Amy Scarpello was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and currently resides in Brighton, a part of the city's West End neighborhood. She attended the Art Academy of Cincinnati (AAC), earning a BFA in Sculpture, in 2010. During her time at AAC she participated in an exchange semester attending the Maryland Institute College of Art. In 2010, she was awarded the Steven H. Wilder Traveling Scholarship, which allowed her to travel throughout Europe to continue her studies.
Amy is an active member of the Cincinnati art community. She was co-curator of Live(In) Gallery (2013--2016), a curatorial member of the Important People reading series (2011--2014), and recently started the girl powered screen print studio, Pull Club Studio. She has shown work at the Dayton Institute of Art, Kitchen Space Chicago, and Rosenthal Gallery Baltimore. Amy is passionate about public art, placemaking, and engaging young, emerging and student artists.
Pull Club Studio, which I find imperative to introduce; seeing as how the interview takes place within its' walls, is a girl powered printmaking and design studio in Cincinnati, Ohio. Made up of three artists: Amy Scarpello, Chelsey Hughes, and Linda Winder; Pull Club focuses on textile and paper print goods, with screen printing as the central process to creation. All projects are handmade in our clubhouse studio, located in the industrial enclave of Camp Washington.
FIVE-DOTS: To start out, can you tell us a little bit about your philosophy as an artist, or synopsize what your work is about?
AMY SCARPELLO: I feel that my work, as Amy Scarpello, is very tactile. I start with simple shit-- shapes, color, and texture. Texture is a big thing. I’m really just interested in playing with materials and seeing how they interact within a space-- that’s the big thing for me. I like to have things reveal themselves to me-- that sounds so corny-- but it’s the way I think.
F-D: Whenever I think of your work I also always think of ‘fun’. Is that something that you think about?
AS: I mean, yea kind of. It should be fun, it should engage the viewer-- I want the work to be participatory in some way- it's basic sculpture stuff-- I want the viewer to work their way around it. Now. . . Pull Club is another story. Pull Club is fun. It just tries to embrace everything shiny, and glittery; just making things super cute and beautiful. And of course very well crafted.
F-D: How long have you been in this studio?
A-S: We have been in this studio for just over a year. I think we made our first print in here on September 15th, 2015.
F-D: When you moved in here, did you have an idea for how you wanted to lay it out or did it develop organically?
A-S: Yes and no, when we first moved in we just had the press, the drying rack, the light table, and like a bunch of just stuff. That was the only furniture. We knew we wanted to have the press face the window and sort of this [points around room] layout and then everything else has kind of grown from there.
F-D: Has the location of the studio influenced your work in any way?
A-S: Yea! Being in Camp Washington has been amazing. The projects we’ve done with Brush Factory-- we probably wouldn’t have gotten had we not been in the building. We’ve also done things with Wave Pool, who is just down the street.
F-D: How did you get involved with them [Cal and Skip Cullen, founders of Wave Pool], do you remember?
A-S: I can’t remember if it was through the gallery [Live(d) In], or from just going to Wave Pool, or if it was through ArtWorks.
F-D: Okie. . .Can you describe a typical day for yourself in the studio?
A-S: There are two typical days. Through the week it’s usually coming in at 6:00, with Chelsey [Hughes], after ArtWorks. During the week is when we usually focus on any client work or paid projects. We try to get out of here by 9 o’clock, so that we can sort of have a home life. . . but normally once we are here, we are here until like midnight. On the weekends, we usually come in around 10, putz around for a little bit, drink coffee, enjoy the light, and then are here most of the day.
*installation shots of LICK courtesy of Amy Scarpello*
F-D: How would you describe your subject matter or the content of your work?
A-S: With Pull-Club, we try to keep it seasonal-- so we always have a new ‘collection’ as it were, to come out. So what is out here, is mostly spring or summer stuff. We also really look at color palette, and make sure everything is corresponding.
F-D: So is that something that you are doing ahead-- so are you looking at spring collections in January and so on?
