Interview with Artist Stéphanie Kilgast
Miniature sculpture artist Stéphanie Kilgast introduces her artwork and talks about teaching on Skillshare.
Stéphanie Kilgast Bio
Inspired by natural forms, Stéphanie Kilgast’s artwork is an ode to nature and its current biodiversity. Plants, mushrooms, insects and other animals encounter a vibrant swirl of colors under her brush or sculpting tools.
Since 2017, in her series “Discarded Objects”, she grows colorful organic sculptures on human-made objects, celebrating the beauty of nature in a dialogue with humanity, questioning the lost balance between human activities and nature. Her work has a cheerful postapocalyptic feel to it, a reassuring reminder that nature has the capacity to grow back, if we only let it.
She built her reputation and her sculpting skills around hyperrealistic miniature food sculptures. Her miniature work and more recent sculptures have been exhibited in America, Asia and Europe.
Stéphanie is French, but was born in 1985 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. She currently resides in Vannes, France.
Please tell us what you do.
I am very interested in the natural world and very concerned about climate change and the impact of human activities, so I put nature at the centre of my current artistic research.
The concept of growth is at the core of all my artwork. I freely pick and choose mushrooms, plants, insects and other animals that I recombine in a colorful swirl that unfolds on found objects in my sculptural work or on paper and walls for my paintings.
The nature I recreate is always very colorful and cheerful, yet there is also a sense of doom as humans are always absent, their presence being only in what they left behind: objects, trash, buildings, etc.
I like to think that my work has a cheerful post-apocalyptic vibe. I hope to move people into realizing how much damage we have done and give them hope that changing our habits and way of living is worth it.
Please tell us about your sculptures?
I have been working on a series of sculptures, “discarded objects”, where I take thrifted, old objects or even trash and grow colorful nature on top. I’m mostly mixing corals, mushrooms and insects in these growths, though I sometimes integrate mammals.
I am personally more fascinated by the small forms of life, but I also know that most people find mammals more accessible. I find my work sometimes speaks to a wider audience when I use larger animals, usually known to be endangered species, like the polar bear for instance.
Is there a big market for miniature food sculptures
for dollhouse collectors?
Yes and no. There are a lot of miniature food artists and artisans out there, because it is a relatively simple thing to pick up. So the market is big, but so is the competition.
Furthermore, although I did have a name in that specific world, probably still have, I never was able to earn a living from solely the miniature food work. However I never tried to work as an artisan, repeating the same things over and over again, simply because I was doing that in my jewelry already and jewelry could sell for its true costs, whereas in the miniature world, people expect cheap prices, especially for food.
To give you a clear example, I would sell 1 miniature croissant for 3 or 4 euro but could sell a pair of croissant earrings for 16 euro (so 8 euro each croissant).
So I always had an artistic approach to the miniature food I was doing, playing with composition and colors. Which doesn’t sell well in the European market.
Please tell us about your daily veggie challenge?
Somewhere in 2012, I learned about the impact of the meat production on the environment and also realized the abuse animals would go through for cheap meat in the supermarkets. So I decided to cut down meat to only local meat from ethical farmers. But slowly, learning and reading more and more about that particular food production, I ended up cooking plant-based at home. This was quite a change of my lifestyle so I wanted to do an artwork about it.
The original idea was to present miniature compositions of vegan meals and for that I needed a lot of different vegetables and fruit, doing one different per day seemed obvious. But in the end it resulted in much more.
For one, I was able to show the incredible variety of edible plants and talk about the environmental impact of the meat production in a positive way.
For two, I realized how much I was craving doing art for the sake of art, the challenge bettered my sculpting skills but it was also the first piece I consider to be art. It was such a turning point that since then I have been exploring my sculpture skills to work on art with a story or meaning.
The daily challenge took place in 2015 and lasted for 233 days.
Did you get a lot of publicity from the daily veggie
Yes, it did and it still does, which is sometimes a little frustrating as my work has evolved a lot since then.
In art, it’s almost impossible to get back to something, I have racked my brain for years on how to use miniature food in artworks with meaning without falling into something too literal and the daily mini veggie challenge is the only thing I could master, but for me, this is done and I have now moved on.
Benefits of that kind of challenge is the systematic approach. It helps not to over-think your art and just do it. Quantity of your work is what is going to make it qualitative over time.
You have a set of rules and you follow them daily, it’s super efficient, but it is also very exhausting depending on your challenge. This one pushed me to the edges of a depression and I decided to close all my jewelry shops for 2 or 3 months because it was just too much to deal with. However it is also this challenge that drew me out of that depression, because it was the only thing that made sense to me on so many levels. To note that my challenge would easily take me about 4-5 hours a day on top of all the rest.
I would highly recommend any artist, aspiring or not, to try a daily challenge at least once, just make it short, anything over an hour will exhaust you, unless you can afford to make only that challenge in your life.
How did you get started on Skillshare?
I have a youtube channel since 2015, which I started in order to explore sculpture and art while still (hopefully) making some money, and it grew steadily, so I got approached by skillshare back in 2016.
Now at that time, youtube was already starting to get on my nerves for several reasons and I also felt that putting all my knowledge out there for free was not the greatest idea.
I had a look at skillshare and I really liked it from a user’s perspective. It works like Netflix, you pay a subscription per month and then you can watch as many tutorials as you want. Usually you pay per tutorial, but that gets expensive very quickly, as often one class on any other website is maybe 10-20 dollar, so if you want to watch different tutorials, it gets too expensive.
So I basically thought like a user, yes I would use this myself, so let’s do this.
My first class was a short one about mushrooms, probably not the best choice with hindsight.
Why did you choose Skillshare over other online
See above for the choices.
The benefits are the community and the free uploading service.
It is very user friendly and their staff is helpful if you happen to be a little lost. They even can help you with ideas if you need them.
I also have a premium account, and from the user’s perspective it is pretty great. Many classes and you can also share what you learned in each class through what they call « projects ». It’s just very fun.
Do you have any advice for artists getting started
If you get the chance to have a premium account, go watch all the classes you can and make projects for most. Making projects really boosts your own profile, which I realized a little late.
Also, make projects for your own classes, it boosts them.
Try to make a least one video per month, regularity pays off.