The amazing Shannon Weber: an authentic life in art

Shannon Weber

When I met Shannon Weber in Santa Fe last fall, I gushed shamelessly,proclaiming that I was her biggest fan and that images of her work had been on my computer desktop for a decade. I said that her three-dimensional assemblages resonated so deeply within my artistic soul that it was almost scary. Poor Shannon, she probably thought I was slightly nuts.

After spending five days with her, I am even more in awe of her work and her process. Shannon was invited by the Fiber Artists of San Antonio to come to San Antonio for a workshop and a presentation. And she stayed with me for the five-day visit! We had a really good time taking about art and creativity. Here’s a wonderful quote about her relationship with her materials:

“Intellectually, humans own this genetic history, “we are makers”, and are known to use what we have.  My choice in materials would be Pacific sea kelps, and coastal debris of which I have a long lasting affair and bring their own mythologies of place. The benefits of working with raw organic materials, is that they provide a rich dialog to every design.”

Shannon Weber

For our two-day workshop, Shannon shipped three huge boxes of found materials and dried sea kelp to San Antonio for us to experience in our pieces. She is a tireless teacher, and we all worked without downtime for two days.

I was so frustrated at first because I could not random-weave a long piece of reed into a structure that would hold together. Shannon patiently went over the process again and again until I finally got it.

This was one of my structures – actually, both of the main ones I completed looked remarkably like teapots!

Please watch the workshop video, below – it is an amazing thing to see the variety of structures that emerged from essentially the same materials over a two-day period. Shannon encouraged us to go our own way.

SHANNON WEBER Workshop for the Fiber Artists of San Antonio from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

Shannon lives in an isolated region near the coast of Oregon without television or technology. She and her husband ran a fishing lodge for many years when she was first beginning to make things for found materials. Her stories are priceless. She is astonishingly down-to-earth for an artist whose works are found in museums and galleries from California to New York and beyond.

The last afternoon that she stayed with me, she went for a walk in the woods near my house and came back with a gift – three beautifully arranged found objects – twine and rusty bits, just what I love – I now have my very own Shannon Weber work!

Found object altar – Shannon Weber

Shannon says, “It’s all the in magic and mystery of talking to rocks, rusty bits, and piles of gathered sticks that keeps me inspired.” And the magic and mystery in her work keeps us ALL inspired.

My rusty weathered heart I give to you

You know how one thing leads to another – I was sanding a cedar block this morning when I remembered a technique I developed for a faux rust finish a couple of years ago.

Sanding this block gave me an idea . . . .

Aha! I though. That is perfect for Valentine’s day gift for SHARDS readers!!

Here’s a great quote to go with it, from poet John Mark Green. “Beneath the rust and grime which dulls the shine of our weathered hearts, joy patiently waits to be rediscovered” You can write that on the tag you attach to the heart.

So here are the materials and steps – you should have most of this stuff, especially if you tried the faux turquoise finish I posted several weeks ago.

What you will need:

  • A scrap of coarse-grit sandpaper – used is fine
  • A scrap of 300# watercolor paper or card stock
  • Acrylic paint – Quinacridone gold, Aqua Green
  • Tsukineko Walnut Ink – Java
  • Twig
  • Ribbon scrap
  • Heavy-duty hole punch
  • Scissors
  • Glue Stick
  • Tag (optional)

Steps:

Get some coarse-grit sandpaper and some scissors

Fold the sandpaper in half, and draw half a heart on the fold – this one was about four inches wide

Unfold the sandpaper heart

With a glue stick, adhere the sandpaper heart to a piece of watercolor paper to reinforce it

Cut out around the reinforced sandpaper heart

Paint a coat of Quinacridone Gold acrylic on the surface of the heart

Spray randomly and lightly with Java walnut ink

With your fingertip, brush on a teensy accent of aqua green acrylic for a dash of patina

With a heavy-duty hole punch, make two small holes on the edges of the heart

Poke a twig through the holes, letting it stick out on either side

Add some ribbon (you could also use wire) and a note tag if you like

Optional – hang it on the nearest bird beak

Honestly, this is such a fun little diversion – and you can make several of these in less that an hour. Get a small tree limb and stick it in a flower pot and hang these guys from the branches. How totally Martha Stewart!

