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Stephen Yusko’s studio is located on East 41st Street, where he uses a variety of blacksmithing, machining and metal-fabricating techniques to design and make furniture, vessels and sculpture.
In 2007 Stephen was recruited by Rose Iron Works to provide design and creative direction for the company in the role of artist-in-residence. Rose Iron Works is renowned for 100+ years of metalworking in the Cleveland area. This invitation afforded Yusko the opportunity to move to the Cleveland area and pursue his own studio work in addition to collaborating with Rose Iron Works on their line of newer designs. He is very positive about his move to the Cleveland area and into the Cleveland art community, particularly the supportive environment among local artists and the dynamic art-focused institutions across the city.
When viewing Yusko’s work, it’s easy to appreciate how his design aesthetic is inspired by the Cleveland landscape. His most recent work combines an interest in forms and structures found along the waters of Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River. Bridges, roads and canals are reflected in the shape and palette of a current series of tables. In addition to his furniture, Stephen designs and makes smaller, “box” style vessels using reclaimed and painted materials combined with forged elements that are fit together with jewelry-like precision.
He works mainly with steel and his style is minimal, focusing on clean lines, function and form. Yusko mentions the influence of the Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi in his work. That is, every element in each piece of work he creates has a purpose and function. “There is a complicated process behind breaking something down to its simplest form”, he explains. This minimal approach demands a heightened attention to detail and an elevated level of craftsmanship.
Yusko began his college career as an engineer but soon discovered that his passion was for art. He switched to focus on a Bachelor’s degree in Sculpture. He had his first residency at The National Ornamental Metal Museum and subsequently went on to obtain a Master’s Degree in Blacksmithing at the University of Southern Illinois at Carbondale. The opportunities afforded an artist by completing a residency are apparent when speaking with Yusko. Whether the residency is paid or unpaid, part of staff or consultative, long-term or short-term, the benefits to the artist of taking advantage of time to focus on his or her work in a different environment, pushes him out of his comfort zone and challenges him to think from a new perspective.
Yusko’s work has been shown in galleries, museums and exhibitions all over the country. His work is commissioned and collected internationally. In addition to commissions and residencies, Stephen is also sought as a teacher at craft schools around the world. His work as a teacher has taken him to Venezuela and also allows him to impart his blacksmithing expertise with local and international students at American craft schools including Haystack School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine and Penland School of Crafts, located in the mountains of North Carolina.
It all comes back to a sense of community for Yusko. The collaborative relationship between artists in Cleveland can drive ideas and challenge new ways of thinking. His teaching and exhibiting work has enabled him to form connections with other artists. In addition to inspiring creativity through observing the work of other artists and engaging is discussions about craft and process, the connections between artists can also provide opportunities for collaboration. Yusko’s next residency will be at the State University of New York, Purchase where he will be creating a body of work and teaching during the fall semester. To view his work, you can visit his website at stephenyusko.com