Sandy Takashima Shaw, Santa Cruz Artist

I had the pleasure of meeting Sandy Takashima Shaw, a kind and generous artist.

DECEMBER 13, 2017 from DISCOVERHER blog
Sandy Takashima Shaw sees art as a springboard for conversation. A lifelong painter, she studied fine art while majoring in business. She’s half Japanese and grew up in Ohio, so after graduating she moved to Japan to learn more about her heritage. She then traveled around Asia before moving to San Francisco to work as a marketing manager in the technology industry. After years of painting in the evenings, Sandy was able to quit her day job, travel the world and paint: her dream.

Now she lives in Aptos with her family, paints while the kids are at school, shows in galleries around the U.S., teaches art and does commissions for corporate clients (the SF Google office is her most recent). She still travels annually with her family to surfing destinations. AND, fun fact, she’s also a certified life coach!

Known for her vibrant, mixed media acrylics featuring hundreds of translucent layers of paint, Japanese rice paper and ink, Sandy’s main goal is to be completely authentic in her personal expression. She weaves a narrative throughout each series, with the intent that ultimately, her art stimulates meaningful connection. This can take the form of internal connection as well as an interpersonal dialogue. Some pieces uplift and inspire joy, while some ask the observer to pause and reflect, and some challenge the viewer to look at things from a new perspective.

“My goal as an artist is to create art to ignite positive social impact, thoughtful conversation, and meaningful connection.”

In her newest series, the ‘AND’ series, each painting represents an issue in our current political, social and cultural landscape. The word ‘and’ (or &) is prominently featured in each, always brightly illuminated.

Following the election of Donald Trump, Sandy took to her studio seeking healing. “I was filled with fear, upset, and mistrust with our world leaders.” As she began painting, spilling black tears and blood over a map of the world, she thought, “How can the world heal?”

“I believe the concept of the word ‘and’ is healing. It represents ideas such as inclusivity, acceptance, collaboration and it is expansive… The enlightened ‘AND’ is an invitation for the viewer to take a moment to step out of the chaos and feelings of despair to open their minds and embrace the ‘AND’ mindset. What possibilities and solutions exist that have yet to be explored? Is there a way we can bridge our differences? Is there a middle ground?”

Out of this series, the idea was born to create an ‘Art Inspired’ Salon, bringing people together to “think about positive actions we can take in our lives to create the world we want.” She holds the event at her studio, where attendees come together to enjoy bites, beverages and conversation, study the series on display and discuss their findings.

“I believe that if we stay optimistic that positive change is possible, we will be more motivated to take personal action, both small and large, to make the world a more compassionate and kinder place.”

Sandy has now held four ‘Art Inspired’ salons, which debuted at the last Open Studios. Her next one will be on February 3, showcasing the ‘AND’ series, and YOU are invited! “It will be an engaging evening of artful conversation and meaningful connection… with delicious appetizers, wine and non-alcoholic mocktails.” Tickets are $40 in advance, AND she is offering a special price for the Discover HER tribe: a whole 50% off the ticket price! Just use the promo code: DISCOVERHER50.

She says, “The time has come for feminine leadership to rise and heal our country and world.” Thanks, Sandy! We look forward to joining in the discussion.

Current and Upcoming Events

October 1, 2017 – September 30, 2018

Resilient and Revived, from the Black Heart Sculpture Series

Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History

The Chamber of Heart and Mystery Exhibit

January 5 – February 4, 2018

Spoken/Unspoken Juried Exhibit

Santa Cruz Art League

Reception: February 2, First Friday, 6:00-8:00pm

February 8 – March 17, 2018

Amy Ahlstrom,Urban Quilter

Welcome to Arc Studios News! This newsletter features events and activities of artists, nonprofit professionals and micro business owners that are part of the creative community at Arc Studios & Gallery 1246 Folsom Street San Francisco.

Arc Studios & Gallery
Arc Studios News September 2017
This month Arc Studio News features artist Amy Ahlstrom who works out of studio #206.

A Conversation with Amy Ahlstrom                
by Sherri Cornett

As a child, riding the train to Chicago from her home in Waukegan, through the poorest and richest neighborhoods, past burnt-out, abandoned buildings and the fanciest of shops, urban quilter Amy Ahlstrom was instilled with a love of cities and their diverse, visual richness.

