21 SECRETS Spotlight :: Cynthia Shaffer


Welcome! Welcome! Every Wednesday here at Dirty Footprints Studio is Spotlight Wednesday where Tonia Jenny, the 21 SECRETS Creative Director & Course Manager, interviews one of the talented teachers in our 21 SECRETS program.

To never miss an interview be sure to sign up for blog notifications located at the bottom of this page and CLICK HERE to check out past interviews. Enjoy!

Hello Sweet Soul!

It’s been so much fun sharing these amazing artists with you and our final Spotlight Artist, Cynthia Shaffer, wraps up our first series with a great big dose of inspiration for you! I’ve drooled over Cynthia’s creative exploits on social media for years and I love that she’s always trying new things. She has written several books and, amongst her many creative talents, she’s also an excellent photographer! (Psssst, I also just put her book, Simply Stitched Gifts on my wishlist because . . . well, I’ll check back with you after you read the interview and share a bit of serendipity with you!)

What is your earliest memory of a creative activity you enjoyed?

Santa brought me a sewing machine when I was seven-years old! For a few years prior, I had watched my mother sew my Sunday-school clothes and special-occasion dresses. I was her helper; I would press all the seams open while she sewed! Then, I received my very own sewing machine and I was thrilled! I learned right away how to use that little machine but it didn’t run as fast as my mom’s sewing machine so within no time, I was using her big sewing machine! The very first thing I made was a primary-colored, bold, striped top with matching yellow shorts (I still have the top), and I wore it in a mother-daughter fashion show at the church! I remember walking down the platform with a big striped beach ball in my arms! I was seven and I was hooked on sewing!

Is there an element about your process that you’re especially passionate about?

Free-motion stitching is truly my passion! By nature, I am a perfectionist and I want everything to be perfect. When I am sewing clothing, I get to be perfect; when I am creating mixed-media art, I have to try really hard to not be perfect, hence the free-motion stitching! With free-motion stitching it’s almost impossible to stitch perfectly; it’s like drawing with your non-dominate hand and I LOVE it!

What do you wish you gave yourself more time to explore?

I love the idea of abstract painting! It looks so simple to do but it’s anything but simple!

What is the one thing you hope we remember from your workshop?

Ah . . . to just start. Steal small snippets of time to work in your art journals.  For me, once I step foot in my studio, and just start, magic happens! Also, move fast without a plan and react to what’s happening in your art whether it’s the colors or the shapes you see or gravitate towards.

What is your life mantra?

Go, Do! It’s not complicated; just Go and Do what you need to do! One time I embroidered the letters for “Go, Do!” onto felt, then adhered them to transparencies and slipped them into little jars. I arranged the jars to spell “GO, DO” but also discovered that the jars could be rearranged to spell GOD, GOOD and DOG—just a few of my favorite things!

Okay, so here’s why I loved what Cynthia shared with us:

Recently for my birthday, I received a new sewing machine (I was long overdue)! And . . . one of the things I love most about my new machine is that it can do free-motion stitching! (My last one, could not.) So not only do I now feel a cool connection to Cynthia, but she can continue to inspire me with her beautifully-sewn projects!  If you love stitching, too (or you’ve been curious to explore that area more), you’ll love her workshop, Paper-Photo-Fabric Fusion + Stitching. You can see much more of her tactile creations on her website and, of course, you can follow her along on social media.

I’ll be back to share new Spotlight-Artist interviews with you for our next round featuring the instructors from Face Time! Thanks for taking the time to get to know these fabulous artists! Until we meet up again, big hugs to you!

💜 Tonia

About Cynthia Shaffer


Cynthia Shaffer is a mixed-media artist, creative sewer and photographer whose love of all things artsy can be traced back to her childhood. At the age of six, she learned to sew and, in no time, was designing and sewing clothing for herself and others. While she loves the inclusion of all kinds of mediums and techniques in her artwork, inevitably stitches and photos seem to make their way into most of her current artwork. Numerous books and magazines have featured Cynthia’s mixed-media art and photography work: she is the author of Stash Happy Patchwork (Lark, 2011), Stash Happy Appliqué (Lark, 2012), co-author of Serge It (Lark 2014), author of Coastal Crafts (Sterling/Lark 2015), and Simply Stitched Gifts (Sterling/Lark 2015). Cynthia lives with her husband Scott in Southern California.


Cynthia teachers Paper-Photo-Fabric Fusion + Stitching in 21 SECRETS Paper, Glue, Scissors

Ideas continually flood my mind; with mixed-media art, the possibilities are truly unending.

When I show up at my studio to play with my art supplies, it’s paper, photos and fabric that always seem to land on my worktable . . . oh and stitching! I love hand stitching, embroidery and free-motion machine stitching!

Come explore the satisfaction of working on a small scale! From small panels of raw-edge canvas and shipping tags to the inner pages of a small discarded book, this workshop will take you down the path of loose and free collage techniques with paper, photos, paint and fabric all with a little stitching mixed in for that extra-special detail pop.

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