Emily Stumpf

Art was "the only thing that stuck" for Emily as a kid. Today, she has her own art studio at Mainframe.

Take us back to you as a kid. I was quiet and observant of everything around me. I was pretty whimsical and imaginative and was always finding ways to create new things. Some of my creations that stand out were, a Barbie village that at one point took over my friend’s whole basement (how her parents were ok with this, I’m still not sure to this day! – thanks Nancy and Barry), a collaged memory box, and a lovingly crafted bug book. Yep, I would take bugs and tape them inside a book. Pretty morbid looking back at it – however, I was very young! 

From when I was little I LOVED anything art related – I was always drawing and painting, and loved art class. I was never quite the coordinated sports person. Luckily, my parents (Guy and Connie) let me be a free spirit. Because of my parent’s hard work, I had the privilege of trying any sport, activity or instrument I wanted. I love my parent’s for pushing me when I was younger to try things out of my comfort zone. However, art is the only thing that stuck! 

What's keeping you busy? Currently, I have a couple of commissioned paintings and some freelance design I'm working on. I had work displayed at Leona Ruby that I will be transitioning to Gravitate to show in August. Also, I got an art studio at Mainframe - I have been waiting to have a space that I can just create in! I am at the beginning of planning a new series of abstract paintings. Now that I have the space, I am excited to work larger scale. Besides that, I work full time as a Training and Development Specialist at Wright Service Corp., which keeps me quite busy as well. It's definitely a balancing act!

"I was looking for joy and purpose, so I turned to painting and fine art as a sort of therapy."

Walk us through the days leading up to starting your own thing? To give some background, I always enjoyed art classes throughout school. I went to Grandview University for Graphic Design and took quite a few fine art classes there. Right out of school, I ended up getting a full time job that didn’t let me use a lot of my creative energy. 

I started doing some freelance graphic design in 2012. I enjoy doing freelance design work which allows me to meet and connect with new people, but I also missed working with my hands and creating for myself. Finally, a couple of years ago I encountered some tough times in my personal life – it seemed like the shit just hit the fan in many ways. I was looking for joy and purpose, so I turned to painting and fine art as a sort of therapy. Leading up to this I loved looking at Pinterest, and finding artists I liked on Instagram. I used all of the inspiration I observed and absorbed to really drive my creativity – I honestly think I needed those years to just absorb and enjoy other art, artists and design. I still enjoy seeing what other artists and designers are up to. It pushes me to create more, and be a better artist.

What have been the challenges? Who and what has helped? I think self-doubt is a huge barrier as an artist, or anyone for that matter! This is something I have to overcome every day. When I first started creating again, I was looking for validation all the time. I think the key, instead of looking for validation from others is to enjoy the process yourself and the viewer will always see the joy in your work! If I ever feel like I'm forcing something or starting to worry about what others will think of the work I am creating, I know I’m not on the right path. 

Secondly, through all of the challenges that come along with being an artist, my family has been an amazing support system for me. Whether for encouragement or actually helping me haul art around Des Moines to set up shows. My sister, mom, and dad have all helped in some way. Setting up art displays and markets especially, is not so glamorous – it takes a lot of work. My dad is always there, and willing to help me with that kind of stuff. I like to call him my assistant, but I doubt he appreciates that!

"Start projects you are afraid of. Take opportunities you wouldn’t normally consider."

Talk to us about one of your good days this week. Probably within the last couple of weeks - getting all of my stuff moved into my new studio was pretty awesome! Also, I confirmed that I will be live painting for an event in September which is great because it is something I really enjoy doing. 

Someone is starting a project for the first time, what would you want to say to them? Finish it. The biggest struggle is finishing something that you are working on, especially if it is for yourself. Enjoy the process and keep creating. Consistently. That is key. Also, something that has really helped me – is to start projects you are afraid of. Take opportunities you wouldn’t normally consider. These are the times I experience the most growth as an artist.

Why Des Moines? Des Moines is incredible. I really feel like the community is so supportive of art, artists/makers, and creativity in general. Des Moines is small enough where you can be seen, but big enough where you have avenues to really make an impact and a name for yourself. What a wonderful place to live where anything is possible, and you have a great community to support you.

Des Moines is growing. What’s one new thing that caught your eye? Mainframe Art studios is such a majorly exciting thing for Des Moines. I really believe it is going to change Des Moines for the better. Already through having a space there (Since July 1st), I have met so many artists and makers all with their own unique skillset. 

Since I am coming in on the first phase of studios available for rent, it will be fun to see the space come to life gradually. In the future, some in the space will have workshops, there will be open studio events, an event space for rent - It will be a great venue for artists to share their passions for creating with the community. The whole thing is just a dream come true. 

If you could grant the Des Moines one wish what would it be and why? Probably to keep heading in the direction it’s going! It’s growing so fast. Cool new places are opening all the time. Really, this is just a fun time to live in Des Moines because you can literally see the city evolving and changing right before your eyes and people are starting to notice. 

I feel so proud when I see Des Moines at the top or towards the top of the charts for Business and Careers, Young Professionals, Best Place to Start a Business, Most Affordable Place to Buy Your First Home, Best Place to Live... I could go on! It’s exciting that people are taking notice of the city we call home.

"What a wonderful place to live where anything is possible, and you have a great community to support you."

Convince someone new to DSM your favorite place to go on your day off. Wow. I don’t know if I could pick one favorite place… instead I’ll pick an area. I love to meander the East Village on my days off, you can grab a coffee, do some shopping, get lunch. Also, I can’t wait for West Elm to open there in the fall!

The most underrated thing in DSM is ________. Why? I would say, Des Moines itself. Sometimes I think Des Moines gets pigeon holed as this simple, boring place that doesn’t have much to offer. If I am traveling and tell someone I am from Des Moines automatically I am categorized as, I don’t know, A farmer? Someone that eats a lot of corn? Not saying there is anything wrong with being a farmer or eating a lot of corn (I actually love sweet corn). But, you can see their reaction and know immediately what they think. Their next question is usually “what is there to do in Des Moines?!”

Unless, you come across that person that has been to Des Moines and actually experienced it. Their face lights up and I know they have seen the charm Des Moines has to offer and the kindness of the people that live here. I wish everyone had the chance to visit Des Moines for a weekend. I would be their tour guide & take them to the best places!

What are you most proud of and why? Probably how far I've come in what I consider a short amount of time. I'm not by any means supporting myself full-time with my art, but it's an accomplishment in itself to work full-time and still come so far. I have had several shows, live paintings, a couple of markets, and countless people I’ve connected with through the process. Not only have I come far, but my work is improving as I go.

"I am a big believer of seeking out the beauty in all people and situations."

In three months what do you hope to accomplish? To create more art. Also, I would love to tap more into live painting. I have live painted for services at my church (Hope) a few times, painted at an event in March, as well as an event I have booked for September. I enjoy the pressure of painting live in front of people!

What’s one thing people need to know you really care about? As always I can’t pick one! I consider my faith to be very important to me. Also, I care about people -  the depth in people, and pushing people around me to follow their heart. I am a big believer of seeking out the beauty in all people and situations.