Shannon Tipple-Leen is an artist undaunted by the idea of play. To describe her creative process is to watch someone comfortable and welcoming of continuing education and discovery. Her design motto, “a need to create” manifests itself as “a need to play,” as one sifts through her collection’s fascinating array of buttons– both new and vintage. When stringing buttons or “little paintings” into a bracelet, one suddenly finds an art form that closely resembles self-portraiture. There is a button and design for everyone, and Shannon’s varied color palettes, motifs, and varying degrees of complexity delivers the goods.
Shannon speaks with the Friends of the Seattle Public Library about her creative process, inspiration, and love for casual Northwest style in art and fashion.
Stop by the FriendShop on Level 3 of the Seattle Public Library-Central Branch (5th Avenue entrance) to check out Shannon’s jewelry. Her work will be highlighted throughout the month of May as we all get used to the sunshine and need some new jewelry to model as the sweaters come off.
Your background is in photography. How did you make the transition from photography to jewelry? Do natural connections exist between the two forms?
About 10 years ago the shift to digital was making it harder and harder to get the chemicals and paper I wanted for my darkroom. Doing my work on the computer did not have the same satisfaction that the darkroom gave me. I also was finding it hard to get large chunks of time to go in the darkroom as I had a young child. I began looking for other outlets that could be more portable and jewelry was one of them.
I think for me my photography and my jewelry could not be more different. I was a strictly black & white photographer and now I cannot get enough color in my jewelry. In both of these fields though I take something that already exists and twist and manipulate it until it reflects me.
I have always loved miniatures. Buttons are like little paintings that you string together into a gallery showing. Putting one perfect little thing next to another connects them into a unit that is appreciated as a whole. They are also highly addictive to collect and I have the collection to prove it!
Where do you draw inspiration from as a Northwest artist?
I am inspired by the casual lifestyle we lead out here. I love clothes and jewelry that are easy to wear yet have an element of surprise or edge to them. I love that most of us live in gray and black and want a pop of color somewhere to set it off.
How is playful design an important element of your creation process?
My work is all playful design! I am not a serious person and do not like to wear predictable or serious clothes and jewelry. I hope that part of me is reflected in the designs I make with my work. The buttons I choose need to be unique and sparkly – just like the women who wear them!
I have made many pieces for friends over the years. I always consider their clothing style and colors first and then start putting buttons together. Often I have to sit with them for a few days before assembly to make sure it feels right. I am always so pleased when they are thrilled and I see them wear it regularly.
Do you have a favorite chic literary figure?
Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos is high up on my favorite books of all time list. Her character Wanda Schultz is an amazing artist and the journey her artwork takes her on captivated me the first time I read it.
Find something you love to do and perfect it. It doesn’t have to be overnight – in my case it has been years. I see artists flip and flop from medium to medium never fully exploring any one thing. It is that exploration that brings great things. Also find other artists to talk to regularly. They will help you see things in your work you did not know where there.
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Seattle, WA 98104
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