Hayley Sheldon is a multidisciplinary artist focusing on tactility and color. Her current body of work utilizes a vocabulary of shapes made by sewing directly into wood frames until the fibers create a translucent color field effect. She strives to blur the boundaries between contemporary, minimalist art and woven, fiber-based handicrafts, speaking to the viewer through the universal language of color and form. Her work finds inspiration and pays homage to the natural world, simultaneously giving a defined physical presence to amorphous ideas surrounding joy, loss, tenderness and distant memory. Sheldon is drawn to the meditative quality found in repetitive movement and gravitates towards this kind of creative process.
ConsiderBeyond: What first drew you to the materials you primarily work with, and what role do they play in your artistic expression?
Hayley Sheldon: I had grandmothers and great grandmothers on both sides who were very creative and were inspiring makers to me from a young age. My grandmother on my mom’s side had a full woodshop, and I used to be in awe of the huge tools, while almost all the others were skilled in textile craft. When I went to art school I worked primarily in drawing and printmaking and didn’t start to incorporate more tactile methods into my practice until much later. Now that I primarily use fibers and wood, it does feel like I hold a connective tether to those women in my family, which is extremely grounding.
ConsiderBeyond: Given your history with interior design, how do you see the relationship between your art pieces and the spaces they inhabit?
Hayley Sheldon: I think the feel of a room and the feel of an art piece can play off of and inform one another. Because of this, when developing commissions, I like to see images of the space where the piece will live, and try to get a sense of how I can make something that will thrive in that space. The art will always hold its own, but it will be viewed through the veil of the space it inhabits. Art can be such a powerful tool in shifting an environment and the mood that is set therein.
ConsiderBeyond: Do you have any favorite projects or pieces that are particularly meaningful to you? Can you share the story behind them?
Hayley Sheldon: Shortly after my grandmother passed away, I made a piece titled “Sally Daylily Cloud.” It helped me put some core memories of her, the land where she lived, and the reality that my connection to both of those things had dramatically changed with her passing, into a therapeutic, tangible form. My favorite pieces are not necessarily the largest in scale or the most ambitious, but they tie me to the memories of loved ones.
ConsiderBeyond: Your work is often associated with a sense of calm and serenity. Is there a particular routine or mindset you adopt when creating your art?
Hayley Sheldon: My work is made in phases. It really all starts with noticing. I try to be very aware of my inner thought life and moments in my day-to-day that might hold a particular resonance or conjure strong memories or feelings. With introspection, I can begin to notice certain themes or feelings that I would like to use as inspiration for a new collection of work. From there, I play with shapes and colors until the mood and tone of their combinations align with those original points of inspiration. When I am in a particularly stressful or anxiety-ridden season, I go through this same process, but then also try to infuse elements into a composition that feel more aspirational than where I am at the moment: stillness, balance, levity, joy. By adding these attributes to the work, I am, in a sense, willing them into existence. It almost feels like throwing a lifeline out to myself, and through the making process, I can bring myself into a calmer state.
ConsiderBeyond: Is there a pivotal moment or a turning point in your career that helped define your artistic journey?
Hayley Sheldon: I really credit having children with changing the trajectory of how I thought about my work. When I had my first daughter almost 9 years ago, I was feeling physically and mentally drained. I loved being a mom but there was a huge learning curve for me in understanding how to fill myself up creatively and protect my time. Out of necessity, I became really good at saying “no” to things that I felt didn't serve me and “yes” to things that could fill me up creatively, despite having less personal and studio time than I had previously. Motherhood can be a great lesson in setting boundaries.
ConsiderBeyond: Given the increasing importance of sustainability in the art world, how do you approach sustainable practices into your artwork?
Hayley Sheldon: I really focus on eliminating as much waste as possible and actually structure my entire studio schedule around doing all of the woodworking in batches to keep minimize waste. I also prioritize natural dyeing methods, which use less water and also keep harmful chemicals from filtering back into the water table, a common issue with traditional dyes.
ConsiderBeyond: Do you have any upcoming projects or collaborations that you’re looking forward to?
Hayley Sheldon: It doesn't happen very often, but every once in a while I offer workshop kits that allow collectors to weave their own Shape Screens with a video tutorial. I offered a small number of kits in November that sold out in one day. Having that kind of support always blows my mind but I also know a lot of people were disappointed they weren't able to get a kit. So I’ve decided to open pre-orders back up and make more available. These will ship later in the winter or very early spring.
ConsiderBeyond: ConsiderBeyond: For aspiring artists looking up to your work, what advice would you give for developing their own voice and turning their passion into a career?
Hayley Sheldon: I wouldn't consider myself a risk taker, and I don’t like to take big leaps. I think setting goals and dreaming is great, but within an art practice I find that thinking too far ahead is not very helpful. I think finding your voice happens one piece at a time. Even now, I have no clue what my work will look like in 10 years, or even 2 years. Almost like how I don't know what my children will look like as adults. We can guess and predict, but only time will tell, through their growth, which happens one day at a time. I think another key aspect is finding the kind of work that fills you up, and that you can enjoy making no matter what. It's easier to be passionate about things that feel deeply satisfying and I believe that resonates and connects you with your audience.