At the age of five, Amy already felt compelled to draw and sew, inspired by old National Geographic magazines and, her big obsession, Charles Schulz’ Peanuts. After getting her MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), Amy spent ten years as a cartoonist and then as a graphic designer. “Making comics, which was essentially creating mini-compositions in boxes, really strengthened my design ability in general.” She describes herself as an “image-making machine,” an analogy backed up by her numerous brightly colored, quilted works, which often become historical records of city neighborhoods.

SC: Amy, I can imagine you as a young girl, face glued to the window of the train, taking in all that is passing by. How have those earlier years in Chicago influenced living in San Francisco?

AA: I still Iove to ride any sort of public transit to anywhere I’ve never been before. Sometimes I’ll just get off a bus or train and explore a new place. When I lost my job as a designer during the first tech boom, I had no money but I did have a Muni pass, and I rode every train and bus. Even now I have every bus route number memorized. It was really cheap entertainment!

SC: These perambulations are so evident in your art. Would you tell me about your medium and process?

AA: Most of my work is urban quilting, in which I use samples of hundreds of photos I take of found imagery from city streets – graffiti, signage and sticker art – to design my quilts. I’m inspired by seeing anything new, whether it’s a patch of sidewalk or a new mural in a back alley. My style is greatly influenced by pop art, graphic design, and street art, and this is reflected in the images I choose and the way that I create compositions.

I will typically bring 6-8 images into Adobe Photoshop, where, similar to a DJ, I sample, add, subtract, change color and scale, resample and change again. Then I design the quilt full-scale, create paper patterns to cut by hand from silk and cotton and fuse these together to form the quilt top. I quilt free-motion, in that I move the fabric under the needle of the sewing machine to create patterns. It’s very similar to drawing with brush and ink; if you sew too quickly or too slowly the line quality suffers.

SC: I notice that most of the people you portray in your quilts are women. Is that a deliberate choice?

AA: Yes. Last fall I began developing a new series of portraits of women, and they are both text-heavy and more political in nature. Lately I have been creating what I call a “double reverse portrait”, in which I make a portrait twice but flip the second panel
so they are mirror images. It is fun and challenging to try to make a second quilt that is a reversed “copy” or something that evokes a screen print, in that these are made by hand and so they can never be duplicated perfectly. I exhibited the first two double portraits at Arc’s “Resistance” show that ran from July 22 until August 12.

SC: What would you like viewers to go away with from your art?

AA: I want to challenge the idea of what a quilt can be. For me, it is just as natural to make art from fabric as it is to draw on paper. That’s partly why I stretch my quilts over canvas and frame them. That said, I am first and foremost a quilter and that’s why I don’t cover the quilts with glass. I want the viewer to slowly realize that they are looking at a quilt.

I love when someone sees my art for the first time and instinctively gets what it is that I’m trying to do conceptually. It’s even more meaningful when a viewer goes deeper and wants to talk about why I do what I do. It’s one of the reasons I really enjoy participating in Open Studios and why I am currently the co-chair of the Open Studios Committee for ArtSpan in San Francisco. They give me more opportunities for meaningful interactions.

SC: Was there a moment when these interactions were particularly rewarding?

AA: During a residency at the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, I had asked the community to send me pictures- of themselves, their neighborhood, and the places they loved- to be considered for inclusion in a quilt. At the opening one of the people depicted in a quilt, a local singer, showed up with her whole family. It was so wonderful to meet all of the people connected to the images and to see them along with art that I created. It was the inspiration for my new portrait series.

SC: And finally, what is it like to have your studio at Arc and be part of the Arc community?

AA: Arc is really a kind and supportive family of artists and partners. There is a great vibe in the space. Each show and opening brings an entirely new crowd and opportunities to open my studio and interact with folks. The partners who run Arc are truly dedicated to having Arc be a destination for art, artists, and the art-loving community. I appreciate all of the hard work that goes into making this place hum and I love the history here.

Amy Ahlstrom’s website is
Sherri Cornett is a curator, consultant and artist living in Billings, Montana.

