Five-Dots is a Cincinnati-based online publication that hopes to open a conversation between artists/craftsman and the public about their work, process, ideas, concerns about their community and workspace.
Made in Cincinnati vendor and fine artist Megan Bickel helms this project with partner and photographer Cassandra Zetta. They release a new interview with a local creative, artist or maker regularly on their site including — this interview with artist and printer Amy Scarpello of Pull Club.
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 the 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?
AS: We have been in this studio for just over a year. I think we made our first print in here on September 15, 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?
AS: 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?
AS: 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?
AS: 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: Can you describe a typical day for yourself in the studio?
AS: There are two typical days. Through the week it’s usually coming in at 6 p.m., 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 a.m., putz around for a little bit, drink coffee, enjoy the light and then are here most of the day.
F-D: How would you describe your subject matter or the content of your work?
AS: 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? Are you looking at spring collections in January and so on?
AS: 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. . .
AS: Yea! I mean give me a break!
F-D: What are these expectations that I have?!
AS: What do we know?! We know nothing! Absolutely nothing!
F-D: What mediums do you work with?
AS: 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?
AS: 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?
AS: 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 se?
AS: 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?
AS: 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?
AS: No. But like . . yea.
F-D: Can you elaborate on that?
AS: I mean obviously it doesn't. . . No, but yea. That’s all it is.
F-D: Why “yea” then?
AS: 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?. . .
AS: 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.
AS: 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?
AS: 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?
AS: 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?
AS: It took a long time, but I think the biggest problem in the beginning was having enough work space — like tabletop 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.
Five-Dots interviews are co-published by Made in Cincinnati in an effort to expand awareness of local artists and their craft. Interviews by Megan Bickel. Photos by Cassandra Zetta.