Meet and Marry (Part 1) | Stephanie Lael Barrick

Engage Art | Artist to Artist, Reflection & Growth | June 23, 2020

I am always working from both sides to the middle.

Inspired by God’s Word

On one hand, I am in and inspired by the Word of God. There are always points made in Bible studies, sermons, Sunday School class, Christian radio, and internet sermons and lectures that reveal concepts worthy of the time and effort to develop a complex physical artwork. I am constantly making notes, incessantly reaping content from the Bible.

Teaching Old Materials New Tricks

On the other hand, I am always experimenting with materials and techniques. I have a thirst for discovering new materials and technological applications. In addition to playing with new media, I invent methods to use familiar ones. Looking for the properties of materials allows me to see beyond their traditional uses. I am often seeking a characteristic like translucency, flexibility/rigidity, texture, color, or the ability to be drilled. Not restricted by traditional methods, I respect them and build on them with new ideas. Workshops, internet research, books, and travel ensure a wellspring of source material.

Forms that Inspire Me

Since I create wearable art, my art is informed by fashion, but I typically utilize materials considered “non-wearable”—Bible pages, for instance, or wire, or tea bags, or extension cords. Often, it is the way I combine materials and construction techniques that is new.

There are three broad categories of materials that most often speak to me—nature, man-made objects, and the objects you see in everyday life. Whenever I see something that I like aesthetically, I do two things:

(1) I identify what specific characteristic attracts me.

  • What is it about those ocean waves? The fluffiness of the foam? The movement of the light reflecting off the surface? The shifting criss-cross pattern at the shoreline? 
  • If I’m in the hardware store, I may be imagining what I could do with a new tool or a new pattern in wire mesh. Or I may have a conversation with an employee about how to connect dissimilar materials. Or the pattern/texture when you put hundreds of the same object together might grab my attention. Or a particular shape might suddenly remind me of something else entirely. 
  • Shopping on-line can be a rabbit hole of new and exciting technical options. 
  • In my everyday life, the pattern of the books on my bookshelf might catch my eye. Or the curve of my Shih Tzu’s tail as he maneuvers around my fabric collection might mimic the undulation of my extension cord. I once saw a huge pile of tossed 5-gallon buckets next to railroad tracks filled with spikes that were being removed. They made a unique pattern as they fell to the ground.

One of the best things you can do as an artist is to be intentional about building your visual vocabulary. Notice what is around you, figure out what things you like to look at, and then determine what it is about those things that you really respond to.

(2) Then I log it into my mental filing cabinet—for use whenever it becomes appropriate. This is similar to using a writer’s notebook to record bits of overheard dialog or vivid descriptions to use “someday.” For me, lodging it in the back of my brain is enough, but you could also take a photo, make some notes, and keep either a physical or digital file or sketchbook. Actually, if you make a file of some sort, you can look through it when you want to grease the wheels of your creativity.

How Does This Process “Show Up” in My Work?

Some examples of the end result:

  • “Sewing” or “weaving” with heavy wire to create braids and draping “fabric” as the bodice of a dress about being made in God’s image.
  • Using full-size architecture-type “blueprints” to create a dramatically tiered skirt in a piece about how to build a life that honors God.
  • For a piece called “Standing on the Promises,” braiding paper from Bible pages to trim a pair of boots (also made of Bible pages).

Right now, I am drawn to heavy pattern. While I appreciate a beautiful, simple line exquisitely executed, I'm exploring making forms with a lot of lines. What happens if I take one simple line, shape, or form and multiply it by tens, hundreds, or even thousands? Can I develop a multilayered work and yet maintain a direct and simple message?

See Part 2 of this blog series to find out how Stephanie plays matchmaker between her concepts for wearable art/fashion sculpture and the unusual materials she uses to create them.


Stephanie Lael Barrick transforms materials in experimental ways, creating mixed-media wearable art that is sculpture rather than fashion.

The two influences of her mother, an accomplished seamstress, and her father, a welder by trade, meld together into a unique blend of materials and techniques. Her background in handmade paper and metal sculpture informs her current work, while art education experience provides a strong foundation for technique choices.

Growing up in suburban Virginia, Stephanie fondly remembers family vacations whetting her appetite for travel and exploration.  Studying in London, living in Germany, and traveling throughout Europe, Israel, and Egypt exposed Stephanie to a vast array of art and culture. Her next international trip will be to the annual World Of Wearable Art  (WOW) in New Zealand.

Stephanie’s wearable sculptures use content rooted in the Christian faith and Scripture. God gifted and directed her to develop the presentation of her wearable sculpture into a runway format, in addition to gallery exhibition. The next step is to develop a stage show incorporating original music, choreography, and technology to present the wearable sculptures. Stephanie uses art to contribute truth, goodness, and beauty to anyone open to receiving it.

Submit Your Artwork Today!

Curious? Interested in submitting artwork to our contest? Know someone who might be? Through April 14th, 2022, the Engage Art Contest is open to the whole world! Get your foot in the door by claiming your Artist Page now!