Sometimes we just need an artsy-craftsy break from our serious artwork, plus this is a technique that you might find useful in your mixed-media work. Happy early Valentine’s day, my weathered, rusty-hearted friends!

New critters on the block . .

Oh, boy – the First Friday Art Walk in Marble Falls is this week (February 2nd, 5-8 pm), and as part of it Marta Stafford’s gallery is having a bee-youtiful celebration featuring jazz, honey wine, valentine-inspired jewelry, and my beeswax photocollages and B Beautiful dishes.

I wanted to do something extra and different for this show, something that uses beeswax in a new way for me, and I came up with these five fun wall sculptures using earthenware, gauze, sticks, wire and beeswax and Secret Sauce (aka walnut ink).

Here’s the first one, called “Sacred Sentry”.

I’m calling this series “Earthen Wax & Wings,” and I have a feeling that I’ll be doing more of these. This one’s called “Cloudhopper” – a very happy creature.

Each piece has a tag with its name – and each one has a story that you can read in the faces if you use your imagination. Here’s “Icebound Angel” – so what’s HER story? You might not want to mess with her.

And here’s the “Messenger” – kind of androgynous? I guess they all are. Wings are non-gender specific!

Finally, here’s my fave – “Peacemaker.” Simple and serene – I may keep this one.

It’s funny how things work – I made the little earthenware “blanket” faces weeks ago  without knowing exactly what I was going to do with them. Then I got an idea from Linda Rael that turned out to be the perfect extension for the earthenware.

And when Marta announced her “bee and honey” theme, I tried beeswax and walnut ink on the exterior and it all works together beautifully. Trust the process!

PS – the cataract surgery went very very well! Thanks for the good wishes – I practically have X-ray vision now!

 

 

One-of-a kind personal cat shaman

I just finished one of my favorite projects ever – a custom Cat Shaman for a delightful person in Spicewood, Texas. She had seen the piece, above, at Marta Stafford’s Gallery. It was already sold, so she asked if I could make one for her with her own mementos. Of course! What fun!

She mailed me a box of little treasures along with handwritten notes about what each one meant to her. There were scraps of linen and suede, pins and teeth, elephants and medals.

Putting all of these precious things together in a meaningful way was a bit overwhelming, so I started at the beginning by choosing the proper earthenware cat head.

This guy looked pretty wise. I figured he could give me advice as I went along. “Trust the Process,” he said.

It was kind of amazing how things started fitting together inside the little “heart box.”

When you work with other people’s sacred objects, it can be a bit intimidating, but it’s also a privilege – I enjoyed the stories about each piece as I progressed with the assemblage. There are a lot of memories and symbols packed inside this little box!

I kept adding and subtracting and rearranging, and through trial and error, the Cat Shaman guided me through.

He’s going into his packing box today for his drive to Marta’s Marble Falls gallery – Diana, I hope you love him as much as I loved creating him! Thank you – what an honor!

Cat Shaman for Diana, Lyn Belisle 2017

Cork clay?

I saw Dale Jenssen at a Fiber Arts meeting this week and she gave me a package of Cork Clay. “Ever hear of this stuff?,” she said. I hadn’t, so I took it right home to play with it – play first, research later is my motto.

It looks for all the world like gingerbread. It has a dryish texture and can be flattened with a clay roller.

Naturally, I wanted to see how it would work in one of my earthenware face molds, so I pressed it in.

It came out easily and looked like – well . . . a cork face.

Kinda weird, but kinda interesting, so I let it dry overnight, and then sprayed it with some walnut ink to see what would happen. Yikes, it totally absorbed the ink! Looks like lava rock, but very lightweight.

Next, I tried a bit of silver wax on the surface. I think this would work well as a collage element.

