Shannon Weber's woven art is featured at Rowboat Gallery in Pacific City. Weber was weaving at Rowboat recently, answering questions about her art.
The following Q & A is excerpted from an interview with Weber.
Q: Shannon Weber, your work is fantastic. I mean that in the true sense of the word: conceived by an unrestrained imagination; odd and remarkable; extravagantly fanciful; capricious. What is the genesis of your work? Were you an artist as a child?
A: As a child I spent a lot of time alone. I was really fascinated with rocks and sticks and feathers. And that's pretty much what my work is about; it's a grown up version of a child's collection. I drive my husband crazy with my collections. I have piles of things all over the house. Right now, it's pods. I have these gorgeous magnolia pods. And I always have piles of rocks. I think that rocks are the oldest things we have living on the planet, next to water, and they have so many things to tell us. They carry all the history, not only of the evolution of the planet, but the people, the animals, the trails we've walked on, they've seen it all.
The birth of my work... Thirty years ago I was running a remote fishing lodge on the southern Oregon coast, way, way up on the Rogue River. I was there with my husband and our two small children, no TV, no radio, no video games, wild weather, deep snow; I got mail maybe once or twice a week. In the off-season there were no other people at all. We were two hours from Coos Bay, which was the nearest thing to civilization. People think I'm joking when I say it was like The Shining, (she laughs).
I started weaving to keep myself sane. I needed a creative outlet, work I could do in isolation. People have called me a "green artist," because I work with natural materials and found objects. But the fact of the matter is, I came to weaving because I was living in the wilderness and that is what I had to work with. There was no art store. When I needed something I learned to make do, or substituted something else.
I have always been a naturalist in my own biosphere. I spend my time wandering around outside, being amazed by nature. I collected barks, willows, native grasses, whatever I could find and I learned to weave. I went straight from learning how to do something, to Boom! I was an artist. I haven't planned any of this. My life as an artist has it's own wheels.
Q: You weave extraordinary objects, such as colorful spheres, tornados, ghostly ships, altars. When you begin a new piece of art, do you know what it will become? Or does it develop in your hands?
A: Yes and no. I am working in two different themes, almost two genres, except they're both woven. When I'm working with colored material, it comes from a silly, light place of fun, based on a lot of silly songs from the 60's and 70's. The Wizard of Oz, that kind of cheeky humor. Those pieces, (such as enormous, brilliantly colored balls) involve many, many layers of weaving. Each layer is painted with acrylic paint, and has to be dried before I add another layer. Those pieces take between 21 and 45 days to complete, depending upon size, working 8 to 10 hours per day. When I start a piece, I more or less know what I am going for.
But earthwork, (the other genre Weber works in), there's a lot of intellectual play that goes into that. I'm using collected materials, found objects, I'm thinking about where it was, and what I can do with it. I am the vehicle, and not the driver. When you're working with natural materials, they have their own thought about what they want to be. Sometimes you can coax them along, but it serves no purpose to fight with the material. It serves a purpose to have a dialog with the material.
The cool thing to me is to find a collector who has followed my career over thirty years, maybe they have ten pieces of my work over a span of time. I look at some of my early work and I wonder, wow, what was I thinking about when I made that? You're creating things from a place of passion, and then you have to let them go.
Q: What does the creative process feel like?
A: When you're on, you're on, and you don't want to do anything else, you don't want to stop, don't want to eat, you're just in the moment while it's happening, and you don't want to be anywhere else. Then it can just shut off. It really is like someone is talking to me when I'm working. I am listening. What I hear is like a song that plays on a loop until I'm done.
Q: How has your art taken care of you over the years?
A: I recently got TV after not having TV for thirty years; it's really frightening to me that people are watching this stuff all the time. I get a lot of crap for not having a cell phone. But I don't need to have my life filled with machines. I need to have my life filled with nature. Profound thoughts have been triggered through doing this work: Who are we? Why are we here? What are we doing? I am listening to sticks and rocks. What would happen if everyone turned off their TV/cell phone/Blackberry/iPod and went outside and listened? What would be the result if we turned off the noise? I'm trying to get there. I hope I'll be able to tell you.
Shannon Weber is a northwest Oregon artist. Her work is in many public and private collections across the U.S. and overseas and has garnered several awards. It has been seen and written about in both regional and national publications. Weber was recently featured on OPB's Oregon Art Beat. Her work can be seen at Rowboat Gallery in Pacific City and at shannonweber.com