One summer in the 1970s, while driving home from discussing art theory in a watercolor class, alumna Linda Shiffler noticed things didn’t look the same.
“I saw things in a completely different light,” she said. “That a tree isn’t black, or it isn’t grey, or it isn’t brown, it’s a mixture of many colors. And with that type of thing, I began to look at everything a little more closely.”
Since then, Shiffler ’70 has turned her passion for art into a career ranging from pottery to paper-making.
“As a kid, I was fascinated by anything with a handle and a lid,” Shiffler said.
This fascination has helped mold her pottery from a variety of small pitchers and lidded jars, to funeral urns, which she said she has made for some family members.
Shiffler has her own space in a back room of Studio 49, an artist’s co-op in Jonesville, Michigan. There, she creates her own pottery, which is on display in the gallery.
Her inspiration for her art goes all the way back to her childhood.
“I grew up on a farm,” she said. “My father and mother were both in tune with nature.”
Her family background also instilled in her a strong respect for wood, nature, and the art she saw around her.
“I think creation is an amazing thing,” Shiffler said. “There are so many things that we can see and appreciate.”
She said she realized her father’s respect for nature when in the middle of a huge field, he farmed around “one, beautiful, perfect, round oak tree.”
“And he just said, ‘Sure I could chop it down, but anything this beautiful deserves to survive,’” Shiffler said.
Nature permeates much of Shiffler’s work, from her pottery to the mosaic of trees she recently completed with another artist, which is now in the third level of the Hillsdale Hospital.
As a student at Hillsdale College, Shiffler had a friend who noticed her work and encouraged her to adopt an art minor after seeing her draw so often. Shiffler said she particularly enjoyed art history, finding it fascinating with the help of professors who were both helpful and dear to her.
“I was not a stellar student because I didn’t really know how to study when I went to college,” Shiffler said. “But I’ve always been proud to say I’m a Hillsdale graduate.”
Shortly after Shiffler’s graduation in 1970, she signed up to take watercolor classes with Professor Sam Knecht.
“I recall Linda well,” Knecht said in an email. “She was and remains a most enthusiastic person whose good cheer is poured into her life and artwork. She performed well in the watercolor classes she took with me in the ’70s.”
Shiffler’s participation in Hillsdale College’s Art Department didn’t end with the watercolor classes she took with Knecht almost fifty years ago. Knecht said in the early 2000s Shiffler attended Friday life drawing sessions.
“Her abilities and interest in drawing well have always endeared her to me,” Knecht said. “Linda is always quick with a good story and sense of humor.”
Alisha Conklin was an art student of Shiffler’s when Conklin was in high school at Camden-Frontier High School in Camden, Michigan.
“She was always an inspiration to me because of how much she cares about both people and art,” Conklin said.
Conklin and Shiffler are both members of the Gallery 49 Artists’ Co-op, where Conklin displays her photography. Conklin said the two still see each other often in the gallery, where she comes to watch Shiffler work in her pottery studio.
“She’s a talker,” Conklin said. “Well, we both are.”