Studio Visit: Aneesa Shami
By Jeff Davis
This month I visited the art studio of Aneesa Shami, (etsy.com/shop/AShami, facebook.com/aneesashamistudio, @aneesashami), a fiber artist at the Hawthorne Arts Complex; a massive art studio facility located near SpaceX and Tesla off the 105 Freeway and Crenshaw Boulevard. Aneesa grew up in Overland Park, Kan. (a suburb near Kansas City), and like many artists became interested in art during her high school years. She attended the Kansas City Art Institute and majored in fiber after exposure to a number of different mediums during her first year. She chose fiber because the curriculum offered instruction in multiple techniques (weaving, dyeing fabric, screen printing, knitting, basketry, etc.) and coursework in construction, craft, and design. As opposed to painting, she felt fiber was much more tactile and physical in terms of construction. After finishing her undergraduate degree, Aneesa relocated to California in order to continue building her practice.
According to Aneesa, the great thing about fiber is that “once you have your loom, materials and space you’re in business.” At this stage in her career, she is exploring multiple product lines to gain experience, practice her craft and see “what sticks” or sells. Currently she is producing a line a of stunning hand-woven scarves available in a range of unique patterns, colors and materials (wool, silk, cotton and synthetics). She has also been spending a great deal of time on wall hangings; these giant 5-by-6-foot weavings can take days or even weeks to complete given the thousands of hand tied knots involved. I suggested outsourcing to Thailand, but apparently that defeats the purpose of working with your hands directly.
Like many artists, one finds out there has to be a balance between pure creativity and what is marketable or in demand. A line of placemats and tea towels is also in the works. Aneesa supplements her income with a part time job at Textile Arts LA where she is the content manager of their online site and social media (facebook.com/textileartsla, @textileartsla).
Although there are many types of looms available for use, Aneesa is using a medium sized hand operated loom that has no electricity or automated weaving. Her entire output is designed and created without automation or CAD/CAM assistance. Once the artist has created the design and selected the materials there is still a lot of work to be done before the weaving actually begins. First warping must take place; the yarn is transferred by hand from cones to the pegs (facilitating measurement), next the amount of materials required is calculated and removed from the warping pegs and transferred to the loom. The yarn must be threaded through the reeds and heddles to enable under and over weaving of the pattern. Then it’s off to the races, the weaving begins by selecting a yarn and attaching it to the shuttle which is passed repeatedly through the loom with differing yarns and techniques depending on the artwork technique and pattern.
The wall hangings are turning out to be very popular and she secured two commissions after recently exhibiting at the El Segundo Art Fair, Culver City Art Fair and took a six week residency at the Helms Design Center. The residency, via Textile Arts LA, involved workshops for the public demonstrating knitting, weaving and quilting. Her most recent wall mural, “Cathexis,” takes its name from all the mental and physical energy required during the long and arduous creation process. The weaving is full of waves of vibrant and transitioning colors, it begs you to run your fingers through the luxurious materials. The yarn is so soft and plush that you really want to place it on the floor as a carpet instead of on the wall.
“Recitations,” another wall design is equally enticing. The hand crocheted circular piece measures 5 feet across and reminds me of the wool rugs we used to have in our basement during the 1960s and 1970s. Of course this one is much more stunning and again doesn’t belong on your floor either. The concentric rings appear referential to Kandinksy and Tadasky paintings at times. “Contextural Data,” a non-loom fiber weaving made from felt strips resembles the physical manifestation of our digital world. The weaving stops abruptly after several feet – leaving you to wonder the meaning. Does it represent the halting of actual person-to-person communication in a world where texting and e-mails are the new norm? Maybe just the loss of Wi-Fi connection in our busy world…
If you have your heart set on being able to touch one of these works of art every day then you have to get your hands on her scarves. Made from silk, cotton, linen, synthetics or any combination of the aforementioned they feel and look amazing. And at $80 – $250-plus they are much more affordable and practical than wearing a 25-pound, 5-foot rug around your neck.
If you want to see these works in person or commission a design, please contact Aneesa via her website or by email. You can also visit her at the Hawthorne Arts Complex during the next Open House on Dec. 9.