Who: Stephanie Kauffman
What: Visual artist, who specializes in candles that can be found all over New Orleans, including Glitter Box NOLA at 1109 Royal Street
Where: Holy Cross
Q: When do you think creativity ceases to be creative?
SK: You are tapping into something I struggle with personally. A lot of my work is commissioned work, and it is pop-culture based and driven by the market. So, for me, I get really excited when I can do a personally passionate project that means something to me.
In other words, I’m not sure I have a great answer for this question because this is something I struggle with. My most authentic answer is to admit that I struggle with this balance and difficulty.
When I started this business, it started as an accident. I was making the candles for my friends because I needed Christmas gifts for people, and I was broke. At the time, I was doing comedy in Chicago, and I was a broke, broke, broke, broke artist for six years. During that time, I was Photoshopping for fun and started making these candles. Then all of a sudden I got more request for them, so I started an Etsy shop. The business then grew from there. Now, I’m a less-broke artist, and I definitely prefer that.
So when I know that my work is personally affecting someone, I feel really connected and inspired from the work and what I create. For instance, last week someone’s dog was diagnosed with cancer, so they commissioned a piece of their dog. In between the time that I created the piece and they received the piece in the mail, their dog had passed. The work I did became a memorial piece for them, and it means so much to me that I could be a part of that.
The authentic part of my creativity really comes through when I’m able to connect with people on that personal level through my art.
Q: What do you think the function of a human is?
SK: The human function is to connect, both with the natural world and with each other. Connection is why we are here, but it goes even deeper than that. In that connection, we can build and create together; we can build relationships; and that connection can lead to wonderful discoveries and effects, like charities and organizations, as well as simple meaningful moments of togetherness in this world. Of course, on the other side of that is that it can lead to terrible effects, when people connect out of fear and with shared hatred or ignorance, so it’s always something we want to be conscious of.
Q: How many times do you think we should get to live our lives?
SK: You know what is so funny? I have this hope that in afterlife I get to sit in a place that is warm and heaven-like, and I get to watch my life from a place of deep, deep love. From that place I know that everything is going to be alright, and I know how it ends, so I can simply watch my life and fall back in love with my life.
That way when I see myself fall down, I know that I’m going to get back up. When I see myself get heartbroken, I know that I’m going to fall in love again.
I am a huge mental health advocate; I had a pretty severe breakdown at age 30. I thought, ‘I will never recover from this,’ and I’ve recovered in leaps and bounds. To look back at that time with complete and utter love would be just amazing.
And it doesn’t have to be huge moments. There are times when I’m sitting on a couch with someone and thinking, ‘I hope I get to relive this conversation one day.’
Q: What do you think about when you are creating?
SK: I just got an Amazon echo, so I’m shouting at Alexa for different music all the time. I listen to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks, like Brene Brown, who is absolutely awesome. I like to reflect. It’s almost like when I’m creating I’m preparing myself to be around humans again.
I focus on the fact that I’m alone and creating, but what I’m really trying to do is prime myself to be the best human I can be for when I’m around others again.
Q: Tell me about a piece you made that has a story you love.
SK: I made a custom John Legend candle for someone, and I didn’t think anything about it. Like usual, I put it on my Etsy shop to see what would happen with it. Then, I became distracted with life because I was buying my house and doing all of that, so I didn’t notice that the NBC lighting department had ordered six of those candles.
It was right before John Legend went on for Jesus Christ Superstar, so the day that production came out, Chrissy Teigen had tweeted the John Legend candle with him in the video. When I saw that Tweet, I screamed in my apartment.
Furthermore, I was about to board a plane just about a month ago, and I had this weird feeling that a miracle was going to happen. But, I didn’t feel like I was going to talk to anyone on the plane, so I thought, ‘How is this miracle going to happen?’
Well, I go on my Twitter, and I see that I’m tagged in something. John Legend saved the John Legend candle, and he put it on a shelf with his Emmy, Tony, Grammy and Oscar. It’s awesome to think that something I made with my bare hands is so special to him that he put it with his most prestigious awards. It means the world to me, and it makes me think about where else my candles have gone.
I wonder about what other shelves they’re on and where they’ll end up. Because it all comes down to what they mean to people, and I love to imagine the different lives they have.
Stephanie Kauffman’s work is available on her Website, at Glitter Box NOLA, as well as various locations around the city. To learn more about Stephanie and her work, you can follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.