HILLSTACK THE ART OF COLLABORATION Written by Johanna Hickle Photography by Daniel Garcia
The challenge of collaborative artwork is in melding the independent visions of two artists into an organic whole without one voice overpowering the other. Ron Hemphill and Tricia Stackle have tackled this undertaking together as HillStack. Their first joint creation as husband and wife is called Funny Bunnies. Each bunny is made entirely from high-quality wool with colors thoughtfully selected for its eyes, clothes, and body. Each is cut, sewn, and stuffed with care. Each is bequeathed a fitting name—Cookie Fudgemittens, Randy Snowinkle, Lyla Redslippers...and Adam.
“That’s not going to work. This core is going to be too tight.” So we would loosen it up. We made a bunny or two and when our friends would come, they would say, “Oh my god. I need one of those bunnies. I’ve gotta have one.”
Tricia, you experiment more with different mediums and forms, while Ron, seems you work more with mixed media. How would you say you two differ? Tricia: Digitally he does a lot more because I’m not digital. Ron: I have a lot of digital posters, animated loops, and projection pieces. There are a lot of digital and computer projects that I’ve been doing.
What makes Funny Bunnies so appealing? T: Lots of people make stuffed sculptural objects. It’s not like it’s never been seen before. How have you two learned to collaborate? T: We both have But there’s something really great about the design we came up different practices that we have been working on years before we with that catches most everybody in a fun way. With all my met. That’s the beauty of our collaboration—we have to find where drawings and other projects, some people will take the time to look the middle is and where both our visions are being honored. I have at it and understand it. Some people will be like, meh. But there’s a very clean aesthetic, precise. He likes things to be weirder and a something universal about the Funny Bunnies. There’s always some little bit edgier. So it’s finding that middle ground that’s hard. R: In type of stuffy tactile object you had as a kid. It pulls [that memory] some ways, HillStack is clearer. Because in my work and her work out of the adult or the kid. separately, we’re exploring and doing different things. Whereas when we come together, we have to discuss and agree upon and They have that sock monkey feel. R: There is that initial draw towards the fresh and childlike, but we’re hoping that the material work it out and market. sophistication can bring our collectors with us on this material What was the impetus for starting HillStack together? R: When we journey of using wool only. They’re even stuffed with wool! T: The met [in art school], we started talking about what we wanted our reason for that is I hate petroleum products. We give our kids artistic life to look like. Immediately it came out that we both liked petroleum—“Here, love this,” and they do. They chew on it and the intersection of art and design... Funny Bunnies got started love it. They’re missing out on something more natural. R: It’s a lot when Tricia went on a residency in Washington and sent a little more expensive that way and the wool is hidden inside, but we’re bunny as a love note. I was going to respond with another iteration not going to put polyfill in there. We’d rather bring our collectors of it. I can’t sew, but I made this elaborate pattern, I did all these and our audience with us up-market. Our new Funny Bunnies are drawings, and I tried to sew it. It was a disaster. T: I was trying to made from handmade felt with Angora and Merino wool. We want teach him over the phone! R: We had so much fun developing my an initial “Wow, that’s a cute object,” then “Wow, what beautiful response to hers. There was momentum. We made one and then materials and awesome craftsmanship.” And they’re as solid as a I did a bunch of drawings of this shape. And then she would say, nail! You can’t break them.