Stephanie has had a faithful relationship to pursuing what she feels most connected to, but that doesn’t mean it’s been a straight line. Life brought her back full-circle to a truly enchanting art practice. “The past intersecting with the present” is what inspires Stephanie’s work most. Be it a 200 year old tree, vintage silk from a runway show in Paris in 1956 or, a wallpaper print from 1821 that papered the walls of someone’s dining room she’s become astutely aware that the past is here – changed and unchanged, and we are present – yet transported to that space. This is where she finds the magic, and where the magic has found her in return. Our company is thrilled to carry her artwork in our shops, which you can peruse here.
Without further ado, take a seat with Stephanie Dawn Matthias
Tell us about your journey. How did you become a ceramicist/designer?
Here is the short version of a pretty long story: I discovered my passion for ceramics during college and ended up majoring in that coupled with photography. After school I started a line of ceramics and jewelry, which I sold at some stores and at the infamous Echo Park Craft Fair. I then decided to pivot and pursue my lifelong love of food, cooking and nutrition and became a postpartum doula and chef for over a decade. During the pandemic I (like many people) realized my heart wasn’t in my job anymore and I needed a shift. It was something that’d been brewing for years, I just couldn’t figure out what it was I wanted to do. I did a lot of searching- spent many hours doing the To Be Magnetic manifestation work that my friend Lacy created (life changing!), did so much journaling and talking to people in my life and just looking, looking, looking. And, as it is so often in life, the answer had been right there all along- go back to art. So last year, I joined a group studio, bought some clay and starting making things again. I love moments when life comes full circle.
What inspires your designs on a daily basis?
I would say my inspiration comes from the space where the past intersects with the present- which in some ways can be anything. It might be encountering a tree that’s hundreds of years old and just really witnessing the moment where I, Stephanie in 2023- am crossing paths with this ancient being that’s been around for so much longer that I have. What has it seen? What does it know? What does it think of the fact that I’m here, interacting with it? Its existence is so long and mine is a blip in comparison. Similarly, I might find dead stock vintage silk that was used for a runway show in Paris in 1956 or a wallpaper print from 1821 that papered the walls of someone’s dining room- and yet, they are also here, now. It’s that space- the past is here, changed, yet unchanged, and we are transported, yet present- that space is where a lot of magic exists, for me. I also have a deep love and connection with Europe and design that informs my work greatly- my father is a German product designer and artist and I spent the majority of my childhood summers with my parents and sisters in Europe. I think that spending so much time in Europe is where my appreciation for the past and traditional design comes from- we don’t have as much of that sensibility here in America. That being said, I love the innovation and ambition and “wild wild west“ energy we have here in the states.
How did you turn your passion for art into a business and a brand?
Very badly at first! When I got back into the studio a little over a year ago, I didn’t have a clear vision of what I was doing. I often start there, though- I’m not entirely uncomfortable in the unknown. There’s something amazing about not setting out to do something specific because you’re more free. Anyway, at first it looked like 5 different people were making things because the design was all over the place (and it needed to be in order for me to find my voice- which actually feels like it’s still emerging and I’m only at the tip of the iceberg). Now, I’m obviously in a bit of a groove and have honed the aesthetic of my brand and have a pretty good idea of what I want to do next. I’ve noticed that the more “me” my work gets, the stronger the response is to it. I’ve cut out a lot of outside noise and I pay way less attention to what other people are doing and have doubled down on my own work, my own voice, my own style. If I like it and I’m into it, then it’s worth making. And thankfully the world has responded really well so far!
What does a day-in-the-work-life of Stephanie Dawn Matthias look like?
I have two daughters and I’m divorced so some days are school drop off mornings and some aren’t- after that it’s pretty the same.. I get a coffee (and, let’s be honest, more often then not also a chocolate croissant ) and head to the studio. And then I’m at the studio for as long as I can be- which means either until I have to get my girls from school or until I’ve been here for so long that I just have to call it a day. I think the longest I’ve ever been at the studio without a break is like 11 hours (during pre-holiday madness). It’s the best. I am so in love with what I do every day and the only thing that keeps me from putting in even more hours is that I eventually need sleep and a meal lol.
Do you have any daily rituals at home that bring you solace?
I wish I had a super meaningful answer for this, but I don’t. I’ve accepted that I’m not a daily ritual person. Some days I get up super early and journal, or have tea by myself before the girls are up. Some days I spend 15 minutes scrolling instagram before I get out of bed. Sometimes I eat breakfast, sometimes I don’t… I do wake up early every day- I’m definitely a morning person and don’t really like sleeping in unless I’m sick- but other than that I honestly just listen to what my body and/or mind needs on any given day. I find I’m more creative and in flow and happier when I am just naturally me, rather than feeling like I “should” be doing something specific every day because of something I read somewhere. I have to say that I really envy people who work that way because it does seem like it would make time management and productivity more efficient if you have a daily routine that you more or less always adhere to. I suppose it’s in the letting go of those ideals where I have found the most solace.
Some of Stephanie’s Plates hand-made in her studio