by Maggie See
Married on April Fool’s Day, Robin Anne Cooper and Stan Dubose are an artist power couple that have built a sanctuary of a studio in South Carolina. She takes strips of painted canvas and creates intricate collages and sculptures. And he is a master of clay, often pairing beautiful clay birds with awesome found antiques. They even team up occasionally to make what might be my favorite thing from End of the Road Studios: the date night flowers.
Let’s hear about your pet(s), either current or past. Are you cat people? Dog people? Exotic lizard people?
We have his-and-her pets. I came with a dog and cat. He came with a dog. Last year we lost my cat George, a great orange tabby, and his Chihuahua. Both were 17 years old. We have gotten a new cat Baby Dale Chihuly, who is a teeny tiny grey tabby, and an Italian greyhound named Winslow Homer Simpson. My dog Caesar is a miniature Labradoodle—I think he is criminally cute and way too smart for me.
What professions, if any, did you have before taking on art full-time?
Stan is a full-time art teacher at Fair-Oak Elementary. He makes in the summer, weekends and evenings. I had a career as an internet programmer. It lasted about nine years before I took the leap to become a full-time artist about 14 years ago.
The two of you have different mediums as a main focus. Do you ever trade canvas for clay just for fun or collaborate on projects? Do you give each other opinions during the process?
We do share opinions and ideas. As a matter of fact, we normally have a new theme for each Open Studio and create a sub-set of our art around the theme. Last time it was snails; prior to that it is has been flowers and chickens. Our theme for the Holiday Open Studio will be trees. I go and play with clay as a way for us to spend time together. That is how “date night flowers” came about. The black clay on the flowers was his way to tone down the happy glaze colors I wanted to use.
Your studio is in a big beautiful house that you have customized, including a kitchen floor tiled with pennies. What is your favorite detail that’s been added so far?
We broke ground on the studio the day we said “I do.” We used a lot of old materials and salvaged a lot from his family’s farms to give it the feeling of having always been here. We designed the space to function as a guest house when the studio doors are closed. We wanted our visitors to experience art in a home setting, to make the transition in their minds of how to use a piece easier or to challenge their notions of where to place art. For Robin, the favorite thing is the penny floor. For Stan, it is the doors on the bedroom celling (they all came from his grandmother’s house). We live next door. Robin says she can only have one space clean and public ready at a time.
Do you use the nature around the studio for inspiration? From where else in Walhalla do you draw ideas?
Yes, we use a whole lot of nature. Stan is a farm boy by birth. Our studio sits on his great-great-grandparents’ farm (and is an official South Carolina Century Farm). He loves plants; the more unusual the better. He lets the rest of the family focus on useful plants like collards, corn and tomatoes. Stan does a lot of fish plates, birds, turtles and other local animals. Robin uses a whole of dogs, cats and birds in her art. I think our ideas come from everywhere: our travels, our location and our crazy imaginations. Robin does have to remind herself that not all ideas are good ideas. Editing makes us all look a little better and a whole lot smarter.
The way you use painted canvas pieces to build your collages, sculptures and faux taxidermy mounts is very unique. How many years has this process been evolving? What animal (or other subject matter) has proven to be the most challenging during execution?
I created this process when I decided to leap into art. Slowly I have added new tricks and techniques, but for the most part the evolution has been very slow (I must be a slow learner). I find that the most challenging subject to have been a bicycle—don’t know why, but it was something I had to redo several times.