mainly as a gallery and showcase. I feel really privileged to be able to devote as much time and space as I need for my creative activities, which had been one of the big dreams of my childhood years.

Thank you dear Stephania for this really beautiful and inspiring interview, and for sharing your artistic journey and inspiration! We wish you continued joy, inspiration and success with your art and in your life.
Choosing an artist's artwork to show in the interview is always a hard task for me, but this time it's been particularly difficult because I feel a soul connection with each and every one of your photographs.

You can find Stephania's wonderful photographic artwork in her Etsy shop Stephmel, and her beautiful handmade jewelry in her Etsy shop le Petit Foyer.


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