Sometimes an artist just wants to experiment, not create something big, just have fun. In 2013, fiber artist Ellen Schiffman had many ideas and little time. So she created one small shadow-box artwork each week for a year to see where those ideas led her.
The result of that project – the 52 boxes and some of the elaborately textured wall sculptures they inspired – is on exhibit at Loomis Chaffee School in Windsor.
Schiffman of Weston used felt, silk, organza, ribbon, metallic and embroidery threads, tulle, cheesecloth and leather, enhanced with beads, buttons, tacks, eggs, pebbles, washers, skewers, straws, even a trio of little baguette magnets she picked up in France.
“It was a great year. It was really fun. There was no pressure to make anything to sell or to show,” Schiffman says. “Nothing was planned. I just started playing with materials. It was very rare when I had an image in my mind of what I wanted to make. I’d go this way, I’d go that way.”
Some of the finished products impressed her so much she followed them up with large-scale projects. Six pieces in the gallery came from her shadow-box experiment in paper-weaving. Four other wall sculptures are made with Q-tips, taking off from another shadow box.
The shadow box with the most impact on her output was made with ivory cotton twill tape. She liked her result so much she started another shadow-box series, all made from that colorless medium. Those 30 shadow boxes can be seen, as well as larger pieces that look like wedding cakes hanging on the wall. “Without color, it becomes more about the sculptural qualities, the texture, the shadows,” she says.
Not all of her 52 shadow boxes led her in a new direction.
“Those ones, I don’t know that I’ll never go near that again,” she says.
“FOLLOWING THE THREAD: INSPIRATION FROM THE 52 BOX PROJECT: ARTWORK BY ELLEN SCHIFFMAN is at the Mercy Gallery at Loomis Chaffee School, 4 Batchelder Road in Windsor, until April 16. loomischaffee.org.