Rowan Shaffer: Art Studio, Printmaking and Fiber Design

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Before coming to Bloomsburg, what was your art experience?

I had a background in arts while growing up – my mother was a landscape painter/car detailer for a period of time, and both of my grandmothers and great grandmother knew handcrafts that they passed to me. In high school, I was president of our Art Club, but no one really encouraged me to pursue art so I took matters into my own hands.

I attended community college for a few years as a psych major but switched when I realized I loved photography and art and missed doing it. Then I came to Bloomsburg and realized I would much rather do printmaking and fiber instead!

What parts of printmaking speak to you? What parts of fiber?

I love working with my hands. My dad was a mechanic and I grew up helping him work.  Printmaking fulfills the need to work with my hands and move around when making art. I also love how “hard” it feels when the final image is made – no matter what you do to the image it will always have a mechanical feel to it, even if its just in process alone. As for fiber, I have always had an affinity for it. My Gram taught me to crochet when I was little, and my great grandmother taught me to make lace. My other grandma taught me to sew. It was very intuitive for me to pick it up and incorporate it into my work. Fiber is also really “soft”, and gives off a different vibe than print. It draws you in and comforts you in a way, whatever the subject matter. Plus, I’m a pretty avid cosplayer in my free time and love any excuse to sit behind a sewing machine!

How do you combine your concentrations?

I love the play of hard vs. soft. Using things that set you back with things that draw you in creates a conflict I like to take advantage of – I want you to get close to this thing I made, but I also want you to keep your distance. It makes me give up control over the viewer and lets them take charge instead.
Right now, I’m block printing on paper and then embroidering it or stitching it with a sewing machine. Sometimes I sculpt it into a form too, which adds another level to the work itself.

What are the outside factors that affect your work?

A lot of my work deals with abuse, trauma, mental illness and dysfunctional family life. There’s been a national shift in discussion regarding these issues, and hearing people speak up about their own experiences encouraged me to do the same and start using some of my work as a healing process. A lot of my general history is incorporated in my works as well, past all the family stuff. Sometimes I incorporate gender and sexuality into it, since it is also an important issue to me.
What is the main driving force with the pieces for your upcoming show?

My show is focusing this idea of “sacrilege”, or defacing something seen as sacred. For me, this is memories. We tend to cling to memories no matter how good or bad they are, and I am working on defacing those memories as part of my healing process. In a way, it takes power away from the bad things I’ve been through and from the abuser in my life, and gives me some control over how I see my past.
Some of them also deface “good” memories, like loving memories of my great grandmother.

Rowan’s work will be exhibited in the Greenly Gallery from Feb. 28 to April 16, with a reception on March 2 from 1-3 p.m.