Shelby Rodeffer

“I really enjoy the idea of people and art interacting outside of the art community, and how we can not only put art out into the public, but how the public can help us as artists to create more important work.”

SHELBY RODEFFER

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In a few words, describe yourself and your practice.

Democratic, intuitive, inclusive, personal.


When did you start your practice?

I started off in printmaking, doing letterpress at a shop in Nashville called Isle of Printing. That's where I developed my love of letterforms and public art. 

Letterpress isn't really a hobby you can just take with you once you start. A lot of money, space and equipment is required to purchase and maintain the tools you need. I needed to find another outlet to sublimate my interests, and that's how I came upon lettering and eventually sign painting.


What is the most useful tip or advice you’ve ever been given?

Try to put on real pants everyday.

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WHAT ARE SOME CHALLENGES YOU'RE FACING IN YOUR PRACTICE?

Comparison!!!! It's so easy to check Instagram when I'm not in the studio and see all of the amazing work that people are already doing. It makes me feel like I don't have a place or reason to create because of the volume. I'm trying to challenge myself to create things for fun, not for internet gratification.

 
 
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How do you start your process?

In my personal practice, I work mostly on found materials. I try to let the shape and character of the substrate influence me. If I'm working on a plain piece of plywood I found in the alley, then I usually run it through the scroll saw and create a shape. I don't do a lot of sketching before I begin, maybe because I associate that with "work." I have to improvise a lot along the way as I paint myself into corners or make letterforms that are so completely wonky. Very rarely do I ever completely scrap a piece. Things usually work out.


Who (or what) inspires you?

Women of Bauhaus. Outsider Artists like Howard Finster. The Mission School movement. Domestic crafts.

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WHAT MAKES YOUR WORK UNIQUE?

I think the uniqueness in any artist's work comes from the message that they try to broadcast through their creations.

 
 
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Is your practice how you support yourself? If not, what else are you working on to do so?

Some months, sign painting completely supports me. Other times, I supplement my income with illustration work and occasionally design work. As much as my bank account will allow, I try to be choosy with the clients I collaborate with on design. We have to share a lot of the same aesthetic and interests, or else the work feels pandering and not useful to me.


If you were to share one piece of advice with those who aspire to do what you do, what would it be?

I feel that most people are afraid to start doing something because they don't think they are good enough. So, I would share this Mr. Rogers montage. It honestly kind of chokes me up every time I see it. It also motivates me to go out and create work that doesn't hide the hands that made it.

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How would your audience describe you?

Oh geez, I don't know if I want to know. I probably come off as someone who is still learning.


How has your practice changed over time?
Where do you see it going? 

My practice has started blurring the line between commercial work and artwork. I've just recently been given opportunities to work commercially in my own aesthetic. It feels great to have validation and trust from strangers.

Through murals and projects with Isle of Printing, my work is taking on more of a public art form. I really enjoy the idea of people and art interacting outside of the art community, and how we can not only put art out into the public, but how the public can help us as artists to create more important work.

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“Go out and create work that doesn't hide the hands that made it.”

 
 
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What would you be doing if you weren't doing this?

Maybe I would be trying to make a bigger impact on the planet and work in science to protect the environment. I'm a child of the 90s so I drank the Fern Gully/Captain Planet/Bill Nye Kool-Aid. Fast fashion and consumerism really bother me. I am recently obsessed with watching zero-waste living videos on youtube but I haven't put any of that ideology into practice yet. 


Are you comfortable sharing all aspects of your process? if not, why?

I struggle with this. I can't claim any authorship of the medium that I work in, and there are so many people that do it technically better than me. A lot of people have approached me to 'teach them' how to do sign painting 'real quick.' I really don't think anyone should look to me to learn any technical skill.

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“I am a heavy-handed, intuitive person. What I know about sign painting, I've learned through four years of practice, many jobs where I faked the knowledge and learned from it, and lots of money spent on workshops and materials where I sussed out what would work for me.”

 
 
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How does where you live affect your work?

Chicago impacts my work both emotionally and physically, positively and negatively. My most recent personal works deal with these conflicting feelings. I struggle with living feet away from people that I have zero connections to, as most of us in the city don't get to know our neighbors like we maybe should. At the same time, I draw a lot of strength from the anonymity of living in a large metropolis. Sometimes it feels like you're in the hive and everyone is moving together, other times it feels like we are all trapped in little tombs. I think the seasons dictate which way I feel. 

Physically, Chicago has provided a lot of new opportunities for me to exhibit my work, as well as businesses to collaborate with on signage. The winter often frustrates me because I am unable to work on my craft when the temperature gets below a certain point. I usually get to do more commercial work in the summer and focus more on personal work in the winter.

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PSST...SPECIAL SHOUTOUT

All posters printed by Shelby's studiomate - Salty Broad Press.