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Svetlana Shigroff

Tell us about where you are from and how you ended up here in the desert:

I’m an Australian transplant. My partner and I landed in LA seven years ago. Andy got a job opportunity in the States and I needed a career change. I came over on a student visa and spent an interesting few years taking fashion and art classes. Shout out to SMC, it’s a great community college with quality instructors!!! I obtained a green card about three years in and started working within the fashion manufacturing industry. This lasted a couple of years before I started working freelance as a costume designer, wardrobe roadie and artist. Andy and I purchased a place in Landers 2 years ago after spending many weekends out here hiking and admiring the sky. I had also heard there was a huge number of artists out here and this turned out to be very true. Once we built out my studio it’s been really hard to get me out of the space! I was a high school Science teacher back in Oz and evolved into a textile artist and costume designer here in California. It’s been a really satisfying transition.

How has the desert shifted or changed your work and or perspective?

The big space and self appointed isolation does something to my insides. It can either be liberating or feel like torture. This also depends on the time of year and my own demons. I know I’ve done some work but I’m very aware that it’s cyclic. Like everything. The desert environment can make me feel raw and vulnerable but the big sky and removal of “noise” definitely feels like freedom. I’m able to dig around deeper into myself without being too self conscious. I care less about what others are doing (art wise) and care more about what this work is doing for me. That’s not to say that I don’t think this work relates to others. I’m unpacking a lot of shit. I believe we all are. This work is self autobiographical in essence but the themes of body, psyche, trauma, the human condition/ intuition are universal. The personal is then inherently political.


People are interested in your process, can you tell us a little bit about behind the scenes? From idea to finished product

At the moment my practice focuses around tapestries. I sketch but not routinely. Mainly when I’ve got a lot of feels. I’ll then sit on these for a length of time. Later I might have a dream or read something in a book or go on one of my research stints (usually world mythology/ animal symbolism/ Slavic history) or go down some weird dark internet hole and something clicks in the back of my brain. I go back through the sketches and mix all that good stuff up. I have a few ceiling to floor frames that I stretch a backing material over. I then transfer the images onto the backing material. I use reclaimed materials from the fashion industry in dtLA. I buy predominantly sample yardage that would have otherwise ended up in landfill as well as end of bolt fabrics. I then strip that fabric to use with my hand tool. I use a technique called tufting and use a variety of vintage hand tools. I love this technique as it is very illustrative and you can be very creative with the surface texture. The large pieces I’m currently working on take around two months to finish. After the tapestry is taken off the frame there is the whole process of finishing and backing that I do. At the moment I’m very compelled to make the back as pretty as the front. I realize it’s the ego talking here because I want these objects to last.

What is something you love about your studio? What makes it feel right?

I really dig the big frames I have up in my studio. I was working on smaller more manageable frames in LA and when I first moved here. They were much more manageable. These bad girls are a little daunting to me and that’s a good thing. I have been dividing them into smaller tapestries so far but I know I’m headed towards the 7’ by 13’ size and it makes me happy and scared at the same time. They’ll probably take me 5 to 6 months to complete. I also love it when I’m able to bring other femmes into my space to help me complete projects. Whether it’s for costuming or the tapestries. As much as I’m a hermit, I do find communing with people in my space to be very energizing and productive. I look forward to the time that I can have a space that consistently brings individuals from the community into a space to work with our hands to create exciting provocative work. There’s something about bringing people together, using our hands, using old world women’s work techniques, using reclaimed materials and making femme art that motivates me and I feel like I’m in the right community to create this situation. I’m definitely feeling a desire to be involved in public art and installation work too (putting it out there).

Who and/or what are you influences? Can be from another artist to just stepping outside

Some of my major influences include personal family lore/ myths, world mythology -especially goddesses and female centered creationist stories, dream interpretation, personal ritual and sigil development, unpacking inherited/personal trauma and body image/ identification. Also, it’s hard to not be influenced by the current social and political environment in which we live and being inspired by those who are standing up to be heard in the face of oppression and backlash.

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