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(Image courtesy of Sophia Wheelwright).

Artist of the Week: Sophia Wheelwright

Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists who we love to feature weekly on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at hello@seattlerefined.com. And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you!

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating?
Sophia Wheelwright: As a young girl, I was taught by my grandma to use a traditional spinning wheel. We would dress up in period costumes and give demonstrations at local fairs. I discovered then that I was more interested in the process of making with my hands than in the look of the final product. Consequently I knit scarves that would go on for yards, expanding in all directions as I added and dropped stitches! Simultaneously, I discovered the process of exploring the world and noticing details eventually capturing them through my camera. I have in one way or another been creating ever since. In 2011, I committed myself to being an artist full time to see what I could do…

Do you work with other mediums?
Yes, I consider myself a mixed media artist which means I investigate and work with a variety of materials: rubber, wire, wood, wool & fabric, natural and man made found objects as well as various media: video, slide projection & sound. Most recently I have been utilizing aluminum mesh, creating large-scale immersive pieces that people can enter into, recline or walk under.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
I am drawn to materials that seem to transform into and reflect animated states even while being static. In the studio, I work simultaneously with different materials in a variety of ways to see how and if the different elements cohere together. Outside the studio, I often take photos and make videos of spaces and details that I notice, so I can review and make sense of what affects me. Outdoors and in the discard bins in my studio building, I collect found and discarded materials to work with. Most of my projects have started in this scavenging and exploratory manner.

Tell us about where your inspiration for your art come from?
I am interested in how space affects us – so I spend a lot of time outside looking at all forms of water, skies, clouds, trees, and light. I am trying to better understand and expand in my pieces how different interior and exterior spaces affect us.

Do you have a specific “beat” you like best – nature, food, profiles etc?
I was a naturalist and teacher for almost 12 years, taking students of all ages on field trips to explore, observe and make connections. This has led me to believe that what we notice is the starting point for being affected by something. I seek to create environments where an individual can enter into and have their own experience based on what they notice and their own unique history and set of associations

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
I have a had a piece in my studio for a few years that I continue to refine and experiment with that people can either walk thru or lie under. I still LOVE doing this for hours alone or in groups as I experience how people respond to the process of taking time to slow down and notice details. I believe we all have innate talent to notice and imagine but we get distracted and overwhelmed by too much stimulus and input.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
Having my first playground be at my grandmothers house where I could ramble safely and unaccompanied thru various indoor and outdoor ecosystems: a barn, various sheds, a greenhouse, an attic, surrounding woods, extensive gardens and wild fields. Making time for an annual 2 – 3 week walking project which reinforces my experience how much we are affected by space and by what we notice and gives me plenty of “in between” time to consider ideas that I want to develop. Finding a studio space where I can both experiment & see the results develop over time. AND finding in the studio building a community of others who are making their living making things. It is challenging to do what one has never done. Support makes all the difference! d) Becoming a naturalist as my adult job and spending a majority of my time outdoors. All of this has combined into my interest in creating work that expands this experience of how certain outdoor and indoor spaces and light affect us.

If we want to see more of your work where should we go to find?
Come visit me at my studio at Equinox Studios @ 6555 5th Ave S (studio #302) I am part of Georgetown’s Art Attack the 2nd Saturday of each month – The next event I will be participating in is Feb 10th, 6 - 9pm. Click here to visit my website.

What is next for you? Anything you’re working on right now that you’re really excited about?
I am working on developing a project idea that incorporates projecting images into a wooden installation that would be installed in a retirement facilities and involves connecting residents with the larger world through images and memory. Other potential projects: a set for a touring hip hop opera and a permanent installation in an autistic school.

What I’d LOVE to do is set up a permanent installation where people could go linger, to recharge, with a piece they could lie under, comfortably. I could see this in a hospital, a workplace, places where we feel many things and look to rebalance, refresh, understand things from a different place. I have yet to find such a place…

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? We ask everyone!
Strong and with a tiny bit of cream.

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