A-S: If we were that far ahead that would be amazing. But we are usually thinking about it, we’re working very directly and immediately right now. Our big plan or push right now is to get ahead of ourselves. That way we can produce enough merchandise and have everything stocked up and not be crazy people every time we have a show or event. Right now we are just focused on getting to January.
F-D: I mean, it’s your first year too. Your experimenting right now. You’re figuring it out. . .
A-S: Yea! I mean give me a break!
F-D: What are these expectations that I have?!
A-S: What do we know?! We know nothing! Absolutely nothing!
F-D: What mediums do you work with?
A-S: We work with screen printing predominately. We also work with book binding and all sorts of paper goods and products. We also work with a lot of textiles and we hand dye all of our textiles.
F-D: Do you also handstitch?
A-S: Yea! That’s the best thing about this project-- everything we have done has been handmade from start to finish.
F-D: Can you tell us more about this process and how it has evolved?
A-S: I think, for me I have learned a lot more about illustration or my illustration and embracing drawing from myself. I’ve always been. . . drawing was always low on my list. I always wanted to deal with stuff and things--which I think is why I was a sculptor to begin with. I just want to play with stuff and things. Initially Chelsey [Hughes] and Linda [Winder] were designing all of the prints and then I was focused on working with the color palette and then the textile pieces-- like dying the fabrics and creating our patterns. I was also working a lot with clients. Nowadays I think all of the hands are in all of the pots. We are all trying to make more illustrations, and looking at the color palettes together, and looking at different ideas, and then distill it from there.
F-D: Is that the way that you guys prefer it? Or do you think it would be better if everyone was in charge of one ‘department’ per say?
A-S: I think in a ideal world it is nice for everyone to be doing all things, so that it is truly collaborative. I think it makes the work look like it has more than one thumbprint and one look. As far as actual functionality is concerned: that makes no sense. So I know it isn’t a thing we’ll continue-- and right now we are just trying to figure out what is the most important element that it is important for all of us to have a hand in; and then divide and conquer from there. I think that we do always want all hands within every project, and it will remain important for us.
F-D: Do you have narratives in mind for each piece?
A-S: No-- not at the start of anything. Unless it’s for a client. But narratives will always develop. Whether it is because I am just a person and that's what we do, or because I'm a tourist and I like stuff-- I'm not sure. But I do think about it. In my work I think about how the materials and the space interact, and I think that they develop-- maybe not narratives--but a singular personality trait or characteristic. Not a story-- but an adjective-- like, this thing might be shwoopy. And then I might want to add more things to enhance that thing that sticks out to me. That aspect is similar to the Pull Club work. But I think the work that Pull Club creates inherently has more narrative because it’s representational.
F-D: Do you consider your work to be autobiographical at all; does personal history work its way into your art?
A-S: No. But like . . yea.
F-D: Can you elaborate on that?
A-S: I mean obviously it doesn't. . . No, but yea. That’s all it is.
F-D: Why “yea” then?
A-S: Yea, because we are who we are and that’s unavoidable. Unless you’re like a sociopath. Maybe that’s a bit harsh-- but I’m going with it. But, yea, you are who you are and that effects everything you do-- but am I thinking about it [personal history], not necessarily.
F-D: Fair enough. What influences outside the visual arts inspire and impact your approach to making work?
A-S: Lots of stuff-- fashion and movies, pop culture, color palettes, what trends are happening-- not necessarily doing a one to one, but being aware of what’s going on. I also watch a lot of crime drama-- and I’m not sure how that influences it, but I’m sure that it does. All of the LICK stuff: when I was making the fabric; dyeing and boiling it, looked like fleshy, fatty tissue. . . And I was just like. . . this is like ‘murder time’, right? It looked like I had just brutally murdered someone, and they were just like chilling in my bathtub. I thought it was very disgusting and morbid. . .
F-D: With the intention of being pretty?. . .
A-S: With the intention of being pretty, but pretty and gross. Because it’s shiny, so it looks kind of greasy and gross. . . So it’s that pretty/gross line.
F-D: Like people sunbathing.
A-S: Like people sunbathing, I love people sunbathing. I also watch a lot of RuPaul’s Drag Race.
