Local Artist Cindy Shake Turns to Fabric for Her Art
Well-known craftswoman trades welder for sewing machine
ANCHORAGE - Anchorage artist Cindy Shake is well known for her metal sculptures, most of which celebrate themes in nature. From garden art ravens to a huge metal flower blooming on a corner in Mountain View, Shake’s prolific work can be seen on office walls and in homes all over town.
But recently Shake’s work has taken a more delicate turn. This tough girl artist has temporarily traded in her welder’s torch for a sewing machine.
“It really is a departure from the Carhartts, sparks and flames,” jokes Shake in her colorful studio, now filled with fabric.
Shake explains that when she recently moved into a older home in Anchorage’s South Addition neighborhood there was no studio space on the property to do the big metal projects she’s so well known for. Shake said she saw it as an opportunity to take a break and change direction.
And changing directions isn’t something new for this long-time artist. Shake started her career in advertising two decades ago. Eventually she owned her own successful graphic design business. But a diagnosis of cancer in 2000 turned her life around.
“It was really hard,“ said Shake, “ I'd been working a lot, I had a real large client load and that whole year of treatment forced our family to reprioritize our lives.”
For Shake that meant one thing, spending less time at the computer and more time devoted to hands-on art. It’s when she started working with metal, an obsession that would last for a dozen years. But Shake said some recent news about her health is pointing her in yet a new direction.
“I am technically in remission, and that is making a big difference. You know, I think when you have cancer that's always in the back of your mind, you may be cured, you may be in remission, but it doesn't go away. Now I think enough time has finally gone by that I can slow down and maybe start doing some creative work that is coming from the heart.”
Shake’s latest work includes a series of colorful art quilts that are hand-sewn and embellished. She said the small pieces can become so personal that she sometimes has trouble letting them go, even to sell to local galleries.
“It’s hard; I work on a something a long time and I do have trouble parting with it,” she laughs. “I have to have what I call a ‘cooling off’ period sometimes.”
Shake’s latest business venture is something much easier to part with. It’s a line of original sewing patterns packaged so that quilters can create Shake designs of their own. Shake sells them at quilt and fabric stores around the state but said she’s also getting orders from around the world.
Then there’s the line of original fabric she’s exploring, featuring her trademark designs, as well as wearable art pieces entered in an upcoming show. Like everything she does, it’s art from the heart, and in Shake’s case that means others are likely to love it too.