We’re back with an incredible artist whose body of created works include thoughtful graphics and illustrations in the forms of handmade cards, brooches, hand-sewn dolls and more. Shannon Buck is not only inspired by the role of a being a Mom, her bountiful life in the Pacific Northwest but also by some tried-and-true practices of the old-world methods of traditional art making. Loaded Hips Press is based out of Portland, Oregon. It is owned and operated by the lovely, Shannon Buck.
Could you tell me a little about your background? Could you tell us a little bit about your journey to becoming an artist (and claiming that title, which can often be hard for people)?
I’m originally from California transplanted to the south so I always felt a little out of place. Making art filled the times I felt isolated. I considered myself an artist by age six. I just knew it was what I wanted to do. It felt natural but what was hard for me was learning how to deal with other people that did not look at it as a way of life.
For those of our readers who may not be familiar with your stunning work, how would you describe it to them?
I tell stories with blocks of color.
When did you start making linocuts and using the letterpress? Are you self-taught or were you taught how to create works in this style?
I started print making in general while working at arts supply store. There was an etching press in the back that belong to another artist. The owner of the store showed me how to use it and I started by scratching my drawings in plastic and filling them with etching ink in order to print them. It totally blew my mind!
I didn’t go to school until later on. I eventually studied print making and we were taught specifically what the masters did with etchings and aquatints. Both of these require special equipment and facilities. But I wanted to do print making at home. So lino cuts are easier because the supplies are readily available at an art supply store. You can even print with the back of a spoon and you don’t even need a special press.
Letter press came separately, and I learned this from other printers that had started a community print store. I figured out who I needed to talk to and a whole world of old school printers opened up. They were eager to pass on their knowledge and they gather in groups all across the country. It is, unfortunately, a dwindling community so it feels even more important to me to carry on their traditions. I have to continue sharing their skills.
What inspired you to become an artist and from where do you draw inspiration? Your prints and illustrations are colorful, graphic and seem to center on the process of making – but what themes would you say inspire your work? Do you have a favorite subject matter?
I’m really inspired by books. I loved reading as a child. But I struggled as a writer myself. Then I discovered poetry and began looking at art in a different form. That’s when I started looking at visual art differently. To me art is another form of poetry. You get some of the parts right away when the images are presented to you, but you pick up clues that artist has left you to take it to another level. I guess, my themes are short stories. I make up worlds and characters that I want to see. Letterpress bridges the gap between letters and words. Because the letterpress is primarily used for printing words.
So, I just wanted to touch on the beginning of your art career. Did you go to school anywhere? Are you a self-taught artist?
I started off self-taught and didn’t pursue art school until much later. I study printing making at PSU and took a lot of advance drawing class at PNCA. A lot of my education also took place outside of those institutions.
You’re also a full-time Mom! How does being a mother influence your art – whether in terms of content or process or just the logistics of balancing the two roles? Do you have any advice for anyone out there who struggles to dedicate time to everything that you need to?
I’m so glad you are asking about this! Yes! My son is ten now. So, I have WAY more freedom to pull this all off. It really matters that he grows up seeing me work on the thing that I love. He’s met other working artists and sees the efforts that they put into making. And now, at times, he can be my collaborator. When he was younger, our family had some unexpected events unfold that required me to take my focus off making my art business succeed and at the time, I felt I just wasn’t myself.
But now in hindsight, I see the experience as being necessary and my work is stronger because of it. Our society does not honor moms to the extent that we should. We aren’t always given the privilege to be the mom we imagined. I would say, your success with balancing out your personal goals, is spending time with your little ones, whatever that time might look like for your family. It can change, you can always take a break. It will be there when you get back.
What’s a favorite piece you’ve created and why?
I did a series of linocuts called ‘Intersection’. Closer to the size and detail that I wish all of my work could have. But they were also very time consuming for little profit. They center around Portland landscapes that have seen rapid over development or racial tensions or both. If I had the freedom, I would finish that series.
How (if at all) has social media had an impact on you as an artist?
It’s diverted a lot of my time and energy away from making things. But at the same time, it’s also connected me to a lot of other people in meaningful way. It’s a tool that an artist would be foolish not to take advantage of but that doesn’t mean I always have to like it.
What is it that you hope people can see or feel through your art?
Yeah, Well, when we were young, we listened to our imaginations. As we aged, we grew hard and more cynical and over worked. Art can take us back to that wonderful place and I want my work to help you get there.
Can you tell us a little about your renewable and sustainable environmental practices?
Most of my supplies are second hand from other print shops. It really matters to me that I reuse them and keep them out of the landfill. I always use 100 % recyclable or has a highly recyclable content. All the plastic I use are plant based and compostable.
What advice do you have for other female-identified business owners and independent artists?
Don’t hesitate to connect with one another. I’ve gotten to know some strong small business ladies. We don’t always agree but we are stronger when we collaborate.
Who is an inspiration to you at this time in your life?
A series of portraits of ladies that inform my work. It includes artists, musicians, authors. A list around 100. I’ve completed 7 portraits. But honestly, I’d have to say that right now, in this moment, it’s Nancy Pelosi. She has the hardest job and is loathed by so many. But she is showing up and that is so powerful.
Anything else you would like to share?
I wouldn’t be where I am if others weren’t generous with their time so show me how to do things. While business related or techniques. It’s so important we help each other. We are part of this bigger thing that is beyond what we can imagine.