Here’s what the back looks like – very cork-y!

Once the experimentation was done, I decided to see what people really use cork clay for, and discovered that its main use is as a mold or armature for Precious Metal Clay before it’s fired. The PMC is molded around the cork clay, which then burns off in the kiln. I found these photos in a London artist’s blogvery interesting!

My jeweler pals, Jan and Nancy, are probably thinking, “Well, DUH, Lyn – of course that what cork clay is for!” And if anyone else uses cork clay it for artful endeavors, tell me what you do with it.  Thanks, Dale, for the sample and the introduction to a new medium!

The heart of friendship


Carol Mylar and me in Colorado Springs

When I had a studio on Queen Anne Street back in the 90s, Carol Mylar was my studio partner. We have been the best of friends ever since, and when she moved back home to Colorado Springs fifteen years ago, part of my heart went with her. But we stay in close touch, visit in person as often as we can, and enjoy that special ESP that good friends develop. However, she was able to fool me recently in the nicest way!

“Tiny Dancer”, Lyn Belisle, assemblage 2017, original version

She had sent good luck wishes to me when my work was shown at Marta Stafford’s gallery last month. Little did I know that she and Marta had been in secret negotiation about one of the pieces called “Tiny Dancer”. Carol purchased it without telling me because she wanted to surprise me by sending me a picture of it on the wall in her Colorado Springs home.

“Tiny Dancer”, Lyn Belisle, assemblage 2017, heartless version

The sale was arranged, but when “Tiny Dancer” arrived in Colorado, she had no heart – it had fallen off and gotten lost somewhere. Carol emailed Marta at the gallery, and Marta then casually asked me if I had another little heart  –  the buyer, “Sue Smith,” said it had been lost and wanted a replacement. Fortunately, I had one heart left from in my collection of very old Mexican clay beads.

I thought it was weird that Marta asked me to send it to her rather than the buyer, but I sent the little heart to Marta in Marble Falls, and she secretly send it along to Carol.

The next week, I had a text from Carol with a photo of “Tiny Dancer” taken on the wall at her house – boy, was I surprised – I had no idea how it got there, especially since I thought somebody named “Sue Smith” from Albuquerque bought it.  When I read Carol’s message, I finally got it  – she wrote, “She lost her heart, but now it’s found. Every detail has a story. She’s beautiful!” I was so thrilled to see my work on my dear friend’s wall.

“Tiny Dancer,” happily living with Carol in Colorado

There’s a metaphor here about friends, about love and distance, about losing and finding one’s heartanyway, the story made me smile – thanks, Marta, for your part in the caper, and thanks, Carol for giving a good home to this little assemblage with the paint-brush leg and newly recovered heart! ♥♥♥

 

 

Five things that make a really great workshop

All five things were in place yesterday at the San Antonio Art League Studio where seven of us gathered to construct little folding candle screens.

On the practical side, these make wonderful adornments for a table or mantle, and they are perfect gifts.

On the creative side, the process allowed us to experiment with many different techniques. And we got to practice our measuring skills!

Here’s the list of elements that made the workshop great:

  1. Focus and limits – we focused on mixed media collage strips that were 4″x12″ to construct small folding three-dimensional screen for electronic votive lights
  2.  An engaging process with an end in mind – we worked toward the specific construction of an object while paying attention to the process of surface alteration
  3. Limited materials, unlimited possibilities – we began with two methods – one included altered magazine paper with metal leaf, and the other included torn paper images. Each method has hundreds of possibilities and combinations
  4. Generous participants – everyone was willing to share both ideas and materials. When something wasn’t working (e.g., the paper was too wet to cut) we helped each other solve the problem
  5. Reflection and practical anticipation – we celebrated when we saw our candles lighted. Each one was different. We talked about how the process could be improved, expanded, and altered, but agreed that what we had done was absolutely perfect!

When you look at the video, try to see how each of the participants found different solutions to the concept of constructing these folding collage cards. It was indeed a great workshop!

