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Shelly Hamill has always been captivated by the beauty found in the things so many others fail to notice: passing faces on the sidewalk, the light reflected by the dew on leaves, the movement of fabric in a lady’s skirt. As a child, her maternal grandmother, also an artist, guided Shelly’s artistic eye and talent. Encouraged to seek inspiration in the extraordinary as well as the mundane, Shelly honed her skills in Ft. Worth Texas under her grandmother’s loving tutelage.
As a flight attendant traveling the world, Shelly drank in the magnificence she found in the diversity of cultures and the similar human spirit she encountered – and used it as fodder for her art. Upon marrying, Shelly settled in Bermuda where she owned Bermuda Weddings and Special Events. After working for over 15 years as a wedding planner and coordinating countless weddings, Shelly watched cake after cake get devoured and thousands of roses and peonies wilt, she found ways to recognize more permanent beauty, like the mastery in the couture bridal gowns that continue to inspire her work today, and to use tile mosaics as a way to shape them into enduring creations.
“I love seeing beautiful fragments from different places come together to create something whole, new and amazing that will last for centuries,” explains Shelly.
Shelly began experimenting with photographic mosaics, cutting up photographs and putting them back together to craft a new image. The dramatic results catalyzed Shelly’s creative spark. Moving on to traditional mosaics, Shelly began to explore color, form and texture with tile and to see the possibility of creating fluidity with materials that are hard and rigid. Creating life size sculptures depicting women’s dress forms was an inspired idea that allowed Shelly to soar creatively.
“My challenge is to create something that is feminine and flirty, with softness and drape like fabric, using ceramic, glass and stone,” she says. “I work to create flow and gracefulness. My hope is that the viewer is willing to touch the pieces, experience the rigidity of them, and appreciate seeing something in an entirely new way.”
When creating a mosaic sculpture, Shelly begins by creating a dress design. Ceramic tiles, china, glass beads and mirrors are applied to an armature using concrete as adhesive and then grouted permanently in place. Finally, a layer of concrete is applied to the neck and armholes, completing the look. ‘Sometimes the materials will inform each other, I may lay a string of beads onto a plate or tile to see how they work together before I break anything.’ says Shelly
By using concrete and hard tile in her dress mosaics, these can be fitting materials to represent the shift in the balance of power that women have enjoyed in marriages and other relationships over the last half-century. Splendor can be found in unexpected places, and while concrete and hard tile might be not be obviously attractive and feminine at first glance, when strung together artfully and with meaning, they can represent the loveliness of strength and permanence.
“To me, each sculpture is a confluence of pieces representing the unique history we each have. The pieces and experiences of our lives come together to create something altogether different in each of us, not dissimilar to the way pieces of fabric come together to create a quilt,” Shelly adds.
In addition to creating sculptures, Shelly enjoys teaching mosaics to both adults and children.
Shelly lives in Aspen, Colo., with her three children. Her mosaic dress sculptures have been shown in museums and galleries across the United States and Bermuda, and many grace the private collections of discerning patrons.
“Love, joy, pain, tenderness and devotion look different on every person,” says Shelly. “Every landscape vista is unique. Yet all things have beauty. I break up those images into fragments and put them back together in a new way with texture. I invite people to touch the art and experience beauty in a new way.”
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