legato :: In a manner that is smooth and connected
by Jenny Doh
Very rough sketches are what Tammy starts with, as she imagines how to approach her wire creations. From there she moves on to start working with wire to see if what she has sketched is even possible. And when it does become possible, it becomes achingly magnificent, as we the viewers wonder to ourselves: "How is that possible?"
JD :: You say you began making your birdcage and wire pieces when you realized that you love the look of abandoned circuses and carnivals. Tell me what sort of passion such abandoned scenes unleash in you. How come they have been so powerful for you?
TS :: Well I was a very impressionable kid and I saw a scary movie when I was 5 that really changed my life. My parents had forbidden me to see it, so I snuck into the living room and watched it from behind the couch. For years after, I couldn't sleep very well and would make barricades of my stuffed animals and toys to protect me. It didn't take much to scare me, so when we would pass by the abandoned amusement park near my house after that, I would imagine myself riding on the rusty old roller coaster with the trees growing through it. We also lived near an decripit estate that was purportedly haunted and my older brother delighted in taking me there and telling me ghost stories. So I guess I grew up with a fear and fascination of lonely, abandoned places. I forgot about most of this but when my family went to Brighton, England a couple of years ago, I saw the lovely old carnival on the West Pier that had burned to it's shell 30 years before. It just brought back that feeling of life having passed a place by and the tattered vestiges (like the ticket booth still standing) made it seem even more lonely.
JD :: What is it about wire that makes it your medium of choice? TS ::
I wanted something that was fragile but strong and pliable. The wire also reminded me of the charred steel of the West Pier carnival. Add to that the fact that I had never worked with wire before and I love exploring new mediums.
JD :: What are things that people may not realize about working with wire? Besides your hands, what are the tools you to create your wire creations?
TS :: Working with wire gets your hands very dirty! That's one thing I didn't realize until I started using it. I use wire snips and wire-that's it.
JD :: Many of your wire pieces are actually lamps. Tell me how that idea came to be. Why lamps?
TS :: I wanted something that created an ambience or a glow. Lamps seemed like a natural progression.
JD :: The works that you are currently creating are less wire and lots more clay. They are so exciting. Tell me how this evolution has come about ... from wire to clay.
TS :: Part of it is that the ideas I started to come up with around the carnival/circus theme needed to be made of clay. I couldn't really make a trapeze artist from wire. Maybe it's just the natural progression that an artist makes. I mean I can see myself making many more lamps from wire, but if I want to convey something with a person in it, it needs to be clay or paint in my mind.
JD :: Do you fire the clay pieces? I imagine that they are much more fragile to handle than wire. Tell me about their fragility and how you create with that in mind.
TS :: I don't fire these pieces. They are made of a clay that actually could be fired but it can also be air-dried and is pretty durable. You can sand and carve into it after it dries.
JD :: So the newer pieces that involve clay and paintings ... they also evoke characters and imagery of carnivals. Are you excited to be able to carry the imagery into this new way of creating?
TS :: Yes definitely! And when I started ideating and researching, I realized that the themes that were important to me in my life:balance, strength, courage—were also all aspects of circus or carnival performers.
JD :: Tell me about your background. Did you study art? Where did you grow up? Was your family an artistic one that encouraged you to find an artistic path?
TS :: I grew up in Kansas City, MO near where I still live. I always had an artistic ability but for some reason I was in denial about wanting to be an artist. Because of that, I took lots of college classes trying to find myself but then would go home at night and sketch. It wasn't until I took an arts class in college that I realized I could actually do this as a job. My family always encouraged me but noone else in the family was an artist, maybe that's why it didn't occur to me that I could be one.
JD :: Your works have been in many gallery shows. Can you tell us some of your most favorite shows you've been in?
TS :: My favorite show was my first gallery show. I had been laid off from my corporate job earlier that year so the posters I made for the show resembled old circus posters and I called it a "Debt Defying Act of Courage" or something like that. I made references to having no visible means of support, much like a trapeze artist. I even hired a fire eater to stand outside the gallery and conjur up a crowd. We made a trade--his performance art for a piece of my art. He was a great guy.
JD :: You live in Kansas. Have you lived there all your life? Tell us about life in Kansas.TS ::
Yes I have lived here all my life except for a short stint of living in the French Quarter in New Orleans. I love alot of places I've visited but this is a very easy place to live. You can live inexpensively but well. I love the arts community here. We're so lucky in that we have strong support from many of the local companies and people. Some people say that KC is a bit sleepy and I guess it is but then that means that traffic jams are not a part of your day, and that if you want to get tickets to that concert you'll probably get in. We're large enough though that we do get some wonderful museum exhibits and shows.
JD :: Tell us about your studio. I imagine it with wires everywhere, paints, and now mounds of clay. Is it big? How do you keep all of your materials organized?
TS :: Now I am laughing because my studio started out being a spare bedroom on the first floor of our house.Now in the basement and attic, you can find wire, motors, electrical cords, and boxes of found objects stacked a couple feet high! It gets really really cluttered and then when I can't stand it anymore, I clean it all up. I also have my art fair tent that takes up alot of space in the basement too.
JD :: Tell us about your day. Once you get up, is it straight into the studio until it's time for bed?
TS :: It depends on the day but most days, I wake up early and make a list of what I have to accomplish for the day . I'll have breakfast with my 15 year old son, Murphy and then do about an hour of exercise before showering and starting to work. I can't believe that even though I wake up around 5:45, I don't get into the studio until 9:00. I'll try to work all day until
around 5:00 but usually go back to do more work if I didn't get everything done. I'm a big list maker and follower. I don't feel quite comfortable if I have many things left undone you know?
JD :: If you could be part of the circus, what sort of act would you be known for?
TS :: Ooooh, what a GOOD question! Never been asked that....hmm I think I'd like to be one of those women who used to ride on "The Wall of Death". That was a large wooden barrel that people would ride motorcycles around. One woman became famous for riding with a lion in the sidecar. Don't know if I'd do that but the cycle part sounds fun.
JD :: Circuses are filled with outrageous characters. Do you think there is something about that that most people and most families can relate to?
TS :: Of course. Alot of parents of small children relate to the term "3 Ring Circus"! But many people have commented on the trapeze artists that I make and the analogies of letting go or having faith and trust in another person.
JD :: Tell me about the funnest thing you've ever done.
TS :: The funnest thing I have ever done was swing dancing. I used to do East Coast swing, and get flipped over people's heads and backs. It was a blast! You were totally in the moment when doing it, especially when you had a good dance partner.
JD :: Tell me about something fun that you can't wait to learn to do in the future.TS ::
I'm working on a show with a small group of artists around the theme of burlesque. I am so looking forward to the show, because a burlesque troupe is going to perform at it and it's with a group of artists whom I really enjoy. Each of the artists works in a different medium so we've got an oil painter, a jewelry artist, a photographer, and a seamstress. I plan on doing some wax encaustic pieces--another new medium so I'm very excited.
JD :: Think fast and say a word (or a few words) when I say ...
not as flat as you think
done with it
JD :: What's the most courageous thing you've ever done?
TS :: Having a child and trusting that everything would be okay even if I wasn't in control.