Shannon Weber – All things wild and lost
Self taught artist Shannon Weber has been making woven objects and mixed media sculpture for over 28 years. Her organic textile art is known for the use of unusual collected materials such as Pacific coastal debris and sea kelps. Shannon lives in Cottage Grove, Oregon where she keeps a full time studio.
In this article by Shannon, we find out about her processes, her drive to collect things and how spending much of her life living on water has influenced her work.
Inspiration, imagination and influence
I came onto the planet attuned to watching nature and collecting lost forgotten objects. I spent every minute I could in the outdoors during my childhood – I would be riding my bike or playing along the river. These were times when you were free to roam and no one came looking for you during the day.
I would spend hours on end outside building forts, talking to rocks and climbing trees. I recall spending a lot of time at my aunt’s farmhouse where she had huge gallon glass jars of red buttons. She would give me a jar with a needle and thread and I would sit for hours sorting and stringing. She also allowed me to keep my collections from nature, whereas my mother would throw them out. Many years later when she was getting ready to pass she said to me, “You have always been an interested and curious child and I think one day you will make wonderful things”.
Well I did in fact go on to find myself performing some interesting work. One of my first jobs was working in a commercial rose house where every kind of rose you could think of was grown in these huge hothouses. Row after row of beautiful roses. You would cut arm loads of long stems roses of every color, with a tight bud or just a few flutters of open petals, that would be packed and shipped all over the world.
A drive to collect things
That moved into working with high end floral design and then a foray into filing Health Insurance claims until I was married and living with my husband and two babies at a vintage fishing lodge on the Rogue River in Southwest Oregon. It was there that any free time I had I was spent talking to and messing around with every grass, willow, feather or fishing tackle debris I could find with my tots in tow. For some reason I was just driven to collect things.
Then I started making various objects and vessels with my accumulated materials. Soon, folks started to notice and ask questions. They wanted to buy my vessels and they wanted to learn how they could do what I was doing. Since we were located so far up the river in a remote village and I still had small children, I had people come and stay for days with us. I would take them into the marshes and along the river to gather rushes, willow, and roots and show them what could be done with their bounty. And so it goes today that I can show what to do with a grownups version of a child’s magic collection and stash of all things wild and lost.
Chosen Medium, Techniques, Process and Environment
I choose to work in a tactile focus because I love to touch things and create movement both in 2D and 3D formats. I am fearless when it comes to choice of materials. I don’t need to buy many things from the art store as I am more of a hunter/gatherer type of person.
I do in fact need thread, needles, paper, and paint, but mostly I gather and collect everything I work with. I am self taught in which I find to be a huge gift. It allows me to work things out, free of restrictions, where I am open to throwing everything at the wall and if it does not work then I can just try something else.
While I work every day I am not a production artist. It sometimes can take months to finish a piece and I am known to weave and stitch a lot of pieces and then put them all together. If a material is new to me, or to add interest in my designs, I will pound it with a hammer or rock, set it on fire, boil it, tear it up and put it back together. In order to know how far you can push your material you have to test the waters so to speak. I am known for the unique choices of materials I use such as Pacific coastal debris and sea kelps and the deep layering and mixing of stitching and weaving, both with nature, color designs, and reclaimed formats.
Raw organic collected materials
I spend a great amount of time in a conversational dialog with pieces being made. Working with raw organic collected materials has its own challenges and delights. You’re working with materials that have their own mythologies of growing, being tossed onto a beach, lost, or part of the earth like rocks. I use a lot of rocks in my work, mostly beach stones and a fair amount are hand stitched together then hand stitched onto or in something else.
I am very proficient and intuitive at this method and it is a signature design in my work. I have been doing it for 28 years. But I love stitching, weaving, and laying things together like beach plastics, fish bones, reclaimed metal and wire, which can be 3-7 layers in a piece. If I can’t weave it I will find a way to stitch it in. There is no use of glue in any of my work.
Other noted designs are my boats, caged works and totems which are a reflection of much of my life living on water, both rivers and the ocean in remote places in Oregon. This is a huge muse that moves my work. While I have a studio and work in there on and off, I chose to work mainly outside in the sun, wind, and rain. Even in the dark sometimes. It keeps me in close touch with my materials and the surroundings.
A lot of my work is about a séance of place. What I really love is working at a location, flat in the middle of nowhere. Alone. Just me, the sky, the beach, with grass blowing all around in the wind. That’s who I am, simple. I don’t carry a cell phone, don’t own a television, and I have an old fashioned, real vintage, Gumby toy phone you can call me on. If I don’t pick up the message says ‘We’re out having fun!’ in which most times we are.
Artists I Admire and Advice to those starting out
I admire artists that are ‘original’ in their thought and process of any given medium, too many artists I see seek out to do another’s work or are afraid to break the bounds of what they were taught in art school. Those who are brave and insightful enough to blaze their own trails excite me and inspire me.
Why would you want your work to look like someone else’s? It’s flat lazy. The world is waiting to be inspired by your works. Don’t be afraid to be you. Thrill us with your work! We are waiting for your designs.
I have had two health issues that have knocked me off the map with my work, both issues stealing a few years each of my creative life and just life in general. I have been told I would never do things like I used to or not at all. It just pushes me and makes me work harder. I have so much passion with my work it’s such a part of everything I am.
Where To Be Seen
‘Layers’ Kavanagh Gallery
Sept 5 – October 11 2015
St. Charles, IL USA
‘Making it in Crafts II Invitational’ Art Museum of Greater Lafayette
Sept 28 – Dec 28 2014
Lafayette, IN USA
‘Poetry Bleeds Rust’ National Association of Women Artist
Oct 1-30 2014
80 Fifth Ave Suite 1405 New York, NY USA
‘4th Annual National Encaustic/Wax Exhibition’ Encaustic Art Institute
Oct 4 – Nov 2 2014
Cerrillos, NM USA
‘Sitka Center Art Invitational’ Sitka Center for Art & Ecology
Nov 7-9 2014
Port Angeles Art Center
Solo Exhibit March 27- May12 2015
Port Angeles, WA
July 30 – Aug 25 2015
Northern California Weavers Conference
April 9-12 2015
Asilomar on Monterey Bay, CA
Mendocino Art Center
April 15-17 2015
When Fiber Meets Wax
For further information please visit: www.shannonweber.com