Artist Spotlight: Jill Allyn Stafford

Jill Allyn StaffordJill and I have been friends for a number of years and her work has delighted and inspired me from the start. Using a combination of magazine clippings, tissue paper, newsprint, and photographic transfers along with modeling paste extender, pumice gel medium, and other mediums, Jill Allyn Stafford creates richly textured mixed-media art the expresses conflict, love, humor, and loss. Her style and techniques have evolved and grown over the years and am excited to announce that her work featured in her first solo show.

In addition to making art, Jill is a mother and a legal assistant in a small health-law law firm. She actively works to fund raise and increase awareness for children’s literacy and for breast cancer research. She donates art to multiple non-profits and charities and attempts to coax other artists into sharing their work with the public. Jill also helped form the nonprofit arts group Vox Sacramento, and is a current board member of 916 INK.

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What got you interested in creating art? What draws you to mixed-media art?

I stopped making art when I was in the 6th grade. I became so disillusioned with my inability to draw anything realistically, and so threw in the towel and labelled my self as “not creative.” Fast forward to my 30s when I felt this urge to create. I still couldn’t draw, but I could cut up magazines and put the images together. It just fell together that way. And that’s also why I enjoy mixed media art — you can have no drawing or painting skills, but if you have an eye for putting things together, you can!

This month you will be featured in your first solo art show. How excited are you?

Oh man, I’m so excited. This was such a huge hurdle for me. The first was showing my work publicly. The second was making the jump to being in group shows in actual galleries. This is the natural progression: solo show!

"Love Letter" by Jill Allyn Stafford
“Love Letter” by Jill Allyn Stafford

What is the process of putting together a solo show? What sort of journey did it take to get there?

I think the key for me was making a series of pieces that work together really well. In the past I’d participate in group shows only, so I’d have one to three pieces that fit together. I’d sell one or two, and then hang the ones that didn’t sell in my studio with the rest of the group show leftovers. And while that’s great for showing some of my diversity, it doesn’t come together much as a cohesive whole. For my solo show at Little Relics, I actually started trying to come up with an idea about a year ago. It wasn’t long before then that I’d started receiving stamp collections from people whose deceased family members collected stamps, and they thought “Hey, I know a collage artist, I bet she can make something of these!” I take whatever paper products people offer me, so while I’d never actually worked with stamps in my art before, they provided a huge source of inspiration for me. I found I could either use the stamps directly, or I could scan them and then blow them up and create larger pieces of work. It turned out to be really fun.

As a mixed-media collage artist, how do you approach creating a new piece?

If I’m in the midst of an existing idea (work centered around stamps for example), it’s actually pretty easy. I look at the source material I’ve collected, whether it’s original (like the stamps), or scans, and then I start pairing them up with colored paper I’ve collected. What looks good together, what works. I create a base level and build up around it. Often I end up covering the original pieces I started off with.

What, in your opinion, is the hardest step in creating a piece?

I’d say it’s either coming up with a new idea for what I want to do OR it’s knowing when the piece is finished.

"My Cross Country Roadtrip With Edward Hopper: Circles" by Jill Allyn Stafford
“My Cross Country Roadtrip With Edward Hopper: Circles” by Jill Allyn Stafford

What is one of the most personally memorable artistic projects you worked on?

The most memorable and meaningful projects I’ve worked on I created after my friend Jen died of breast cancer at an abysmally young age. She passed, and after I came back from her funeral, I noticed that all these dogwood trees were blooming. For whatever reason, they were then forever paired for me with Jen, and I created four or five large pieces with dogwood trees in them. As it turned out, her sister had a gallery in Woodstock, New York, and she invited me to show my work there and give a talk, too. It was really nerve wracking to talk about Jen and what she meant to me in front of all her family, and I definitely couldn’t get through it without crying. But I know it meant a lot to her family to know that Jen proved such an inspiration

You are also on the board of the nonprofit 916 Ink. Tell us a little about this program and the work you do there. Why is it important to you?

The work I do with 916 INK is solely as a board member — and in my case that means helping raise both money AND awareness. The terms that are used for board members for 916 INK are “Dreamers and Cultivators.” I really love that!

916 INK is a Sacramento based nonprofit whose stated mission is to “empower students in the Sacramento region with creative writing, thereby developing strong readers and inspired writers who lead a higher quality of life due to increased literacy skills and improved academics.” What this means is that it takes everyday kids, often from very under-served areas, and turns them into published authors. A side effect of helping kids learn to not only become better writers, but to identify as writers, is that they are often enabled to process things that have happened to them in a way that helps them take ownership of their own stories. I’ve been to five or six of our book release parties, and I can safely say that at most of them I’ve ended up crying because these kids have already been through so much, and listening to them work through these hard times and come through stronger is just so incredible. I love it.

What advice would you offer to fellow artists?

Volunteer with arts related organizations! One of the keys to getting your work shown is not only having decent art. It’s knowing people, becoming part of a community. Not only does it feel great to volunteer, but it opens new doors all the time.

What can the world expect from you in the future?

I guess my next big goal after solo show, is “solo show in another city.” Hahahaha. This may take another decade.

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Jill’s solo show will run May 4-30 at Little Relics in Sacramento, California.

You can also visit Jill’s studio at Studio 10 in the ARTHOUSE Gallery & Studios on 1021 R Street, Sacramento, CA.