The beautiful city of Philadelphia is a city full of artists. One such artist is Darla Jackson, a Knights Arts Challenge Grant recipient and the founder and owner of the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym, a shared workspace for artists in Fishtown. Learn all about Darla and what keeps her motivated below!
1) What neighborhood in Philadelphia do you call home? Fishtown
2) Tell us about what you do professionally: I am a sculptor. I work in clay to sculpt animals and then cast the finished pieces in plaster, metal or resin. The work is then shown in galleries nationally and internationally. I also own and run a small business called the Philadelphia Sculpture Gym, which is a membership based community workshop where members have access to a metal shop, wood shop, jewelry studio and more. We offer classes, personal training sessions, and studio spaces. Our gallery is the only one in Philadelphia to focus solely on showing sculpture.
3) What makes you happy? Making things with my hands makes me so happy. Sculpting with clay in particular, but really any process (metal working, building a wall, teaching, making bread…whatever) feels amazing.
4) Who inspires you and why? I’m inspired most of all by the strong women in my life. Friends, family who fight like hell for what they have, who continue to better themselves because they are doing something they believe in. Some artists that inspire me are Ron Mueck and Nicola Hicks. And most of my art is inspired by Walt Disney movies and Eminem lyrics.
5) What’s your biggest regret and why? Not standing up for myself at times. Because I was raised to be polite and I used to confuse that with letting people walk all over me.
6) What is your life motto? “In it to win it.”
7) Name a guilty pleasure: Watching Chopped while eating ice cream. This is how I de-stress.
8) On what occasion do you lie? When people ask me how I’m doing.
9) What’s in your purse right now? 3 Peg and Awl Waxed Canvas Pouches to hold my pens, sculpture tools and whatnot, The Pocket Pema Chodron, my sketch book, business cards, a screwdriver, utility knife and a wooden sculpture tool…and a My Little pony (It’s not mine, unfortunately. I have a 5 and a half year old daughter.)
10) What is your greatest extravagance? Buying pieces from local artists and makers. I just purchased a beautiful Bloodmilk ring that I am so excited to receive.
11) Where is your favorite travel destination? Venice, Italy. It was the perfect mix of city and sea for me. I felt like I was in the Italo Calvino book, Invisible Cities.
12) How do you take your coffee? Cream, no sugar…I’m sweet enough.
13) What is your most treasured possession? It’s a 3 way tie between one of my grandfather’s hats, my favorite sculpture tool and the 3 year question book that my daughter and I have been doing for the last year and a half. I would run back into a burning building to rescue all three of those things.
14) What is your favorite magazine? Ranger Rick because it has the best animal reference photos. (I steal them from my daughter…)
15) What advice would you give your 20-something self? Whatever happens, its not the end of the world. You are far stronger that you realize. You are happiest when you’re making art. Keep your friends close. Oh and “If you’re going through hell, keep going” (Winston Churchill)
16) Where can we find you on a Friday night? Working at the Sculpture Gym, and then headed to an opening…the gallery depends on which Friday. First Friday is PSG Gallery or Arch Enemy Arts. Fourth Friday is Paradigm Gallery.
17) What motivates you? Stories…and love.
18) What’s something unique that we can find on your desk or around your workspace? Animal skulls and taxidermy. I have a horse skull in my office.
19) What’s the best relationship advice you’ve ever gotten? “Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” Pema Chodron
20) What’s your favorite thing about Philadelphia right now? How many amazing artists and craftspeople we have in one city! Our creative economy is so amazing here.
21) If you could be any superhero, who would you be and why? Buttercup the Powerpuff Girl because she is one sassy little badass.
22) Do you have a fashion icon? I’d say if Bettie Paige and Rosie the Riveter had a baby, maybe her?
23) If you could go back to one decade in history, which one would it be and why? The 80’s…because my hair looked so damn good back then.
24) Where’s your favorite place to eat? Brunch at Kensington Quarters.
25) How do you stay sane balancing your life and career? I have no idea. I think it’s more that I don’t beat myself up too much for not balancing it well.
26) What’s your favorite drink or cocktail? The Bramble at the Good King Tavern
27) What is your favorite movie? Children of Men
28) Tell us about an embarrassing moment you recently had: I was giving a group of new interns an orientation at the Sculpture Gym. My daughter came up to pretend to hug me and then quickly lifted up my shirt and said “who wants to see my mom’s belly?!” It was like a drive by flashing. I cannot wait to do it back to her when she is 16.
29) What’s your favorite app right now? I LOVE Overdrive…you can borrow audiobooks from your library and listen to them loudly while you drive.
30) If you could, what would you say to yourself fives years from now? “See, now that wasn’t so bad now was it?”
#30Over30PHL is a month-long series highlighting Philadelphia’s most ambitious women. Created in collaboration with Melissa Alam of Femme & Fortune and Alex Kacala of Fayme Problems. #30Over3PHL is being presented with support from Hard Rock Cafe Philadelphia.