Hi Shannon, we’re so excited to feature you this month! Could you please introduce yourself to our SLC community and tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hello I’m Shannon Armishaw and I’m delighted to be here! I am a lifelong visual artist and arts worker, designer, writer, sight-seeker, treasure-hunter, idea-generator, and perpetual creative.
I am the co-founder of Smoke & Tears, a pandemic-inspired hot sauce company that launched last year during Toronto’s winter in lockdown. What began as a creative collaboration with my partner Chef Kevin Rickey has become an all-consuming startup in a few short months. Combining my passion for bold flavours & beautiful objects, exercising my creativity in all aspects of this company and sharing a world-rocking hot sauce adorned with my art has been surreal and so satisfying. I’m incredibly grateful to our growing community of friends & lovers for keeping my creative flame burning bright over the last year!
Could you tell us a little bit about your approach and work? I know you’ve been creating for a long time, how has that changed and evolved?
Art was my first love. From the day I picked up that first crayon, I’ve never stopped creating.
My artistic practice is forever changing and evolving as I learn and grow. I shifted my focus to digital art & design in the midst of the pandemic thanks to a digital internship with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. That exploration quickly lead to the creation of Smoke & Tears. I have come to love this method of creating art because within the digital world, possibilities are infinite. Over the last few years, my practice has adapted and expanded, moving between more traditional methods of painting, photography and sculpture to using unconventional materials, repurposing found objects, creating furniture, costumes, sets / spaces and installations. After two years of living, starting a business, and creating art in a 1 bedroom apartment in Toronto throughout the pandemic, my entire space has become a living artwork and installation that changes constantly. I think this is often the case for many creative people. Art pours into the lives we live and is woven into the spaces we inhabit.
I was lucky enough to attend an arts high school before pursuing a BFA so I spent my youth immersed in visual arts in all forms: behind the pottery wheel, painting under staircases, bending and welding steel, melting glass, carving wooden blocks, bathing copper in acid, watching images bloom to life in the darkroom. In school there was an expectation and pressure to pick one medium and dedicate oneself to it with a fierce focus. I loved it all. Now, more than ever, I’m glad I didn’t stick to the script!
I love that! What about these particular pieces? How do you want people to feel when they observe them?
I often explore portraiture, the natural world, and cityscapes as sites of psychological experience. These pieces are an extension of this, and something more. The foliage was picked during my many winter walks and photographed. The eye and the added pearl lining were found during my many deep-dives into the open-source image libraries that kept me inspired during the pandemic. I hope when people will connect with these images when they see them. I’d like them to be a reminder of our individual and collective strength and resilience. A reminder to look out for each other and keep our eyes and hearts open. I would love them to serve as talismans and a source of inspiration to get out there and make dreams a reality as this new wild world shifts into motion.
Our intention this month is around strength. What are your thoughts on that?
Over the last few years, we watched the world change before our eyes. Almost overnight, all the tiny pieces and people and activities, communities, hobbies and passions that make us who we are, fill up our days and our lives, vanished. The city lay silent between us. There were things we longed for but had to forget. We lost loved ones, lost time, lost jobs, lost direction. Fractured and fragmented, each of us fought our own battles, and had our strength tested again and again. And yet. We are here. Although we often cannot see it ourselves, this time has shown us that we are all so much stronger than we realize. And we are stronger together.
We’re always curious about what people are listening to — especially through March which feels endless, but perhaps hopeful? What’s your go-to right now or in general?
Never has the month of March felt quite as momentous as this one. As Toronto springs back to life, there is definitely hope on the horizon. The hours of my days are marked by a solid, varied mix of new fire and old flames. Here are a few that might hit right: