Wendy Stayman has been a furniture designer since 1981. She began formal training for her artistic career when she matriculated as a ceramic design student at Alfred University and then in fine arts at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In 1970 she received a BA in history of art from the University of Pennsylvania. Stayman then apprenticed herself to a furniture restorer and in 1974, receiving funding from the William Penn Foundation, took a two-year fellowship in museum conservation at the University Museum, University of Pennsylvania. In 1978, with funding from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and Queen’s University, Stayman earned a master’s degree in the conservation of museum objects from Queen’s University, Ontario, during which time she completed two internships – one at the Pacific Regional Conservation Center in Honolulu and one at the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore. Stayman returned to the University Museum as Assistant Conservator. In 1980 she enrolled in an evening woodworking-for-beginners class, taught by Leonard Hilgner at the Philadelphia College of Art, and took a woodworking identification workshop from Bruce Hoadley at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. In 1981 Stayman requested a leave-of-absence from the University Museum and, with a second fellowship from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, enrolled at the Wendell Castle Workshop (now incorporated into the Rochester Institute of Technology) to refine her woodworking skills.
This was a pivotal decision in Stayman’s career. The Wendell Castle Workshop, which equally emphasized furniture design and woodworking technique, once again deeply engaged Stayman in the creative process. Wendell Castle, with the instructors and guest lecturers he enlisted for the school, provided a highly stimulating environment in which Stayman explored her own creativity in the medium of wood, thriving on the exciting range of technique, problem solving, and design realization that the school offered. Earning a Chris Wilson Scholarship and Artist-in-Residence Award, Stayman remained at the school for three years, graduating with an Associate of Occupational Studies in Furniture Making in 1983 and receiving the school’s 3D Award. During this time Stayman had commenced showing and selling pieces.
In 1984 Stayman moved to Massachusetts where she continues her museum and design work. In 1988 she was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Visual Artist Fellowship. She does predominantly speculative work. Her work, which is almost exclusively one-of-a-kind or limited edition, sells to private and corporate clients. She has pieces in major private collections and in public institutions including the Smith College Art Museum, The Museum of Arts and Design, and the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution.
Stayman’s pieces are characterized as traditional in form and usefulness, and she views her work in the very broad context of museum artifact collections. Often referred to as architectural and linear, her pieces are highly refined, and of superior technical quality. Her use of color is restrained with a preferred emphasis on texture and material. Stayman’s furniture designs are imbued with the influences of many years of intimate work with diverse museum collections (archeological, ethnographic, fine arts, natural science and history). They are highly investigative and infused with her intense curiosity about a vast array of materials, techniques and processes. Her experimental approach to design is both cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural. She works freely with others who have skills that enable her to realize her artistic vision. Her work is not limited by what she knows, but is an open-ended and ongoing investigative pursuit of her own work as a manifestation of the creative impulse.