Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born in Switzerland, but spent most of my childhood between San Diego and Chicago. It was pretty disjointed — I went to 13 schools from kindergarten to high school graduation — and I became adept at piecing my surrounds together into something comforting. A skill that I’ve continued to rely on in my art. I’ve worked in several mediums which all share the commonality of piecing together bits of fabric, paper, tesserae or glass, with glass being my primary medium.
What inspired you to start working in glass?
I enjoy the combination of science and mystery. There is a place where the predictability ends and uncertainty kicks in… I love that place.
When and where did you start?
My first experience with fused glass was a three hour class at Stained Glass Garden. I was hooked. I started reading widely and looking to get my hands busy. Have not stopped.
What were your early influences?
I draw a lot of inspiration from deconstructionist traditions: Modern art movements of the first half of the 20th century. I find comfort in the clean linear applications of Calder, Stella, Mondrian, Wright. Modern, non-traditional, and classic quilting patterns. Native or “primitive” patterns in clay and tapestry. These all share a fascination with simplicity, beauty, and a deeply personal aesthetic. Like my work in glass, for each of these traditions, the media is constraining, or the artist chose strict constraints, but the goal is to piece together something genuine and engaging.
What are some of your most popular pieces?
My Carnival Contortionists series is currently my most popular — it’s fun and happy by design. People seem to almost universally like the color palette. That, with the grouping and variance of size and shapes, give them a playfulness I find appealing. (Shop some of Siobhan’s pieces here.
What are your favorite pieces to make?
My favorite pieces are those that push the medium in both flow and structure.
What are you working on now that is the most inspiring to you?
I am currently working on a series of pieces that draw on the Japanese kintsugi tradition.
In kintsugi, broken pottery is mended and improved by tracing the ruptures and scars. The goal is not to return the piece to “as new” condition; but, to show that restoration of a broken thing may exceed its initial perfection. There is a powerful lesson in the human experience there.
The idea of applying kintsugi to another “fragile” medium appealed to me immediately. The puzzle of equivalency has kept me engaged — rather than using gold leaf, which suits clay well, my approach thus far relies upon playing with contrasting opacity and color to trace and embrace the fault lines underlying the reunified object.
How do you stay motivated?
I’ve been self employed most of my life. I think I’ve developed a tremendous ability to put pressure on myself! It works against me in many ways, so I try to talk myself down, more often than not.
What is the most difficult or challenging thing about your work?
The constant quest for the “perfect” piece. In practical terms, the most challenging thing is to put the final cold working touches on very thin pieces.
What is the most rewarding thing about your work?
The viewer enjoys the pleasant discomfiture of something familiar and yet new. We have so much material in our lives, so much more color and variety than just 100 years ago. It lulls us into a complacency; glass windows, bowls, plates, pint glasses… When my work connects with a viewer, that connection reawakens a childlike fascination with the magic of color and motion and solidity of glass work.
For me, the most rewarding bit is the work and its occasional satisfaction. I enjoy the planning and the execution, and on rare occasion, the feeling that I got it just right — that my imagination and execution and the luck all came together.
Where is your studio and what does it look like?
My studio is at home. Most days it is full of projects in process all over the place. It starts in my garage and expands out into the backyard and down into the basement.
What is the most common question people ask you, and what do you tell them?
“How do you say your name?” I say, “Sha-von”. 🙂
What do you like to do when you are not in the studio?
I spend time with my husband, daughter, dogs and friends. I like to grow vegetables, hike, travel and just chill.
How do you manage the work/life juggle?
I multitask…a lot!