Meet and Marry (Part 2) | Stephanie Lael Barrick

Engage Art | Artist to Artist, Reflection & Growth | June 30, 2020

See Part 1 of this blog series for a discussion of where Stephanie finds inspiration and how she builds her visual vocabulary to include a vast array of unusual materials for her wearable art/fashion sculpture.

It’s Like a Dance

By working from both sides to the middle, the content of an artwork and the materials used to make it collide in my mind. The two parts find each other, and it makes sense, it feels right. It’s like a dance. Guys and girls are coming and going and sometimes they get together. They are all my friends; I like them all. But eventually, the Holy Spirit makes clear that these two belong together. They complete one another. Together, they are more than the sum of their parts. So one guy and one girl meet, fall in love, and get married. Just like a marriage, that is not the end, but the beginning. When the newlyweds move in together and start figuring out how to live together, that is like starting a new sketchbook and assigning form to the content. I draw on my constantly expanding visual vocabulary. To collect materials, just like the happy couple chooses household items that fit the new family.  

Looking Good; Working Well

Once I have a good feel for which materials I’ll use, again I work from both sides to the middle. The aesthetic design and engineering design develop side by side, each impacting the other. I draw the concept as a whole and add details that infuse the message throughout the piece. At the same time, I consider how the garment fits on the body.

The more time I invest in being a maker, the more I understand that the correct order of construction is critical. Garment parts require a certain order of assembly; sculptural methods require a certain order of production. The methods of garment making and of sculpture meet in my artwork. I am constantly holding the whole process in my mind, merging the order of operations, deciding where and how to rearrange the steps, and how much to compromise with each to get the desired effect.

Spinning the Plates of Progress

I usually work on four to five pieces at a time, staggered in development. While building one sculpture, I’ll get an idea for how to construct another one that’s in an early design phase, and I’ll add notes and sketches to the appropriate sketchbook. As a fine artist, design and redesign continue throughout the whole process. It's not like an architect, where ideally all the design work is done before construction begins. Looking back through a sketchbook after a project is completed is encouraging because you can see how far you have come in developing and completing your piece. It is also a source of inspiration—some of the ideas you didn’t use could be the basis for other work.

Deepening My Relationship with Art and with God

I find that working from both sides to the middle creates more space for both creativity and depth in my work. The storytelling or message of the work and the materials used to create it develop a relationship or a bond in my mind. Together, they create the aesthetic design. That design must be executed in a way that respects the laws of physics and the form of the human body. Working through the concept, design, materials, engineering, and construction takes time, which allows for the rethinking that makes the finished piece more powerful. Each time I work through the process, I deepen my art practice and my relationship with God.


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.

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