If you following my journey or know me personally, you will know by now that i have a huge passion for art and passion for those who create. So I feel so grateful, to feature today Shelly Sazdanoff who is a contemporary fiber artist and a fellow mom who also took the risk and moved across the country and built a new life here in Portland.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What you are you doing nowadays and what did you do before you moved to Portland?
I’m a 33 year old contemporary fiber artist working with handwoven linen and concrete in a very linear and minimalist way. Im married to my husband, Jeremiah, who is a director at the Portland Childrens Museum as well as a DJ who spins records and we have two children, Clemence (6) and Lennon (4).
Prior to moving here, I was an editor for a startup DIY magazine based in Phoenix.
You moved a few years ago to Portland, how did you find a community of other creative moms and women and how important it is for you to have those women in your life?
Finding that community started with social media and through the church we started attending. Both have played an important role in making those beautiful connections with like-minded and strong women and it has been so vital to be able to walk alongside each other as we all grow in our work as well as our personhood. Not having that would feel so isolating. It’s so important to build others up and be surrounded by a diversity of wisdom.
When did you start your creative endeavors and what brought you to weaving and begin selling your pieces?
I always joke that I have been a bit of a creative gypsy most of my life. I was in an indie band for a few years that toured across the country and Canada, helped open and run a small shop in downtown Phoenix, sold curated vintage clothes online and worked as an editor for a the magazine to name a few. I guess I just needed to try everything. When we moved to Portland 3 years ago I took a sort of creative sabbatical to rest in my role as a mother and get to know the city a bit. After a few months I felt the itch to work with my hands again and thought to give weaving a go. I ordered a loom, read a few tutorials and went for it. With the first piece everything clicked and I knew I had found my thing. I posted my pieces and process on social media and started receiving a good response and sale inquiries so I decided to start selling them.
What would you do differently if you would start over? What do you love the most about your work?
It has taken me a while to really hone in on my specific style. A lot of trying different things all over the spectrum but I wouldn’t change that process. It’s how I’ve learned and refined my work. The work I make now really feels like ‘me’ and is very personal and meaningful. I think I’m most proud of that. It’s a good feeling to create what you’re meant to be creating.
You work and create from home, what are pros and cons for it?
For this stage in life, with my son not quite in school yet, being able to work from home is essential for me. If my studio was in a separate location, I would not be able to be as productive as I am currently.
On the other hand, I can be a very obsessive worker which can become a challenge being at home. It takes some discipline for me to take breaks or not work for too long so that I can be an attentive mother as well-something I am constantly trying to be aware of.
Which creative women inspire you and have influence in your life?
The two biggest female artist inspirations for me are late painter, Agnes Martin, who made such beautiful linear work. I am very influenced by her.
Another female painter I highly admire,Carmen Herrera -who didn’t receive proper recognition by the art world (predominately because she was a female in a male-dominated world) until she was 100 year old but painted every day regardless and stayed true to herself. She is now 102 and has said it is “the beauty of the straight line” that keeps her going. I can completely resonate with that.
How can women better support each other in the future and simply communication?
I feel like I have been very lucky to be surrounded both in the online community and in ‘real’ life by such kind and encouraging woman who are also incredible people and artists. I think taking the time to encourage others and their work has been so important and meaningful. Receiving support from other women has made such a difference and we can’t do it enough for each other. Deep down we are all a little vulnerable and in search of community and having transparent, mature friendships that build rather than compare or tear down will only make us stronger in our lives and our work.
How is your relationship towards social media?
It is very much a vacillating one. It is a very useful tool and I would never have been able to find the art community I have found or other amazing personal connections without it. It has brought me a lot of very great opportunities and friendships. At the same time I feel like social media has added such a heavy pressure on our generation. The pressure for content, for consistency etc. I used to try and keep up with all of it but have lately gone through some disillusionment. I sometimes think about earlier generations of artists and how different it must have been for them. No one to see your process and progress unless they physically come to your studio. No instant reaction to your work or comparing how good something is based on how many people pushed the “like” button. I now feel like I am finding a healthier line somewhere. Not succumbing to feeling like I have to post something all time or keep up with it all.
What are your three favorite shops in Portland?
Where can we find pieces of your work and how can we contact you for available work collaborations, comissions ?
My website is the best way to see recent work or contact me about commissions. It’s at shellysazdanoff.com. Some of my work can also be found in person at Mantel and Woodshop Woodshop, here in Portland.
Thanks so much Shelly for sharing your thoughts with us!!