Amy Sands is an artist who has lived in Golden Valley for 20 years. A professor at Metropolitan State University, Sands first started testing her creativity on reams of paper her father brought home from work.
She has since established herself as a local printmaker. Her largest series, “Revolution,” features intricately cut tissue-like paper placed layer by layer together. The result is a completely new image, fragile and kaleidoscopic.
The Sun Post asked Sands questions about her process, the importance of creativity and how viewers have inspired her in interesting ways.
How were you first introduced into the world of art?
I was a very young girl when I first became seriously interested in art. Sketching people in magazines and the outdoors were common subjects for me, as young as 4-5 years old. There were always reams of paper in my house. My dad worked in the administrative offices of Potlatch paper company and occasionally they would have ends of large rolls 48” wide that he would bring home. It was such a freeing experience to draw on this large-scale paper since it was taller than me (I wasn’t very tall–I guess that still holds true!).
It became a part of who I was in this world and the way that I responded to it. It was a very innate response.
You have a lot of mediums that you work with. Is there a uniting factor or theme across them all?
My main medium is printmaking, the process of creating hand-produced works of art that require some sort of a matrix to create (such as a plate and a press, or a screen or wood block). For my works from the “Revolution” series, I am incorporating screenprint, monoprint and laser cut techniques on Japanese kozo papers that are as thin and translucent as tissue paper. The processes become united together when I layer them into one image. In this way, my work pushes the boundaries of what has been historically defined as a print. While many printmakers utilize the process to create multiples of the same image, I enjoy making something one-of-a-kind. So, they are really more like paintings on paper.
My miniature “Constellation” series has really tiny patterns no larger than 3 inches in diameter. These are really fun to make as they fit in the palm of your hand. I use vellum as my material for this series. I have always preferred paper over canvas. I guess that was from my childhood influence.
You’ve said that much of your work is inspired by homemaking crafts like crocheted doilies. Why elevate the process of crafting to a finer art form?
For the last several years, I have been exploring the concept of women’s handwork in my art. “Craft” is often illegitimately considered low-brow when compared to “fine art,” and I aim to conflate these notions by bringing the patterns of craft into fine art prints. So, I have used imagery sourced from lace and craft doilies to give homage to the history of women’s work, and the question of what is valued in our culture. I feel patriarchal systems have inhibited female artists from being recognized for their work throughout history and my work, in a way, attempts to correct some of this.
Each work for your “Revolution” series is a highly intricate piece on its own. How are these works done?
The series is my largest series, with over 40 unique prints. The process is a little more complex, involving screenprinting patterns, monoprinting with colorful inks, creating intricate digital laser cut patterns and then layering the papers. It really becomes a playful process, as I don’t have a specific image in my head at the start. Instead, I create maybe 20 different prints on paper at a time and then I assemble them later; arranging the different layers and then rearranging until I get an image that is satisfying to me. I love this surprise element of my process. It keeps the work fresh and interesting for me. Each final print will have anywhere from three to eight layers of paper within each work. It just depends on the point at which I’m satisfied.
The paper I work with is much like tissue paper in its weight and translucency. Japanese kozo paper appears really fragile (and to some degree it is) but the fibers within the paper are long and actually quite durable. It allows me to build up rich color on each individual piece of paper. Sometimes, I hang this work unframed, and the paper ebbs and flows with the circulating air. I like that direct engagement with the viewer. I suppose the most challenging part of my process is that it can wrinkle easily, so I have to be careful when I’m handling it.
Have you had any interesting conversations with viewers that have changed the way you see your work?
When I started working with doily patterns several years ago, I created a large-scale print that was 38 inches square. I drew by hand the pattern that I was using as a source and added a rich layering of colors to the work. I remember the piece getting a lot of attention and people remarked how it reminded them of a mandala. What was surprising to me was the actual doily that I had sourced in my print was laying on a chair nearby, with no one making comments about it. It was a beautiful and intricate doily that I’m sure took quite a bit of time. To me, it really brought to the forefront what we consider valuable as a culture. This, in turn, inspired me to start my “Revolution” series.
What are you working on now?
I have a series of acrylic engravings that utilize a CNC router to do the engraving. I draw a design and then translate it digitally for the CNC router to follow. I really enjoy the way light and shadow interact with this work.
I have also been working on some delicate lace papermaking projects that have recently been featured in the Surface Design Journal and blog. This is a collaborative project with my art partner, Bridget O’Malley, entitled “Innerweave.” We started working together a few years ago for a collaborative exhibit that was at the Morgan Conservatory in Cleveland, Ohio. We had so much fun that we continued the collaboration after the exhibit was complete.
Do you have any thoughts on creativity during the current pandemic?
Creating during this time has felt a bit surreal. Every morning, I wake up hoping it’s over and then have to remind myself that it’s not. I think what’s really important is that people find some way to express themselves–whether it’s through creative art-making, crafts, music, cooking or whatever.
I like to tell my students that the way I write your name is different from the way you write your name… and that’s special. We all have a different way that we see things, and that is valuable. Our differences make us interesting and great. Celebrate that and do things that make you feel good. Try not to set too high of expectations and enjoy the process of making. It may not make the situation go away, but it makes it easier to bear…and you may discover something new about yourself in the end!
What’s next for you?
I’ve actually got a pretty busy year ahead of me. This summer, I will have a solo exhibit opening at Brookview Park in the middle of June. Then, in 2021, I will have a solo exhibit at the American Swedish Institute that will be a new series I’m working on. Through the support of a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant, I will create a body of work in response to the ASI textile collection.
In the fall of 2021, I have also been offered a solo exhibition at the Osterøy Museum in Norway, which will highlight some of the prints I’ve completed in response to their textile collection.
Also, I will host a few interactive pop-up printshop events related to the American Swedish Institute exhibit, where the community can come make a print with me. Please join me!
For more information about Sands and her work, visit amysands.com.