Meet the Terrain Team: Styer's Visual Site Artist, Kaitlin Dodds

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Creativity, passion, and drive—from the stores to home office, these are the traits that guide every team member at terrain. With so many talented folks making all the incredible products, installations, displays, plantings, and imagery we feature here on the blog, we thought it’d be a nice change of pace to shine the spotlight on them. First up, we’re chatting with Kaitlin Dodds, the site visual artist at our Glen Mills, PA location. We recently caught up with Kaitlin on a mild fall day to get a behind-the-scenes peek at what goes on during one of her busy, diverse, and hands-on days at the store.

terrain: Hi Kaitlin! So excited to chat with you about your daily life here at terrain. To get started, can you tell us a bit about your background?

Kaitlin: It’s a little unusual, actually! I graduated from The University of Michigan in 2009 with a B.S. in Neuroscience. After graduation (while I was considering medical school), I decided to travel with a study-abroad program based in Florence, Italy to study art. I fell in love with the life of a creative and decided to put medical school on hold and pursue a degree in art! I started at terrain as a part-time sales associate and I fell in love with the attention to design and with the staff community. Since then, I’ve worked my way through the creative team and am now the site visual artist at our Styer’s location.

terrain: While we can imagine there’s probably no “typical day” for you, can you walk us through some of the major aspects of your days at terrain?

Kaitlin: On a typical day, I check in first thing with my manager, Jenny. She and I work as a team when it comes to the visual appearance of the site. We decide if displays need to be reworked or updated and also determine whether a new display is needed. My days are not usually planned out, since the needs of the site varies from day to day, and a new need can pop up quickly. Most of my days consist of planning and ordering for upcoming displays, maintaining existing displays (including any display plantings on site-such as large scale containers), and starting new displays that take time to construct in studio.

terrain: What’s your busiest season at the store? What kinds of things are you doing during that time you’re not doing during other seasons?

Kaitlin: Our busiest season is definitely holiday! There’s so much display concepting and planning that our home office creative team starts sometimes years in advance. Inspiration boards for concepts are distributed to stores a couple months before the season begins, and then it's my responsibility to adapt the concepts into displays that are specific for the Styer's site. I do a lot of ordering for individual displays and plan out ideas for specific installs. I also prep weeks in advance before installations actually happen.

terrain: Can you pick a project and take us through the stages of it, from planning to execution?

Kaitlin: I had a lot of fun creating a giant natural weaving backdrop for one of our furniture decks on display this spring/summer. In the past, our furniture decks were minimal, so I thought it was a nice opportunity for display to showcase something new. First, I created smaller versions of the weaving, trying out a variety of approaches, techniques, and supplies. I knew that I wanted to avoid a "macrame" appearance, and that I wanted to keep the final product more effortless and natural. After I finished smaller versions, I created a makeshift "loom" with the furniture deck structure, and then from there started weaving!

terrain: At terrain, we’re surrounded by the most unique, interesting, and beautiful plants. Do you have any favorites to work with?

Kaitlin: I enjoy making large installations that allow me to use and manipulate fresh cuts, preserved stems, and dried stems to create impactful organic displays that transform space in an exciting way. Because of my background in painting, I get really excited when I’m able to play with various textures and tones, and when I’m able to play with color with vibrant stems or by painting the stems myself. I’m trying to look at display as not only an opportunity to focus on shape and using raw natural materials, but also as a chance to call upon practices from the 2-dimensional world of art through manipulation of color.

terrain: Is there a project, concept, or design idea that you’re most proud of? Can you talk to us about it?

Kaitlin: I was pretty proud of the moss and fountain wall at Styer's. Anytime you incorporate water and physics into the equation, the project is one thousand times harder than you anticipate, and it's always fraught with issues. The final product didn't come out 100% what I had originally hoped for, but it was my first foray into combining different skills into one project; I had to design everything from scratch, make the structure for the wall, and figure out how to create a closed fountain system (which circulates in a loop). The finishing touches of adding moss, bark, wood, and tillandsia to the display was something that I was familiar with, but the rest of the project allowed me to flex muscles that are usually entirely out of my wheelhouse of tricks.

Be sure to check out some of our past features of Kaitlin’s work: Patterns in Nature, A Tropical Spring Installation, and a Living Wreath Installation.

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