Stickermaul on How to “See a City Differently”

Written by Maddie Katz

For Stickermaul, layering is key and context is everything. From the placement of her sticker to the composition of the shot, the artist is ever conscious of how her art will interact with the city landscape. After years of shooting street photography, Stickermaul entered the mix with a fun repertoire of collage and text based stickers and the occasional cheeky cat collage. UP Mag sat down and chatted with the artist about the moments of joy art can spark, how to be a champion of “art, not ads” and the ways in which one piece of art can transform the way you view a city.

How did you start making the stickers?

I have been shooting street art as a photographer for seven plus years so that’s the @photomaul handle that I have. And I’ve been challenged by a few of my artist friends or people that I had run up with to say when am I going to cross over and participate more actively. I think that’s part of where the pandemic creativity kind of hit because I wasn’t able to go out and shoot. So I said, “Okay, how do I participate or take advantage of the opportunity.” So I leveraged what I had in the house. 

Part of it is a little bit of that historical 228, some of it was just I had a whole stack of magazines and I had a label maker so eventually that all got pulled together. The stickers that I do enjoy have a little bit of that engagement, so it has a little bit of that history and a little bit of that engagement with either the visual or the text and hopefully that creates a moment of connection.

For me, the stickers have multiple layers. You have the actual sticker with a collage and the text which all interact. Then, phase two is really the placement in the street in terms of where I put it and the third layer really is my taking a picture of it and framing it in a certain way. Then to share it on Instagram so depending on how one does that it has quite a different layer of context and meaning.

How do you feel about photographing your own work versus when other people photograph it?

It’s an interesting balance because, again, I do have a specific placement and visualization when I put it down and I slap it up. But I do find it very interesting how other people capture it because with the layers that I imbue into the sticker, it’s interesting to see how people react to it, take the picture, comment on it on Instagram. It’s very interesting for me to see that and that’s what I’m trying to encourage as well because there are so many different ways to look at it. I’m trying to convey a lot of different perspectives in it, so I actually very much enjoy how people respond to it and how they portray it.

 But I do find it very interesting how other people capture it because with the layers that I imbue into the sticker, it’s interesting to see how people react to it, take the picture, comment on it on Instagram.

How do you find a good spot? What are you looking for whenever you slap it up?

Some of it is just instinctual, some of it is just structure of the placement, some of it is what the sticker is and how it interacts with a space. Sometimes I like to engage with an ad. We always like the “art, not ads” concept, so how do you then transition the ad into art? So it may be the ad has a certain word and it kind of matches or enhances a slap so you kind of put that together and take a picture. That’s kind of, again, part of that placement and engagement in space, so I think it really depends on what that individual original sticker says how it potentially can interact with either another piece of art, another space on the street, or an ad or whatever it may be, and then it kind of somehow all works.

It’s like having a conversation or even just an argument sometimes.

Exactly, well I’ve tried to stay away from the argument, because with the slaps, I want there to be a positive engagement. There are so many challenges. Everyone’s in a different spot given the pandemic, given their individual journeys so to create something that may cause that giggle, interaction, smile, groan because the pun is so awful, like, whatever it may be. But that’s really the positivity that I want to have out there.

A lot of the text-based work is centered around kindness and words of encouragement. How do you decide what subject matter you want to depict in your stickers? 

Well, some of it just happens to be what magazines I happen to have at any particular time that may drive it. Clearly, there are certain themes just based on that positivity concept that I like. So I think it’s just a kind of combination of availability of what I have from a materials perspective, and then you try to kind of pull together so “Caturday” is a big theme. I like cats, so it all kind of works together from a thematic perspective. I’m a fan of flowers. I like kindness. I enjoy watching people’s faces, so when I go through the magazines and I see some of the models used in the ads, I just try to pull something that I think is a positive like a great smile or twinkle in the eye or whatever it may be. You just overlap that then with a quote that one finds or likes, or kindness or “stay amazing.” It just kind of instinctually pulls together into something that works.

You mentioned you have a background in photography. Do you have any other background in the arts?

I’ve always said I inherited the eye of my father. My father was also an artist and a scientist and he also combined those two. Through that, I think I just inherited that, but I wouldn’t say that there’s any formal training, besides the odd art history in college 20 years ago. I would say nothing formal, just a general appreciation.

How did you first start documenting street art?

I think it’s funny, one can walk around the streets of a city for years and not see and then all of a sudden, something catches your attention and it changes your perception of everything. I think that that for me happened quite a while ago and you just saw a particular piece, and started looking differently at the street. And then the more you look, the more you see, and then the more you engage and then all of a sudden, it becomes a primary focus for you, an obsession. I think it just kind of gets pulled into that.

What was the specific moment that caught your eye?

I was walking around London, actually, so surprisingly not New York, and I saw a piece by Vhils and I don’t even remember which one it was but just the texture and the face just really caught my attention. Then you investigate, you look further and then all of a sudden, you’re back home in New York and you see different things, and it keeps evolving. I always liken it to you walking down the beach, and you don’t see anything and then you find that first seashell and then you look back and then you see all these seashells everywhere. It’s kind of a similar concept.

Right now, the biggest compliment that someone can give me is, you know, I’ll walk around with a friend and point out all the different pieces and they’ll tell me, “I see a city differently now.”

You do see it engage with a city or a place very differently once one sees all the art and all the efforts of all the artists out there to get their pieces out.

How would you describe the art scene in New York, right now, specifically, the sticker scene, or different communities you feel that you are engaging with?

It’s an interesting concept, because on the one hand it’s a very individual kind of engagement with the street and then, on the other hand, you have the other artists and then you have the other participants who kind of like to shoot. You kind of work your way into all areas. So, you know, 0h10 M1ke and friends with his sticker shows recently, I think has really highlighted a nice focus on the specific sticker art. I’ve always engaged in what I call the tiny treasures like the stickers or the smaller pieces because it’s more of a treasure hunt to find those.

 I’ve always engaged in what I call the tiny treasures like the stickers or the smaller pieces because it’s more of a treasure hunt to find those.

Who have you been inspired by lately?

Well, I think while I was coming up with my sticker concept, I was looking at the artists who do collage like George Collagi. I was looking at artists who do spoken word like My Life In Yellow or Captain Eyeliner, kind of prompting that kind of engagement. So that was part of my thought process, but there are a lot of artists that I do like, like I mentioned Saralynne.leo. I’m a big fan of art_by_eyebrows. Some of that doesn’t necessarily translate into my stickers per se but still spark creativity, because when one has appreciation for what they’re doing, right.

What kind of message do you hope people take away from your art? 

I would like someone to take away a moment of joy or a moment of reflection or a moment of engagement.

Maddie Katz is a writer currently based in New York. Her articles and short stories appear in Fordham University’s The Observer and Grain of Salt Mag. She enjoys seeing the layers of street art build up around the city as they constantly change. She is currently intrigued by the aesthetic discourse surrounding the differences between Posca and Krink markers.

Insta: @maddie_katz