Konstance Patton, owner of the arts production company Woolly&Sable, is a multimedia artist from Detroit. Raised by her grandmother who sold wares and fired ceramics in the basement, Patton had always known that she would be an artist in some capacity. She now works as an arts educator and is currently Artist in Residence at Brooklyn Theatre Arts High School, where she experiments with a myriad of materials (wood, cardboard, metal etc.) as painter, sculptor and illustrator. Patton particularly loves to work with lost wax techniques in bronze casting and also loves to collaborate with members of her community when making murals. The most fulfilling part of her work is the ability to make the intangible, tangible and as a result of her unwavering dedication, she recently had her first successful solo exhibition in Manhattan. With so much change in the air, she is proud to be an artist during this time and proud of what her generation is producing in response.
How/why did you become involved in your line of work?
I am a multimedia artist from Detroit, Michigan, and I come from a long line of artist, tailors, and craftsmen. I was raised by my artists grandmother who sold wares and fired ceramics in our basement. I didn’t become an artist, I have always been an artist. I moved to Brooklyn, New York in 2005 to pursue my dreams of becoming one of the greats, to really master my craft. All of the master artists had gone through New York City after all, a true melting pot. I am a muralist, painter, bronze sculptor, traveler, collaborator, singer and educator. I even refurbished an old sea men’s church in Red Hook, Brooklyn where I worked as a production assistant in the robotics shop. I am an arts educator and I’m currently Artist in Residence at Brooklyn Theatre Arts High School. Before the residency, I was hired to help launch an after school program at BTA. It was real guerrilla style, finding funding and supplies and space creatively. I ended up taking over a abandoned wood shop and cleaning it out to create an arts studio where we can experiment with materials and tools, and focus on beautification of the school. I bring whatever I am working on in my studio into the classroom, sharing tools or techniques that I leaned with the young artists. I love to travel the world and when ever I return, I bring back some new (old) tool and share the work I produced. I am not a teacher rather a collaborator, and this year I am working alongside the youth (or my Lil homies), using the studio to produce my own work, while guiding the students in their own beautification projects, leading them and helping to make the school a more pleasant place for learning. My goal as an educator is to SHOW youth how to be an artist, what a real artist looks like. Show the work and discipline that it takes for success, and the ways an artist can flourish.
Tell us a little bit about your present work, the Cliffs Notes version of your day to day and what is at stake.
I am obsessed with materials, I paint, sculpt, illustrate and experiment with materials. some of my best works have come from using a classic material in a new way. Sculpting with wax as the final piece instead of the model, using woods, card boards, metal etc. Right now I am using tons of ink on canvas, letting the ink be free and wild and then bringing it back in, sculpting the illustration. I also love to create and see the world. I travel every year for about 2 months, be it an artist residency in the Himalayas or painting in Angkor Wat. Along with the studio in Canarsie my home is a live work space, basically a studio with a bed and kitchen. I even downsized my furniture to make room for supplies.
This past year I started an arts production company called Woolly&Sable where I produce art and fashion products using my own designs as well as working with other artists. I got the license for the iconic Notorious B.I.G. as the King Of New York photograph (with the crown) from master artist, Barron Claiborne and produced beautiful ugly sweaters (I can share an image upon request), I got a Rockstar Game designer to collaborate with Claiborne, they did an amazing job. I even hired one of my star students as an assistant. Every day I wake up and take care of whatever Woolly&Sable needs, be it making sure a design is complete by a designer, deliveries or checking inventory. I am also doing a documentary about the project with Xango Republic so there is a lot happening every day.
During the day I run errands and after dinner I hit the studio. Since being a little girl I have been nocturnal. I usually sit at my desk, bumble around art blogs and such, and then hit the paint (brushes of course), or whatever I am working on that day. I play some music for the mood and hunker down until about 3 am, sometimes later depending on the flow. It is quiet at night, no buzzing door, no phone calls, just my materials, music and me (and the clanking garbage trucks of course). I am an artist first and there is no backup plan. Everything is at stake for me, and there is no other option, I am committed to practicing the skills that I have inherited, and continue to pass them on.
What do you find most fulling about your work?
The most fulfilling part of working as an artist is creating something, making a thought tangible. I love sketching out an idea, going really far out, and then figuring it out, making it real. I literally will kiss my hands after in amazement, I’m a creative vessel really, honoring my ancestors and artists before me. I love sharing with community members. For instance I do murals and invite community members to join, I recently led a artist talk and mural making workshop in Detroit for a friend who passed. There is a short film of my work called Sheddy Forever Mural on YouTube. My grandmother, an artist passed January 27th 2017 and I will be doing a similar mural project this summer with friends and family in her honor. I love sharing arts and letting people reconnect with their artistic side. I always find secret artists, people who were told too many times that they can’t.
What is your proudest achievement with this work and what is your greatest challenge?2016 was an amazing year. I had my first solo exhibition in Manhattan and sold 21 of 24 pieces, and it was packed. I met prior goals I had set for myself and the exhibition comprised of my 10 years work in New York, it was amazing to see them all together, a retrospective. I am equally proud of the Woolly&Sable launch, it has truly taken off, we are in production for shirts commemorating the 20th anniversary of the photo taken three days before Biggie passed. Working along side and collaborating with artists I look up to is amazing and inspiring. The greatest challenge for me is organizing and pacing. Now that I work for myself and have a small staff, balance is an important challenge. I am so passionate that I want to stay up working, taking care of my life’s work. I am still finding that balance; making sure to take a day off, exercises and eat breakfast. But it is a welcome challenge honestly.
What do you hope changes or improves (or continues!) in your field in the future?
The world is always open to creators so for that I am grateful. I do hope that more young artists see examples of excellence, to see that they can be an artist, make art their business. Being an artist does not mean that you are in a Chelsea gallery or MOMA. Some of my favorite artists freelance as illustrators or animators and DJ a few times a month, some teach or work in shops. I am excited for the arts, especially now. So much change in the air, I am proud and committed to being a part of the great work that will come from this generation.
Who would you nominate for this list?
Photographer Barron Claiborne, @bcafricanus his work is just excellent, a true master. Barronclaiborne.net.
Learn more about this year’s 100 Influencers in Brooklyn Culture.