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Meet the Designers: An Interview with Sim & Stout

by Cecily Motley on

Ahead of their upcoming collaboration with Motley, we sat down with New York design duo, Sim & Stout - a.k.a. Katie Stout and Simone Paasche, to chat all things art, design, and crucially, "Ruby Boobies".

Let’s start from the beginning. Tell us about how you started working together and why.

S: We started working together about a year ago when Katie had a solo show at Nina Johnson Gallery in Miami. Katie thought it would be interesting to have the option of wearing her sculptures while looking at her sculptures and people went crazy over them. It was my favourite kind of challenge to turn large scale sculpture into wearable fine jewellery.

K: Yes! Simone and I had known each other since college so it felt natural (I was the BEST roommate). As Simone said, I thought experiencing the large lady lamps in a wearable way would be a cool perspective shift.

Were there any tensions working together?

S: No, actually. Katie sends me very funny rough sketches and I respond with functional interpretations and then quickly start fabricating. It’s pretty joyful and seamless.

K: Simone is being generous with me. I have to admit that Simone is far more organised than me, which I think can be a challenge that she is graciously not disclosing. It’s always joyful and seamless on my end, though. I’d like to add that I was very inspired by her efficiency, I have a tendency to overthink projects and Simone knows exactly when something is finished.

We are so bored of hierarchies between Art and Design - and we love the conversation that your work opens about function in art. What is the state of Art and Design today? Are they separate things?

K: Yes hierarchies are so dull. Who cares?

I think art and design can be the same and can be different, it ultimately depends on the person experiencing it. Once a gallery came to pick up this shelf I made to show at Frieze, and the handlers got upset because they said it wasn’t a shelf. It was a sculpture of a shelf. To me, this perfectly sums up the difference between art and design.

In general, Art and Design are definitely melding together. I notice a lot of artists interested in the domestic sphere - making furniture and home goods - and a lot of designers becoming more overtly sculptural. One trend pointing to the failing art hierarchies is that artists are getting back into ceramics, which were the dregs of art for while. Haven’t Picasso’s ceramics recently shot way up in value?

Personally, I don’t care about the connotations of Art and Design. If I was a better salesperson I’d probably insist on calling everything art because of the perceived value but I think that it’s short sighted and exclusive so I remain in limbo.

What’s the best idea you have sparked together that you wouldn’t have gotten alone?

S: Ruby Boobies. In the more figurative work we have collaborated on together, we always set tiny stones in the boobs. We have a similar sense of humour. Plus, nipples are beautiful, like precious stones anyway, it just sort of makes sense.

K: YES! Ruby Boobies was a crucial development. As Simone says, it just makes sense. Honestly, I wouldn’t have ever made any of the jewellery if it wasn’t for Simone’s overall knowledge, skills and sensibility.

Katie, had you always wanted to make jewellery? Had it formed part of your practice before you started working with Simone? If not, what has it brought to your practice?

I’d thought about making jewellery for a while, but I wouldn’t have known how to go about it. For instance, I had dabbled in making this 3D printed earrings four years ago but I made them too heavy. In general, I love working with new materials and learning about different processes. I especially love working with friends, so I’d say that Simone is what brought jewellery into my practice.

Simone, how did you come to jewellery making?

I always thought I would be a painter, but when I visited Providence to check out The Rhode Island School of Design I saw a senior jewellery show and I realized I needed to learn how to do THAT. It was my first time ever seeing art jewellery and I was hooked. Growing up, I was exposed to amazingly sentimental and beautiful objects from the Italian side of my family. I love making things for people to find in the earth 500 years from now.

You both create functional art objects with your hands; how does your process differ? Do you think you have equally technical practices?

K: Yes, both of our processes involve having a strong technical background and then letting go of that in a thoughtful way.

S: Simone answered that so succinctly! Yes, you have to know the rules before you can break them.

When you are making jewellery together, do you imagine the wearer when you are designing or do you design for yourselves?

S: Absolutely for ourselves.

K: Thinking about the wearer too much would put unnecessary pressure on the jewellery. Anyone can wear them.

Greatest Artistic inspiration?

S: Oh gosh, I have so many. I often reference ancient Etruscan motifs in my work. I also deeply admire the work of Karl Fritsch.

K: I love Karl Fritsch! Simone showed me his work.. it's so good, my engagement ring is by him. I like Franz West, and I'm recently into medieval monsters and motifs, and CoBrA movement. 

A book that changed your life?

S: Still Life with Oysters and Lemons: On Objects and Intimacy by Marc Doty.

K: My filthiest book is a Japanese colour dictionary, so I guess this has impacted by life. I love anything by Ottessa Moshfegh, the dark unexpected humour is inspiring. 

Given Brexit over here and Trump over there, are you optimistic?

K: Yes. I think complacency is being replaced with awareness and activism. People are becoming aware of what happens when huge swaths of a country are left behind.

What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?

S: “Always check your work.”- My Dad.

K: The best people to work with are in the room next to you.


See the Motley x Sim & Stout collection here

Tagged with: In Conversation With

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