Season 2, Episode 14
This episode of the Life in the Carolinas podcast was recorded on location in the Kindred Gallery of the Rosemary Bed and Breakfast in Pittsboro, North Carolina. One of the artists featured in the gallery is Cher Shaffer, who is celebrating 50 years of making folk art.
Cher grew up in an agricultural environment in Georgia, keenly aware of her indigenous heritage and appreciative of the beauty and simplicity of the world around her. When Cher was about 8 years old, she discovered that she could create things with the red Georgia clay that was so abundant, and her mother instilled in her the importance of the way creating made her feel. Throughout her childhood and adolescence, Cher found joy in creating things for herself and her siblings with the natural resources around her, and when she was 20 years old, she realized her talent and love for painting. She began selling her art at roadside fairs and before long she was able to replace her working income with income from these fairs. From that time on, Cher committed herself fully to her work and to this day she still works 5-10 hours every day just for the sheer joy of creating.
Empowered by the memory and spirit of those who came before her, she is committed to creating art pieces that connect both to her heritage and her legacy to come. Her whimsical paintings and figures are inspired by the visionary shapes Cher sees when staring at a blank canvas, creatures, people, and the “little people” of the forest as described by her Cherokee ancestors. She feels that true folk art is anchored in the time, place, and spirits of the people and reveals the connections we all have to each other and to nature.
Cher is heavily impacted by the seasons of the year in terms of the types and sizes of art she creates, and since art creation is so personal for her, she can look at a piece she made years ago and see expressions of what was going on in her life at that time. In fact, some periods of her life were so dark that she couldn’t paint, worried that the final product would be too angry or ugly to accommodate her joyful style.
She wants to bring happiness to the world, inspire others, and continue traditions with her work, and she hopes that people who purchase her pieces will integrate the pieces into their lives and see their lives changed. There are wonderful things in this world, she says, for those who take the time to unplug and spend time listening to nature. She is glad to have pieces of hers displayed in galleries like the Kindred Gallery because she truly feels that the other artists are her kindred spirits, bonded together by their desire to express themselves and help others express themselves as well. Finally, Cher shares that people over-complicate so many things in life, and her art is meant to bring people back to their simplistic and spiritual roots.
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