FOR Shannon Amidon, artistic inspiration is often found right outside her door. The multitalented photographer, designer and jewelry maker, who has made quite a splash locally with her feather-and-bullet-shell earrings, and was recently announced as one of the 2011 recipients of an Artist Fellowship Grant by the Arts Council Silicon Valley for her photography, attributes her creative inspiration to the organic objects that she finds on hikes and walks around town or just exploring her yard.
“I find the complexity of nature so inspirational and fascinating,” she says while showing me around her San Jose workspace. “That’s the inspiration for everything.”
Amidon’s studio, which houses a host of curiosities—claws, stones, fossils, feathers, doll heads, pods, shells, skulls and much more—alongside distressed photographs, bins of art and jewelry-making supplies and an abundant collection of tools, is an open door into the creative mind of an exceptional artist with a talent for re-framing nature.
Although Amidon’s enthusiasm for claws and such may not be for everyone, her passion for the natural world and attention to the tiniest details therein is remarkable. “My unusual is not the same as other people’s unusual,” she says. “Other people see working with insects and wings and skulls as unusual, but to me they’re all beautiful and interesting and have a story.”
A longtime contributor to, and supporter of, the San Jose art community, Amidon expresses her creativity in everything she does, from her personal style and her home to her workplace and her varied creations. She has a keen desire to “find new ways to showcase nature” that shows through in both her photography, which is visionary, experimental and elegant, and her jewelry-making, which involves re-imagining organic materials and transforming them into one-of-a-kind pieces of wearable art.
“I’m in totally different moods when I work in different mediums,” she says. “Photography is in my soul; it’s what I have to do. The jewelry comes from a lighter, more playful side.”
While Amidon purchases some of the more obscure materials for her jewelry (Mustelid skull, anyone?), she prefers finding the materials herself, because it makes them “more special.” Once she has them back at what she refers to as her mad-scientist lab, she gets to work transforming the materials into wearable art.
She performs trial-and-error electroforming on all kinds of natural materials, including leaves, pods, shells and pinecones. She takes pride in the slow road to manifestation—each piece generally takes about a week to make—and she values quality over quantity, giving each piece her full attention.
Amidon’s interest in re-purposing found objects and upcycling discarded materials into wearable art led to the creation of her now-trending bullet-shell earrings. “I had a couple of bullet casings laying around,” she says, “So I started putting amethyst, quartz, hematite and other gemstones in them.”
She received a lot of compliments on the bullet-shell jewelry, so she stayed with it. “I wanted to see what else I could put in them, so I started with the feathers,” she explains. They were a hit, and demand for the creations grew, which raises the question: Where does she get the shells? “My father-in-law goes to the shooting range,” she says, holding up a bag stuffed full of them, “so he has bags and bags of shells.”
When asked about the deeper implications of using of bullet shells to create art, Amidon touches briefly on the matter but prefers to let people come to their own ideas about her creations. “I like the idea that something destructive can be made into something beautiful,” she says, “but I don’t want to be too preachy. I just like the juxtaposition of the beauty and the force.”