Lyn Belisle Workshop at the San Antonio Art League: Votive Candle Collage from Lyn Belisle on Vimeo.

Here’s a list of the materials we used – very simple (I don’t believe in requiring expensive specialty craft products):

  • 9×12″ construction paper or other medium weight paper
  • Two 4×12″ pieces of decorative paper
  • 4 2.5” square pieces of translucent vellum or translucent rice paper
  • Two ½” bands of contrasting paper for side trim
  • Compass or large round hole punch
  • Craft glue or double-sided tape
  • Stamps, stickers, metallic pens – whatever “de-lights” your heart
  • Small twigs, reeds or sticks (optional)
  • A battery votive tea light
  • and – voila!!

Mary Ann Johnson’s work in progress

I’ll be scheduling more workshops soon, both at the Art League Studio and at my own studio! Stay tuned, and happy fall weather in San Antonio – at last.

 

 

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Critters for Marta

Marta Stafford

One of the nicest surprises of the summer came from the amazing Marta Stafford, who invited me to be a part of her hugely popular gallery, Marta Stafford Fine Art, in Marble Falls.

This is a dream come true – I loved Marta’s gallery from the first moment I saw it six or seven years ago.She has the absolute best in mixed media, sculpture, contemporary and traditional painting, and more. Marta will represent me and my work (woohoo), and I’ll be featured in the exhibit that opens Friday, October 6th.

I need to create some nifty new work for this show, especially imaginative assemblages, so I started digging around for earthenware body parts! Heh, heh.

It’s so much fun putting my clay shards together with found objects and watching new critters emerge. Here’s the progress so far – some are not finished, as you can see – perhaps you can see where they are going? One never knows, do one?

This is a details of a piece I really like

There is actually another face underneath the one you see. Her arm moves in a sweet, spooky way – she’s about 12″ tall.

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The one below is just started, but I like the simple elegance so far.

When finished, this piece will be about 18-20″ tall

Shades of spirit dolls! This construction, below, has some hand-dyed and rusted mulberry paper.

And while I was looking for clay body parts, I found this cat head! It’s now a new Cat Shaman.

Finally, here’s one I started a couple of weeks ago and it’s finally starting to come together. It looks like some sort of ancient goddess staff.

So far, every piece is different from every other one interesting.

I plan to have a number of these assemblages as well as some paintings and collages for Marta’s opening on Friday, October 6th at the Marta Stafford Fine Arts in Marble Falls.

Thanks, Marta, for the invitation – prepare for a critter invasion! ♥

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Wednesday all-day workshop with NEISD art teachers

The workshop schedule/format at my studio has changed for a number of reasons – smaller space, my increased responsibility as president of the San Antonio Art League, and just general life changes – but I’m always happy to accommodate special groups like yesterday’s art teachers from North East ISD.

They had requested an all-day session that would give them six hours of CEU credit and jump start their school year with some new ideas for themselves and their students. We decided on a workshop that was similar to the one I taught in Provincetown. It has a little bit of everything – composition, storytelling, photo manipulation, mark-making, encaustic and collage.

We worked hard from 10-4 in the studio, and each participant created a beautiful portfolio of four five mixed media works, one of which was chosen to be matted. Want to see photos from the day’s workshop? Start scrollin’ down and see it step-by-step!

Mixed media stash ready!

We prepare the substrate by taping the edges with blue painters’ tape for a clean border

Once the composition is in place, we veil with white paint

. . .and then use an old credit card to scrape off and reveal chosen sections

Notice how the placement of the objects makes a unified composition

Some quiet work time —

First works are pinned up to the wall for discussion – lookin’ good!

Suggestions are marked up on one of the example handouts

Melissa adds her work to the critique wall

There’s a lot of good image alteration in this one

One of my favorites – subtle and painterly

Although these pieces are studies rather than finished works, they are quite lovely

After lunch, we start working with beeswax, incorporating some simple encaustic techniques

Book foil is a bright addition to the wax layer

Remember this piece from the morning session? It’s layered with beeswax.

