By Kay McStay

Picture a young girl of ten years busy with 4-H projects especially sewing and food preservation. Picture that her resourcefulness and ingrained work ethic blossom, and it soon becomes apparent to her that “making things and art” and “using everything” will become hallmarks of her life. Judy finds it extraordinarily satisfying to piece patterns and use scraps, thread, and trims to make a beautiful garment. She realizes that her contentment grows and she expresses herself when she uses what is “at hand,” and she allows time, her senses and intuitions, and artistic and emotional energy to guide her work.

Now, time - travel through the years and enter Judith Shamp’s studio in her home in Houston and see the creative work area she has made to hold her many and varied materials. Fabrics, trims, small gadgets, precious stones and buttons, colorful inks, sparkling do - dads, household materials such as plastics and clips and recycled items, handmade papers, visual images cut from all types of photos and periodicals, and more - hundreds more items - that spark her interest are here. They await her time and her patience to play with designs, to define a motif or theme, to lead her to creative works using many mediums and dimensions.

I have to admit, I walked into the studio and began to giggle because before me was a heavenly vision of a huge work area in a room with natural and overhead light, an expansive work surface, and exhibit space on walls and shelves. Judy happily showed me a project that was in progress on the large table top. Orderly storage bins and shelves, rolls of fabric, sheaves of paper in rows and stacks filled the room along with family mementos and photographs and books. Excerpts from magazines, pieces of household items and tools, beads, stones, leaves and grasses, and a sewing machine with organized thread spools stood ready to be used by Judy. Gently and in calm sentences, Judy spoke to me about her process.

I’ll let a shorter version of her artist statement express it here. Judy says:

My work is about disparate connections. These connections may be through forming, cutting, collaging, stitching textiles or fiber such as scraps of paper, or playing with real leaves and rocks. I bring to gether pieces of ephemera, added to or embedded into a base material or small platform like shape. The bringing together may be with thread, wire, yarn, or other types of filament. In the process of combining disparate found objects, alchemy occurs. Paper over metal, textile over paper, paint, gel medium, dyes, archival ink pens are agents of transforming base materials that may bridge dialogue with a viewer.

I am continually exploring new approaches and materials. There are underlying and recurring dreamlike themes that often hint of a collective unconscious that presents itself as I "play" with symbols, repetitive designs, and the emotion of color and texture. Often a mythic, story-like quality presents itself as I play/work. I draw upon a vast collection of odd found items: buttons, papers, cast off jewelry, trims and fabrics. It is like being on a treasure hunt to create order from the chaos of this ephemera.

The act of art making, especially with textiles/fiber (everyday stuff) and throwaways allows me to make a spiritual association through the reuse, rebirth, and redemption of the mundane - the castaways. Remembrances, fleeting moments and conscious/unconscious connections emerge during the process.

As we toured the studio shelves and display areas, I saw many of Judy’s works and learned how the pieces came into being. For example, Judy made bowls and other 3D objects fashioned from hand-made paper. Shaping the paper pulp into objects and then adorning them with cast-off items, such as old watch hands, not only challenged Judy but also made her delve more deeply into the shapes and themes that were arising in her mind as she handled the materials. More often than not, her explanations included gentle humor and wise comments as she recounted how she approached her art, always with patience and openness, and created the piece.

Judy talked about her life as a daughter, sister, friend, wife, mother, artist, teacher, colleague, and woman artist and how family homesteads and traditions and “I’ve - got - something - for - you” moments propelled her into artistic commissions, starting a flag-making business, and being offered artist-in-residence opportunities in California and England. With an excited yet wise voice, she said, “I know about Jung and synchronicity and I’ve had serendipity in my life.” She remarked that sometimes the opportunities required great strength, both mental and physical, and lots of energy and problem-solving. “I’m a night owl and I move and work the pieces for hours until...I don’t have an end view” and she always completed the project and took pleasure from solving the logistic, artistic, and practical problems that the works required.

This link will show you several examples of Judy’s work as well as examples of her banner work in dimensions for public buildings, conferences, and liturgies.

Judy’s education includes Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, Home Economics, Clothing and Textiles with a Minor in Dimensional Arts from San Jose State University, CA, and a Master of Arts, Humanities: Mythology and Education Emphases, Pacifica Graduate Institute, Santa Barbara, CA. Her detailed resume shows the breath of her work in fabric art, collage, quilting, liturgical art, collaboration, and sculptural pieces. She has completed national and international commissions and been juror and judge on many occasions as well as having solo exhibitions. Judy’s artistic record includes merit and best-of-show awards. During our visit she talked about her varied residences, especially the artist residency at New Pacific Studio, Vallejo, CA. under Director Dr. Kay Flavell in 2005, 2006, and 2012. Also, she spoke movingly of the importance and value of teaching art to young students and having the students make connections to art and artists.

Judy Shamp showed me many quilted items and shawls, personal belongings, and art works during our visit. None was more evocative than her piece commemorating the NASA Challenger disaster. As she explained how the piece with plastic, thread, dried rose petals, and other mediums is put together, Judy’s voice caught with emotion. “It’s all about remembering,” she said. The piece is tentatively titled Challenger Memoriam I. XXVIII.MCMLXXXVI and contains dried rose petals suspended in a beautiful, enclosed arrangement evoking a portion of the Challenger’s payload. As we gazed on the sculpture, Judy spoke softly about finding symbols and meaning in every day life and the everyday objects around us.

Magicicada - Fine Arts Fashion Award, Textiles and Costume Institute of MFA, Houston, TX

Read about our past featured member Peggy Sexton.

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you
into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.
And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost."
Martha Graham


Liturgical Banners at St. Philip's United
Methodist Church, Houston TX

Memoriam IXXIMMII - Award winner at Houston Center
for Contemporary Craft. Found objects,
transfer process, hot-knife cutting

Buried Hearts - part of a series of buried clothes
at the Napa, CA childhood home of Judy Shamp's father

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