Amy Ahlstrom, Double Diamond     

Studio Art Quilt Associates: Featured Artist: Maria Shell

Maria Shell is an inspiration  to artists around the world.

SAQA Featured Artist: Maria Shell

Maria Shell

Maria Shell  Anchorage, Alaska

Artist Statement

Since 2011, I have been working in a series called Colors Grids. This has been a very satisfying explo-ration of patchwork as art. I love to layer pattern on top of pattern. Essentially, I am piecing, with my sewing machine, my own prints. These quilts are modern day tapestries of color, pattern, repetition, and stitch.

According to Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns, my Color Grid quilts are inspired by and related to the following quilt blocks–The Red Cross Quilt, Stone Mason’s Puzzle, City Streets, Squares and Square, and my favorite, Crossed Square.

Limiting the structure of my work to the traditional quilt block has allowed me to go deep into color and print. How do I get color to vibrate? How do I get a self made print to read against another self made print? How can I stitch these elements together so that the viewer sees not only hundreds of scraps of fabric but also the SUM–the whole as greater than its parts? What would happen if a traditional bed quilt ate a healthy dose of psychedelic mushrooms? Those are the questions I am trying to answer.

Vintage and contemporary commercial solid and print cotton fabrics, as well as hand dyed cotton textiles I have created are the materials I use in my work. These textiles are improvisationally and ruler cut and then stitched into a two dimensional surface. Once I create this pieced canvas, I spend hours on my long arm quilting machine stitching the top to cotton or wool batting and a fabric backing. The final step is to bind or face each individual piece.

TRIBE © Maria Shell

Beyond my love of the process of making a quilt—the hours of stitching, designing, ironing, and cutting—I am also a fierce advocate of the quilt as a legitimate art form. Many art quilters shy away from the word quilt and work actively to bury any references to the tradition in their work. They use the materials and techniques of the quilt while publicly denying its ancestry, preferring instead to align themselves with mediums more easily recognized as fine art—painting and photography, in particular.For years I have stood alone on this issue. My friends would say, don’t call yourself a quilter—there is so much baggage there! And I would say that is the point, but it is not baggage—it is a tradition and a history, and I stand on the backs of those who went before me with the hopes of moving this craft into new territory that celebrates the past while simultaneously embracing the future.

What makes me happiest is to create the most wacky colorful beautiful quilted compositions I can and then share them with the world.


SAQA: When did you begin making art with fabric? Do you work in other media as well?

SHELL: I started stitching when I was four years old. My mother let me use old clothing, and I made all kinds of things in the way that children do—stuffed animals and dolls, handbags, and pillows. I did not have sewing patterns or fancy fabric. So, I went at creating with what I had. My mother promised me a sewing machine when I turned ten, and I held her to it.

I think of myself as a maker whose primary medium is cloth and stitch. There is something about working with these materials that makes me feel good about myself and the world.

Dance Party at Tamara’s House © Maria Shell

I am obsessed with daily art projects. Last year for Project Every Day, I wore only clothing I had made for an entire year. Every day my youngest son would take my photo in the same place—the dirt road we live on. I would then post that image on Instagram. Right now, I am very intrigued by paper collage. I started with cough drop wrappers. Every day, I add a new material (usually paper) into that day’s composition. As I run out of a particular material it disappears from the compositions. I have been posting a new piece every day on Instagram. I am not particularly good with mixed media, but I am loving the journey.SAQA: What inspires you?

SHELL: I am constantly inspired by pattern, repetition, color, and the traditional quilt block

SAQA: Have any artists or art movements influenced your work?

SHELL: I think of my work as hard edge painting made with stitch and fabric. The Hard-edge painting style is related to Geometric Abstraction, Op Art, Post-painterly Abstraction, and Color Field painting. Some of my favorite artists are Frank Stella, Josef Albers, Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin, and Bridget Riley.

SAQA: What techniques and materials do you use?

SHELL: I am about as old school as you can get. I always say we piecers do three things—we cut, we stitch, and we press. I use a ruler, and I don’t use ruler. I use vintage and contemporary cotton textiles and hand dyed fabrics. I stitch on a Bernina 640, and I quilt on a Gammill Classic Plus.

SAQA: Where do you create?

