July 10, 2019
Breaking Through Life Transitions and Out of Creative Ruts
Lisa Sheirer is an artist, a designer, and educator living in Frederick, Maryland, United States. While she has been a professional artist for over 40 years, she is six months away from retiring as a teacher, not only navigating a life transition, but also finding herself in a creative rut and looking for new inspiration.
Lisa holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Painting and Printmaking and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Sculpture. Although she is primarily a printmaker, Lisa works in a variety of mediums, using different materials such as clay, wood, glass, found objects, and iron casting.
Her public art projects include a ceramic mural at Baltimore Washington International Airport commissioned by the Maryland Department of Transportation. She has had many solo shows and was a featured artist at the Hillyer Art Space Gallery in Washington DC.
“I needed a changing experience, something to jog me out of a creative rut I was in.”
Lisa is also a College Professor and Program Manager of Computer Graphics & Photography. In 6 months, she will be retiring from teaching. Given she is in a transition period in her life and art, she told us, “I needed a changing experience, something to jog me out of a creative rut I was in.” She was looking to work differently to see where it would take her.
Lisa loves paper in all its forms and the last time she made any was in the 1980's. She decided to go for a 2-day VAWAA to up her skills in Hand Papermaking with Helen, a visual artist and master hand papermaker, in Silver Spring, Maryland.
The Experience, told by Lisa
My experience may be a little different than most VAWAA situations. I didn't go far from home to meet up with Helen— I live only an hour away. The nice thing about living so close was that I could really concentrate on my art! I have also known Helen and her wonderful artwork for many years.
On the first day, I arrived early and everything was set up for me. I was so thankful to have the space to work, all the materials set out, and the expertise of Helen Frederick to draw on. The two interns Jayne Matricardi, and Helen Rose Binder went above and beyond to make sure I had everything I needed. They worked very hard to help me.
I became reacquainted with paper making— seeing how far I could push the medium, and it was great fun. I felt no pressure to do anything other than play. I've rarely been in situations where I had so much help and it was an appreciated luxury. Helen had accommodated my love of large art by teaching all of us how to make extra large sheets of paper. Before the day was over we all participated in making a large pink and white sheet of paper.
Leaving on that first day, I felt I had knocked the dust out of my head and my mind was swimming with possibilities as I drove home that evening.
Driving down to Silver Spring the next morning, I was inspired by the cloud formations, they were highly dramatic. Still driving I imagined a minimal series based on landscapes, both literal and metaphysical. I had a vision for how to make a series of paper sheets that were more minimal than the work I had been making in my last series. It was freeing to be able to break away from past series.
The landscape series was finished by the time I left on day two. It amazed me that I could come up with such complete ideas in two days. I'm quite pleased with the work. Of course I could not have done any of it without Helen, Jayne, and Helen Rose.
Each day we had lunch and coffee breaks together— along with a killer chocolate cake made by Jayne. Helen's house, yard and studio are lovely. Even though the first day was super hot, the trees and fans kept us all cool. I felt very welcome in Helen's house.
Helen seemed to read my mind as I worked. She gave just the right amount of advice and then let me go off and create. She was always present for questions and had plenty of examples on hand for inspiration. She kept the pacing just right for me.
Going into this studio session, Lisa was in a state of flux with her artwork— “kinda between series and ideas,” she explains. Choosing to step outside of her normal art making media loosened up her thoughts and was what she was looking for.
In two days, she brought forth brand new concepts for her art-making, creating a new series based upon past work, yet with a new twist. She accomplished 4 large scale (32”x 42”) pulp paintings (her first) and 8 smaller pulp works. She experimented with colorful sprayed, poured, and stenciled images in wet paper pulp.
Choosing to step outside of her normal art making media loosened up her thoughts and was what she was looking for.
An added plus was Helen's knowledge about the art world— her connections with other artists, residencies, and curators. During their breaks, they discussed these topics which were important to Lisa as a professional artist.
Lisa enjoyed the opportunity to stretch her visual vocabulary. In 6 months, she will be retiring from teaching and looking forward to having more time with hands on art-making, that will be freeing her a bit from the digital works she has already beautifully accomplished.
As a prominent character in the art world of her home city of Frederick, Lisa plans to go back to Helen’s studio and bring a group from the new book arts center that recently opened in her city. She’s also excited to return to create more of her own individual pieces!
Written by Lisa Sheirer and Helen Frederick.
This post has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
Vacation With Helen in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.
For more stories and new artist updates, subscribe here.