It wouldn’t be too far off the mark to call Sheera Cunningham and Rebecca LaBelle fringe artists, gently skirting, even teasing, the margins of mainstream art. They find items discarded by society and turn them into something new in hopes that their creations will find a place in a mainstream market. Cunningham hopes to one day be a part of an art co-op, and LaBelle wants to join an online community of artists.
Cunningham and LaBelle, both 32, became friends about five years ago after they met in an office and attended the same poetry class. Now they inspire each other and play off each other’s ideas. “Sheera has drive and tons of stuff that she’s made. My pieces are more focused,” LaBelle said, “We operate well as a team.”
LaBelle creates jewelry out of found objects, custom dolls out of old clothes and decorates outdated purses with paint and decoupage. She will often take Cunningham’s daughters Faith, 9; Patience, 8; and Trinity, 6; treasure-hunting, bringing home nuts, bolts and old silverware, which they turn into wind chimes.
LaBelle is a student at Eastern Washington University, where she studies special education and volunteers in after-school programs. She would like to teach autistic children and she learns a lot from Faith, who is autistic.
Cunningham is a stay-at-home mom, and when she isn’t focusing her attention on her children, she’s creating. “At first it was out of necessity that I began recycling because it was cost-effective,” she said. “Now it’s a mission.”
She built Faith’s furniture out of scrap wood and painted it. She made curtains, painted on wood blocks and beaded. Walking through her South Hill home is an experience filled with eye candy. Furniture is painted and decoupaged, mixed media collages hang on the walls, and lampshades are painted and beaded. Jewelry hangs on racks and beads hang to divide rooms and swing in front of windows. “I tear old things apart and make them new again.”
Cunningham also volunteers at local organizations, and she makes puzzle-piece earrings to sell in support of the ARC of Spokane and autism-awareness bracelets.
LaBelle and Cunningham have shown their wares at a few festivals including the Perry Street Fair, and they plan on attending more. Both brandish business cards; LaBelle’s says “Rebelle’s Dream” and Cunningham’s says “Sage’s Sanity.”
Their work tells stories in words, paint and unique items, like doll parts, cigarette butts and pages from a magazine, and their poetry expresses their thoughts, like LaBelle’s “Seven Slippery Snakes” that slither “In style, All the while they defile Snake reason, They will always be in season, They be so sweet on their slithery beat, Up the steamy street, It’s a fashion show, a flashing show, a dancing and dashing and sashaying show.”
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