I meander through the labyrinth of Hope Artiste Village with a sensation reminiscent of wandering through the Calles of Venice, Italy. There were twists and turns leading me to my destination, coupled with the feeling of being pleasurably lost.
Finally, I arrive at Kent Stetson’s Studio. I enter through an array of bold color with dynamic clutches flanking me and leading me further into the space. Almost immediately as I turn the corner, Kent happily greets me and we talk shop for a while. It is a very comfortable atmosphere; so easy, in fact, that Kent sits down and continues what he was working on before I walked in. He sews some clutches together as we speak. It is natural to work this way, both for him and myself. This multi-tasking approach and visually compelling environment provided much insight into our conversation.
P.S.: I adore the record clutch!
I don't think it is important that art is represented by any one specific thing. My aesthetic often channels an 80's energy: strong lines, neon colors, glitter—the stuff that stimulated my eyes as an adolescent. I think that powerful art can be subtle, dark, minimal, muted, painful, challenging, etc., but in terms of my work, I like for people to notice a bag that I have made, so I tend to go for Technicolor pieces that jump out and ask to be noticed.
What do you feel resonates most through your handbags?
I think a sense of humor comes through most of what I make. A sleek, tailored, "put together" look can make someone come across as so uptight. If you carry a bag that I have made, it is often an invitation for people to come up to you and strike up a fun conversation about what you are carrying.
Could you explain the importance of how your handbags are displayed in store settings?
I make something fun—my designs are functional, but they are a nonessential item. The experience of seeing my designs and potentially buying one should be fun, memorable, and a little glamorous. I don't make a consumer product so much as I tell a story, and I want to make sure that retailers have the tools they need to visually tell the story, and then to keep the conversation going when customers want to take a closer look. When someone purchases one of my bags, I like to treat them as a patron—someone whose support means something deeper to me than a toss in the bucket—like they are helping me to grow as an artist.
What are your major muses, influences, and inspirations?
Of course, there is family—my parents are unusual, my husband is exceptionally good at his work—I want to live up to the standards of the people I respect most and care about most deeply. I am inspired by the bills that I have to pay—that definitely drives me. I am inspired by my team—they all just get it—we work really hard. I live vicariously through my patrons, who often lead more exciting lives than I do.
Come meet Kent Stetson and see his work live on the runway at this year's Annual Makers Event on Saturday, June 25th from 5-10PM at Park Theatre, Rolfe Square in Cranston! Join our Facebook page here to stay informed of all the upcoming details!
by Kim Celona