This mixed-media collage uses family photos and letters enhanced by beeswax

You can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, and you can make art without messing up a studio!

Each person chose one piece to may and display at the end-of-class critique

This is Melissa’s strong work that you saw earlier, this time with beeswax added – notice the vertical blue line and the fantastic marks

Grizelda pulled together a lovely collage of vintage family photos and memories

S’lena’s work is perfectly balanced between image and pattern – the faint writing in the background is a secret layer of history that only she knows

Susan’s work evokes Renaissance themes . . . it’s horizontal rather than vertical

This piece is mine, and is the demo piece I did as I worked along with the others

Happy art teachers, beautiful work, and proud teacher –

I think this workshop format is perfect, at least it was for us. It worked because:

  • We had all day to really explore and immerse ourselves – we even ate lunch at the work table and discussed the process
  • Four to five people is the right number for this space – good dynamics, intimate atmosphere
  • The workshop topic had lots of structure, but also lots of room for exploration with many techniques that could be extended into individual work

This may be the new workshop model at Lyn Belisle Studio. Let me know if you have a small group who might like to spend a day with me making art.

In the meantime, I’ll be teaching a “Postcards to Myself” workshop at the San Antonio Art League on Sunday, August 29th as a fundraiser and introduction to the Art League. I’ll put the details up this weekend and post it on Monday.

Special thanks to all of the teachers who worked with me yesterday – art education is in good hands with you to guide and mentor creative kids!

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Collage play

Quinacridone Gold – the all-purpose “band-aid” for any art project, and a great color for collage backgrounds

I had some unexpected time in the studio yesterday because of the threatening  weather, so I worked on some small collages for the upcoming Beacon Hill Art Walk in Boston on June 4th.

In my mind, I knew exactly what kind of collages I was going to create, but as usual, the process took over and drove the bus, and nothing ended up as I had planned. But the results were fun.

One of the background materials I played with was Yupo synthetic paper – if you haven’t used it, it’s really almost impossible to mess up. I painted some diluted Quinacridone Gold acrylic on the Yupo, then scraped and brushed and distressed it, and wiped the paint off through some stencil shapes.

You can see this technique in the background of the collage below, called “Asian Pear.” There are layers on top of it which have been glued to squares of archival matboard to create dimension.

Here’s another “pear-with-Yupo-background” piece, below. This one is simpler, but I like the simplicity. The scrap of blue paper went on as an afterthought, and it really makes the piece. The title is “Comice.”

The next collage also has a Yupo background and features a stock photo of an amaryllis that I altered in Photoshop. Those spatters that I flicked on just happened to follow the lines of the flower stamens!

Again, it’s a very simple collage with just three layers. I use a Scotch permanent glue stick as an adhesive for most of the layers. You can even heat-set the glued layers with a warm iron and a cover sheet to super-adhere the layers.

The next two pieces are kind of a set – both include tissue paper that I printed in my inkjet printer and then layered onto the Yupo background. I added some Portfolio oil pastel marks to both of them and stamped one with “No” and one with “Yes.”

Renaissance faces continue to fascinate me as collage images, and the titles on these are “The Game #1” and “The Game #2.”

This last one might be my favorite – it has more layers than you can shake a stick at. I tried to control what went on it, then painted the whole thing white in frustration, then wiped most of that off. It got uglier and uglier.

Finally, I just let it be itself and added a “ghost bird” as a top layer and stamped the word “Caw” on it.

The layers that were created as I kept trying to rescue the thing by adding more stuff actually gave it a richness and a history. Here’s a detail:

If I had to sum up yesterday’s collage play, I’d say it was a re-affirmation of my mantra, Trust the Process. At every stage, I looked at what the piece was trying to ask for, then tried to find it – sometimes it wasn’t what I would have chosen if I had been driving the bus. But it pretty much worked. Trust the process, y’all.

PS If you want to see a very cool woman experimenting with Yupo paper, check out Miss Millie on YouTube!

 

 

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