Studio Visit appears first in print, in Sunday editions of The News-Gazette. Here, Melissa Merli visits with Peyton Stewart, winner of the ACE Student Award from 40 North. In the Oct. 28 newspaper, we'll have a visit with Betty Allen, coordinator of fine arts for Urbana elementary schools and another recent ACE Award winner.
Q: Are you in Unit One?
A: I am. It's a living-learning community, which is nice because I'm surrounded by creative energy.
Q: What are you majoring in?
A: Art and design, foundations. I'm hoping to go into sculpture.
Q: Why sculpture?
A: I like to work with my hands. I could never be a graphic designer. I could never sit in front of a computer for hours. I like texture, touch. I like depth, color and shapes, too.
Q: What got you into art?
A: My whole family is made up of artists. My dad (Russ) is a really beautiful musician, and my mom (Irina) was a graphic designer. She does landscaping now. So I have a lot of creative influences. I grew up making a lot of art. Even when I was growing up, we went to a lot of museums, like MoMA (Museum of Modern Art, New York), the Art Institute and the Uffizi in Italy.
Q: How do you feel about getting the ACE Student Award?
A: I'm honored, absolutely honored to be getting one at such a young age. I'm really proud of myself because I worked so hard on this the last few years. It's really humbling to get this recognition for it.
Q: Do you know why you were nominated?
A: Yeah. Because of my jewelry making. I donated all the profits to my high school, the High School of St. Thomas More. I still do. I just haven't been making jewelry that much.
Q: Where do you sell it?
A: I sell it at Spa Envy and Salon in Champaign, and I have biannual home sales, too.
Q: What kind of jewelry do you make?
A: All kinds. I make jewelry out of antiques and broken vintage costume jewelry. I make beautiful hair pieces, necklaces, bracelets and earrings.
Q: For sculpture, what media do you work in?
A: I did a lot of metalworking last summer, but I want to work with plastics and wood.
Q: I heard you use recycled materials in your art.
A: Sometimes, I use found objects like rocks. I actually made a necklace out of my wisdom teeth. It was inspired by Frida Kahlo and Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) shrines. I put my tooth in a little shrine pendant and painted the back of it red. It's really pretty.
Q: What kind of sculptures do you want to make?
A: I'm not sure. I want to be an art fabricator. It's when you're commissioned to make art for people. They tell you the specifics, and then you make it for them. It's studio art, but it's commissioned studio art.
Q: Do you show your work anywhere?
A: No, I don't, besides the fabulous ladies who wear my jewelry.
Q: How do you like the School of Art + Design?
A: I love it. It's a lot of fun. I think the classes are really diverse. We do a lot of interesting things besides just sitting and drawing cubes.
Q: Do you have a studio on campus?
A: Yes. We have studios in the Art + Design building, but when I'm home, I like to make art here, too, because it's quiet and I have all my supplies here.
Q: How's the art department at St. Thomas More?
A: Very good. Deborrah Pagel, who's the art teacher there, is an inspirational teacher. I learned so much there the four years I was there. My creativity really flourished.