By Martha Keeffe 

Shelby Andre, the artist behind Paper Figments, is passionate about her art. Vibrant, colorful and full of texture, Andre’s work invites the viewer to step closer, lean in and take a better look. In fact, it dares you to reach out and touch it. “I love that you love my stuff,” she says excitedly, as my hand hovers over what appears to be two hand-stitched quilt renderings of a sun and a moon. It’s hard to believe that what I’m looking at is a two-dimensional print of art made from paper, but it’s easy to share in her enthusiasm.

Shelby Andre

Created using shapes she has either hand-cut or torn from paper, Andre uses layering techniques to fashion the paper into images that give the illusion of fabric, natural fibers and depth. And, if the mood strikes her, she’ll incorporate swipes of watercolor or acrylic to add even more interest to an inherently engaging piece.

“The whole process continues to be a learning experience for me,” says Andre, who works full time as an assessment specialist at Riverfront in La Crosse. “Especially since it wasn’t until I discovered paper that I finally found a creative outlet that I could really get lost in.”

Ever since she was a child, Andre has expressed a great interest in art. Though she gave some thought to other pursuits, she obtained a degree in communications with a minor in graphic design from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, as a way to engage her creative spirit. However, it wasn’t until she purchased a sheet of craft paper adorned with a red, patterned velvet overlay that she felt compelled to revisit her passion for the visual arts. “I remember the feeling of just having to have that paper,” she says. “When I looked at it, all I could see were possibilities.” 

It was at that point that she intentionally began to create. “I’ve always gravitated toward multimedia art because I like to manipulate things,” she says. “So when I started working with paper and realized that I could move and rearrange objects on canvas, it really worked for me. Creating with paper morphed into its own thing, and in terms of expressing myself through my art, I knew I was headed in the right direction.”

At her in-home studio, evidence of Andre’s passion for the craft is found throughout the entire room. An extensive collection of colored paper rolls stands upright in the corner, and drawers filled with an assortment of paper scraps encourage the imagination. On her worktable, stacks of multicolored, intricately patterned and textured sheets of paper lay waiting to be transformed into eye-catching flowers, neat geometrical collages or whimsical creatures. And whether the paper is commercially produced, hand-printed by an artist or simply sold as gift wrap, each one of them tells its own story.

“I might have an idea as to how I want to use the paper, but in the end I usually change it,” says Andre, explaining that half the fun of working with paper is its unexpected nature. “Ultimately, it’s the paper itself that creates the design.”

For more information, contact Shelby Andre at paperfigments@gmail.com or call (608) 386-5603. Her work is available for purchase through her website at paperfigments.com and at Tapestry, located at 200 Main St. in Onalaska. 

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