SHELL: I have two studios. The main studio is in our home in Anchorage. My husband has built fabric and quilt storage all around the room—it is a highly functional space. I have two sewing centers—one is an old desk where my Bernina lives, the other is a long arm quilting machine. On the front of the studio is an L-shaped cutting station with a view of our front yard.

My second studio is very primitive. It is the back half of an old garage which is attached to our dry cabin in McCarthy, Alaska. There are holes in the walls where the summer breezes comes through, and it is totally powered by the sun. It also has a huge design wall.

SAQA: How do you reconcile the art-making and business sides of your creative life?

To Agnes Martin, with Color © Maria Shell

SHELL: I spend at least half of my time: teaching; writing blogs, lectures, and grants; using social media, and connecting with people via phone and email. I like to get that work done first and then I can go into the studio. If I start with the studio, I have a very hard time quitting and moving into office, but I never have a problem quitting the office work and moving into the studio!SAQA: Have you published in art-related media?

SHELL: C&T is publishing my first book this year. It is called Improv Patchwork: Dynamic Quilts Made with Line & Shape. You can preorder the book here.

I did a short interview for the Quilt Show at the 2016 International Quilt Festival and I am taping a longer episode in August of this year.

I am also part of the SAQA video Stitching Together a Global Community.

SAQA: What are you working on now? What’s next?

SHELL: I just received a fellowship from the Rasmuson Foundation to create 12 new large pieces based on the curved quilt block called Flowering Snowball. I have done a lot of linear work over the last five years, and I am very much looking forward to this new challenge.

I have joined a new small art group called Cloth in Common, and I will be producing new work based on challenges suggested by the members.

Project Every Day—the project where I wore only clothing I have made for an entire year—is moving into the next phase. I am hoping to make a stop action flip book style movie and a series of 12 quilts composed of the remains from the clothing.

I will also be having a solo show at Hello Stitch in Berkeley, California in November & December of 2017.

View more of Maria Shell’s work on her website and SAQA Juried Artist Member profile.

Connect with Maria Shell on Instagram and Facebook, and subscribe to her Blog.

Alice Beasley, fiber artist

Upcoming exhibitions for Alice Beasley.
Come See the Gator in Chief
Exhibit: June 3 – June 28,2017
5327 Jacuzzi St., Suite 3-C
Richmond, CA 94804
Opening Reception: June 4 from 1 to 4 p.m.
In this solo exhibition, I’ll be exhibiting several works never seen in the Bay Area before including “Feeding Time at the Swamp” and my “Undercurrents” series of underwater ballets.
Last Chance
The Neuw Politic: Artists Explore closes at the Petaluma Arts Center
on May 20.  Artists from throughout northern California give their take on the current political scene.  My quilt “No Vote No Voice” was named first prize winner.
“No Vote, No Voice,” quilt, 60″ x 36″

Now through May 20
Petaluma Arts Center

230 Lakeville St.
Petaluma, CA
Dynamic Diversity: Quilts by African American Artists
This show opens at the Texas Quilt Museum from June 29 through October 1.  My piece, “A Kiss Goodbye” will be among those exhibited.  Other artists include Marion Coleman, Carolyn Crump, Michael Cummings, Michele David, Valerie Goodwin, Carolyn Mazloomi, Dindga McCannon, Valarie Poitier, Frances Porter and Sidnee Snell.
“A Kiss Goodbye”, 59″ x 44″
June 29 through October 1
140 West Colorado
La Grange, TX 78945
National African American Quilt Conference
Lawrence, Kansas will be the host city for the first National African American Quilt Conference. In conjunction with the convention, the Lawrence Arts Center will be presenting a group exhibition of six quilters.  I am delighted to be showing “I Always Try to Keep an Open Mind” along with several works at this exhibit.
“I Always  Try to Keep an Open Mind”, quilt 56″ x 48″
July 12 through August 19
940 New Hampshire St.
Lawrence, KS 66044
Reception: July 28, 5 to 9 p.m.
More Shows Coming
I have additional exhibits coming up this summer and fall including “Blood Line” which will have its first local exhibition this fall at the Harrington Gallery, Pleasanton, CA.  So stay tuned.
Visit my website:
Fybrart, 1018 Park Lane, Oakland, CA 94610