F-D: What does having a physical space to make art in mean for your process?
A-S: I feel that it isn’t just having a space, because I have always made a space within my home. But it’s about having a separate space.
F-D: Is having a separate space better or worse?
A-S: So much better. Because I made an effort to come here. So I better get something done.
F-D: How do you make your space work for you?
A-S: It took a long time, but I think the biggest problem in the beginning was having enough work space-- like table top space. I think the next biggest issue will be storage. . . we have figured out storage for the small stuff. . . like the scissor cup. I’m always messing this up too, I always put the scissors anywhere. But then I get so mad when I can’t find them. Always use a scissor cup. The scissor cup is for real. The other big thing that we’ve done is create caddies for each area, so everything is where you need it, in the moment.
F-D: Is there something you are currently working on, or are excited about starting that you can tell us about?
A-S: We are getting ready for Fall/Winter events and products. We will soon be getting into creating cards, and new packaging and stuff like that. We are also designing the drink menus for Please. That has been a super fun project. We have been putting together the outer menu and getting all of the interior papers ready. We’ll also have a fun rubber band that will go around it, that is coming in the mail here soon. We’re making little presenters for them too.
F-D: Do you see your work as relating to any current movement or direction in visual art or culture?
A-S: I think that there is a big movement with female makers. I think the aesthetic is kitschy clean-- which I think we really fit into, for better or worse. I do think that there is a lot of awesome women, who we look at and admire, who look so professional and slick. I feel like that is our aesthetic aspiration. We want to fit into that larger brand. It’s not a movement, but it is such a thing of now. . .
F-D: I agree, it’s almost like, all the girl-punks grew up. And now they want to be professionals; they want to be sophisticated-- but there is still something that is very DIY, very alternative, and very historically grungy. . . maybe.
A-S: I mean yea, that’s it. That’s what we grew out of. Which is a weird and interesting influence-- and it’s not a ultra male form of punk either. It’s about beautiful colors and crisp lines, but with like 2000’s platinum pink lipstick and puffer vests.
F-D: Which other artists might your work be in conversation with?
A-S: Other than the people I just mentioned . . . Perhaps like Tuesday Bassen or heypeep. I think those would be the two biggest influences. And then there are like hundreds of other people that would also be included.; all of the other women printers under that genre. It all shares a similar something. I definitely need to think about boys making bad drawings in the 80’s and then girls in the early 2000’s looking at it . . . and then girls now making things like this. But somehow it’s connected because multiple people are coming to the same aesthetic. And we are very aware of that-- and were trying to walk that line, being aware, and let the influence break in, but not letting it keep us from exploring new things.
F-D: Do you have a motto or creed that as an artist you live by?
A-S: No. . . I don’t think so. I do have a cheesy motto that I have for life, and I guess that counts-- but it’s that everything is a circle. Because things always pass on themselves.
F-D: What risks have you taken in your work, or for your work?
A-S: I think, saying yes to everything is a risk-- but it has been a good thing. Opening my home to strangers [with Live(d) In gallery] was a risk-- but I don’t know. Not really. But as far as risks in work-- I feel very vulnerable, because I usually have like three things [sculptures or installations]. So it’s just, this is what it is. Here it is.
F-D: Words of wisdom?… a motto, favorite quote?
A-S: I wish I had favorite quotes. People that have favorite quotes or passages that they just know off the top of their heads. . are just. . . instantly smarty pants super stars. They are just sooo coool. And I just don’t have that. Wisdom. . . just be a crazy person and say yes to all of the things. I’m finally trying to say no to things. But it’s hard.
F-D: Yes, I think that from say, graduation, until like some undeterminable point, that you have to be a total nutjob and say yes to everything, and then all of the sudden be like, no. . . I can’t. . . sleep is important to me.
F-D: Are you involved in any upcoming shows or events? Where and when?
A-S: We will be at Crafty Supermarket on November 9th [University of Cincinnati, Recreation Center] . We might also do City Flea [December 17th, at Washington Park], and Crafty Mart [Akron, Ohio, December 23rd]. Everyone should come say hi to us! And buy stuff.