Today we’d like to introduce you to Savannah Stanton.
Savannah, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Growing up, I was always creating; finding inspiration in the smallest of creatures to the grandest vistas, I processed my world through melding the tangible with the conceptual. To say I had a healthy dose of imagination might be an understatement. But throughout my formative years, I never saw myself as an artist. A writer, perhaps. Certainly as someone keenly interested in the how and why behind our world, and being able to communicate that effectively to and with others.
When I moved on to university with no declared major, I soon fell into a heavily science-based field of Renewable Materials within Oregon State University’s College of Forestry. This was after taking a first-year course titled “Are You Wearing Mold?” that introduced me to the world of wood decay fungi — specifically spalting fungi and their many colors! An extensively hands-on science course, it was full of research, hunting for specimens in the woods with hatchets and machetes at the ready, and extracting fungal pigments for scientific and artistic goals. Ultimately, I chose to develop an art piece for critique as my final term project, from fungal pigment I had harvested from the local forests. Me, the self-appointed “non artist” went out of her way to avoid the science paper write up and instead chose to be critiqued for her artwork by the class and professor alike. It was one of the best decisions of my early college career and resulted in the opportunity to learn woodturning and work in the College woodshop as part of my senior year courses. This is where I developed my largest work to date — a 6′ x 5′ wooden intarsia mural — and really began to dive into more artistic pursuits.
Fast forward to 2021 and I still reside in the Pacific NW of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, where I specialize in wood-based art creations as the sole owner & creative of the self-named company Savannah Stanton, LLC. This venture was established nearly one year after my undergraduate graduation, with the abrupt arrival of substantial commission work, and come April 2022, I will celebrate the anniversary of my third year as a small business owner! I am not currently a full-time artist, however, as nine months out of the year, I work as a Career Technical Educator for a local Oregon high school. Much of my creative efforts are channeled into the courses I teach, and there is great satisfaction being able to pass on my wood science knowledge and passion for woodworking to younger generations via creative projects in the woodshop.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
It has not been a smooth road and this art form is often far from stable in terms of providing a livable income. I frequently experience burnout as a creative given that I teach students every day in the same setting where the majority of my artwork is created — a woodshop. Not to mention I am studying that same medium (wood) for my Master’s work.
As I previously mentioned, I am not currently a full-time artist, and support myself, my business endeavors, and my pursuit of a Master’s in Wood Science & Engineering working as a Career Technical Educator. This primary career has its upside, of course, as I adore the opportunity to work with bright, inquisitive students, many of whom might not have previously pictured their woodshop instructor to look like me — 5’7″ & female with a love of Halloween and nerding out over trees, figured wood and wood-based design!
Much of my creativity and energy are directed into the courses I teach, which sometimes means I am left with little in the tank for my own business creations. With each year as an instructor and business owner (4 and 3 years, respectively), however, I find myself improving in my ability to balance goals and ambitions in each discipline. I have high expectations for growth this year after adapting my work approach both as a teacher and artist over the course of this global pandemic. Already this year, I have had the opportunity to be more actively represented in my local community as an artist, which serves as a beneficial reminder that challenges will always arise in this business, but that doesn’t make them impassable obstacles.
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
A fusion of science & artistic vision —
With my background and continuing education in Wood Science, my work as an educator, and my experiences as someone who has never lived during a time when anthropologically-influenced climate change wasn’t occurring, the pieces I design frequently reflect on the human experience or socio-environmental interactions.
As a wood-based artist, I have created some diverse pieces over the last few years, from intarsia (think the wood version of a stained glass mosaic) to sculptural furniture, woodturnings, and wood-shaving mixed media works. Currently, much of my art is woodturned. If you were to envision a pottery wheel on its side that is designed to securely hold wood as it rotates as a fast RPM, you would have a fairly clear image of a woodturning lathe! This is the primary machine used in the creation of many of my current works. Add to it a menagerie of sharp steel implements of creation — better known as turning chisels, and you have the full-contact artform (or sport) that is woodturning!
Through this medium, my mission is to create thought-provoking installations that initiate conversation, inspire change, and resonate with the nature-starved elements in each of us. In making my work, it is incredibly important prioritize the health & vitality of the forests and ecosystems that make my career and professions like it a possibility. As such, I work to minimize my artwork’s environmental impacts as often as possible, sourcing from already downed trees, educating the public and my students on diverse, complex topics related to forestry and the forest products industry, as well as being an advocate for intersectional, climate-aware policies.
At this time, the majority of my works are comprised of locally available species to the Pacific Northwest, with few exceptions. A major facet that sets me apart from others in my field is my experience and education in the science of wood and trees as well as spalting fungi (wood decay fungi that secrete color on wood as part of the decomposition process). This allows for me to sit in an incredibly niche area of my artistic field and often results in my art inspiration to stem from the sciences.
Before we go, is there anything else you can share with us?
As an artist firmly rooted in the soils of education surrounding trees and forest products, I absolutely love that I can share my passions with clients. Furthermore, there is something poetic about having the ability to create art pieces that can be cherished for generations to come from materials that experienced the world decades prior. In a sense, every time I work on a new piece, it is as if I am preserving a snapshot of history for the future to witness.
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: savannahstanton.com
- Instagram: @savannah.n.stanton
- Other: [TikTok] @savannah.n.stanton
Erica Nafziger & Joshua Chang with Foundry 503