Briefly describe the work you do.
Currently I am working in two directions: I create installations and sculptures from altered and handmade paper, and I make interactive books that contain instructions for the viewer to complete. I am inspired by the way people perceive or navigate the form of a book.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I fell in love with paper while earning my undergraduate degree in Graphic Design at the University of Southern Mississippi. My professor shook a piece of paper in the air, and the sound of it was so lovely. Between graduation and taking a job as a graphic designer, I worked full time at Avalon Sewing Company in Hattiesburg, MS, making draperies and soft furnishings for the home. Working there gave me solid foundational skills in sewing and working with large amounts of material. I find myself reincarnating movements and methods I used at Avalon in my current work.
Because I grew up in a rural part of south Mississippi, I cultivated an active imagination in order to stay entertained. Even at a young age, I noticed subtle details in my surroundings. I would find myself being very still in order to become aware of the slight movement of the pine tree branches, or the sounds of the neighbors cows through the woods. My work has an abundance of texture and a limited color palette, reflecting the quiet and meditative experiences I had as a child.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
I am lucky to have an open studio at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft until August 2014. This dynamic is perfect for my interactive work, which can unfold naturally and unexpectedly in this kind of environment. I’m already planning on how I can continue the unpredictability and openness of my workspace after I finish my residency here.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
When I was younger, I would never have imagined myself relating to the craft world so intimately. Also, it wasn’t until later that I realized how rewarding and exciting it is to be a facilitator for creativity. One of the motivations to create my interactive books is to create an opportunity for other people to experience art in a different way than expected.
Also, Art Handler/Shipper. To be honest, it’s kind of fun to prepare art to be shipped, but it is nerve racking as well.
I find that early in the morning and late at night are my best times to create. The hours in the middle of the day get muddied with distractions and sinking levels of caffeine. I teach at two community colleges during the day, and have open studio hours in afternoons and both weekend days. I make time outside of my open studio hours to create without interruption.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
My work has become more distilled and focused, but it still is rooted in an excitement for tactile experiences. Over the past few years, my work has incorporated performance, whether the action involves the viewer or myself. I am working to document these moments more thoroughly.
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
It would take a long time to list the people who have impacted my life, but the ones who stand out are Lhay Thriffely, my sewing guru; Ann Hamilton, artist; and the young ones in my life, such as my nieces and nephews, who remind me to keep a fresh perspective.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I would probably be a seamstress or professional server. These are both jobs I’ve had in the past that I really enjoyed and miss at times. They both have unexpected elements that keep the work interesting, and are satisfying.
Delaney Smith is a visual artist working primarily with paper and bookmaking to create sculptures and interactive books. With a focus on aligning process and inherent qualities of material, she explores the ideas of accumulation, transformation, and duality. Her interactive books develop as the viewer alters the pages, creating a unique story of marks and questioning expectations of how one should approach a book.
Delaney received her BFA in Graphic Communications from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2007. During and after school, she was a seamstress Avalon Sewing Company in Hattiesburg, MS, where she created soft furnishings and window coverings. In 2008, she took a position as a graphic designer in New Orleans, LA. Two years later, she arrived in Denton, TX, to earn her MFA in Fibers from the University of North Texas. Her work has recently been selected for Materials: Hard and Soft 2014 and is part of the permanent collection at Texas Women’s State University. Currently Delaney is an artist-in residence at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.