Wilbanks Studio is home to two artists; partners in life who became partners in Wilbanks Inc., an award winning advertising/marketing consultancy active in Arizona for over 3 decades. Drawn to the incredible beauty and active lifestyle of the Central Coast, Ken and Stephanie have “re-careered” from building brands in commercial art to working with their hands in fine art.
Ken Wilbanks is a wood sculptor. The draw to return to sculpture was irresistible, as his degree in advertising design had been enhanced by an emphasis in sculpture. He draws his influence from organic shapes that occur in nature as well as shapes from the built environment. He remarked, "The sheer joy of taking a grinder to laminated plywood to explore the hidden contours has to be experienced to be fully appreciated. What is revealed is frequently quite surprising. The key element to ending up with something lasting is simply learning when to stop.”
He works in wood, most often with baltic birch plywood, a construction material more commonly used for high-end cabinet interiors. Other times, he uses a dyed birch veneer plywood, custom made by hand in a variety of color ways using environmentally safe adhesives. His process is a bit unusual—individual blocks are cut from sheet goods, glued into layers of substantial thicknesses, then shaped via grinding tools. Sanding the layers provide endless possibilities for visual variety and texture. Finally, a satin finish is applied via multiple layers, with sanding between each coat. The final sculpture is finished with several applications of hand burnished wax.
Ken is a member of the Central Coast Sculptors Group. He has shown his work at Studios on the Park, The San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, the SLOMA Phantom Pop Up Gallery and in Art Center Morro Bay.
Stephanie Wilbanks creates kilnformed fine art glass. While still working in the hectic environment of marketing and advertising, Stephanie began to take classes in kilnformed glass. Classes turned into more classes followed by expos, seminars and exhibitions. She loved the science, physics and technical craft of fusing glass with all of its requisite restrictions. Now she spends countless hours of studio time, reveling each morning in opening the kiln to see if the glass behaved as she intended. She shared, “Kilnformed glass celebrates the drama of light and color. Fusing glass combines creativity with technical nuances of chemistry and physics. My background in marketing and music gives a foundation to each concept. Marketing informs the balance while music inspires the harmony of color and line.”
Kilnformed glass art is also called kiln glass or warm glass. Unlike blown glass, stained glass or flamed glass, kiln glass is cut and arranged cold on a table, then heated and slowly cooled in a kiln for several hours to a full day. The glasses soften, fuse together and assume the shape of whatever surface they're resting upon or within, such as a flat kiln shelf, curved mold or casting mold. The specially formulated glass may include compatible sheets, rods, bits or powders. Techniques draw from traditional art methods including drawing and painting, to printmaking and sculpture. Most designs require two or more sessions in the kiln to obtain texture and the final desired effects, making each a unique piece of art. Every day in the glass studio brings an opportunity to explore new ideas using inspiring colors of glass in an endlessly interesting journey.
Stephanie is an Associate Artist at Studios on the Park and a member of Arts Obispo, the Central Coast Sculptors Group, the Central Coast Craftmakers and the Paso Robles Art Association. She has shown her work at Studios on the Park, The San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, the SLOMA Phantom Pop Up Gallery, Art Center Morro Bay, Open Studios by Arts Obispo, the Paso Robles Library, Cal Poly, local wineries as well as in the Resort at Port Ludlow in Washington.
Being a creative couple has its advantages. While a spouse can be supportive, a creative spouse is invaluable. Creative consultations are always available. There is full support and understanding of the time, processes, materials and deadlines required to create a new artwork. Each looks for opportunities to show their art and both monitor submission deadlines. Even the search for a new home was prioritized first on having enough space for two art studios, then on the house itself.
“We seldom collaborate, but confer and critique intermittently. It helps to have a visual person, whose work you respect, review your work and offer a suggestion. Sometimes the most helpful comment is simply to stop—you have finished.”