Artists and Makers in Cypress

Using Different Mediums Local Artists Create Beauty

Article by Erica Hernandez and Peggy Garner

Photography by Janet Buller | Buller Photography, Vicky Suarez and contributing photographers

Originally published in Cypress Lifestyle

Chanel Wilson

"I would love for people to be inspired by and appreciate the beauty of my form of art."

Chanel Wilson makes handwriting dance. Her letters loop across wooden signs spelling out Bible verses, wedding wishes or poetry. Making written messages beautiful is her art. 

“I would love for people to be inspired by and appreciate the beauty of my form of art,” she says. “Art in itself can be a universal language.”

Chanel owns Cypress Calligraphy and creates artistic memories from her clients’ messages. Chanel handwrites anything from home decor signs to wedding address labels. She creates freehand designs without stencils or templates. 

“You can’t just go to the store and buy something that I’ve done,” she says. “Each piece is made by hand with love and purpose.” 

As a child, the art of making letters intrigued Chanel. It wasn’t until 2013, however, that someone suggested she start selling her designs. A few months later, she took a calligraphy class and hoped to use her skills as a way to get extra income. She was six months pregnant at the time and didn’t know it would soon become her primary source of income.

In 2014 Chanel had her first son, Memphis, but quickly realized they both were in danger. Her husband at the time was unemployed, abusive and drug-addicted. One day, in a “burst of courage” she left home with her son and two bags of clothing. She filed for divorce and relied on her budding calligraphy art to support herself and Memphis. 

“I started doing it out of interest and love,” she says. “Sadly, it became a necessity.”

Chanel remarried and now has an 8-month-old son, Murphy. She is a survivor who believes her story gives her strength. She encourages others to pick up a pen and create. 

“There are so many different ways of expressing calligraphy,” she says. “If one type doesn’t work for you, there’s other ways of getting involved. Don’t give up.”

Shirley Scarpetta 

"My mission in life is...To make these legacy makers. To remind others to be kind to one another and love one another."

Shirley Scarpetta sculpts legacies. The monuments she builds often tell the stories of community members who’ve made a lasting change. 

“My mission in life is to keep sculpting these beautiful works of art,” she says. “To make these legacy makers. To remind others to be kind to one another and love one another.” 

She created the life-sized sculpture of Ken Walden, Tomball’s beloved volunteer train station agent. Ken, an elderly gentleman, for years offered tours while dressed as an old-timey train conductor. Ken died of a heart attack in 2015. Shirley, who personally knew Ken, was commissioned by the city to sculpt his figure, which now welcomes station visitors.

Another of her more prominent works is of Harris County Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal, a Sikh officer who was fatally shot last year during a Cypress traffic stop. Shirley knew Sandeep before his death and described him as friendly with a “you-can-do-it attitude.” Attending Sandeep’s funeral vigil compelled her to sculpt his life-like bust.

“He united all of us, and I’ll never forget that as long as I live,” she says. 

Most recently, Shirley sculpted a figure of Meleah Davis, a 4-year-old Houston girl who went missing last summer. Her mangled body was later discovered in Arkansas. The tragedy compelled Shirley to sculpt the girl so she would not be forgotten. 

“A lot of times things just kind of overwhelm me,” Shirley says. “It will get inside my head and I’ll just have to sculpt it out.”

Shirley began sculpting in 2007 and quickly “went all in.” She never attended a formal art school opting instead to apprentice and learn on her own. By 2012 she’d sculpted a 750-pound, snarling wildcat for Cypress Woods High School which still guards the school property. 

She hopes her work will inspire others to pursue their own passions. 

Vicky Suarez

"I like to create a feeling of happiness. ... Sometimes you can create that with the viewer."

The art Vicky Suarez creates usually doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t portray a scene or anything concrete. It exists to evoke a feeling that’s somewhere between whimsical and abstract. 

“I like to create a feeling of happiness,” she says. “Sometimes calm. Sometimes you can create that with the viewer.”

Vicky creates ceramic sculptures and bright abstract paintings doused in reds, yellows and greens. She likes to show the connection between humans and the natural world. Her inspiration comes from experiencing the world. 

“When you are an artist, I think inspiration can come from anything,” she says. “And you need to be present to receive the inspiration.”

Her work has been on display at Lone Star College Cy-Fair where she studies, but her experience is far from traditional. Originally from Venezuela, she fled the country 10 years ago with her husband and their young son to escape political conflict. She also hoped the United States would offer a better life for her son who has cerebral palsy. 

Vicky’s journey to becoming an artist was a winding road. She’d always loved art but was dissuaded by family to try a different career. 

“My mom would say, ‘art is not a career. Art is more of a hobby,’” Vicky says. 

She earned an accounting degree in Venezuela, but never really wanted to be an accountant. Then she studied graphic design at Lone Star College. But after a short while, she wanted to create her own designs rather than for a client. She credits the Lone Star College art department for helping her believe in herself. 

“I think you need to be surrounded by people who support you,” she says. “Who say, ‘You can do this. You are good enough.’”

Grant Maniér

"It’s not what I can’t do, it’s what I can do that makes a difference."

Grant Maniér’s journey started with an obsession with paper to help soothe his anxieties from autism. As a teenager, he began tearing and cutting the paper to make artwork. He calls it “Eco-art” because he uses recycled materials, such as puzzles, cards, calendars and posters to create his masterpieces. Each piece begins with a sketch on a canvas then Grant painstakingly tears and glues the recycled materials to construct what he imagines. One of his pieces can take up to a month or more to create and uses over 6000 pieces of recycled paper.

Winning Grand Champion for his artwork in the 2011 Austin Rodeo changed the trajectory of his life. Word got out about his win and when Westview School for Autism invited him to teach eco-art to their students, his business and philanthropy began. Through his website and Grant More Books Acts of Kindness program, he promotes literacy and environmental responsibility. He and Julie also travel with his art exhibit and Jigsaw Grant mascot to schools and organizations around the country where Grant speaks and teaches eco-art.

While Julie keeps most of Grant’s original pieces, they offer prints of them. He has donated some original pieces to raise money for charities. He has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars funding equine therapy, wheelchairs, hearing aids and physical therapy for people with special needs. Grant is also passionate about promoting inclusion for everyone. He is the Red Carpet reporter for the Dallas and Houston Night of Superstars, an “Oscar-like” charity event celebrating local kids who haven’t let their disabilities define them, an honor he was recognized for in 2015. His motto is "It’s not what I can’t do, it’s what I can do that makes a difference." 

You can purchase prints from his website or Impulse Art at 15404 FM Rd 529, Houston.

Sally Pennington Moore

"We try to enrich their lives through artistic self-expression."

For Sally Pennington Moore, nothing is quite as magical as glass. Her hand-blown glass art pieces are bright and playful. All are created in her studio, Three Dimensional Visions, using sand, her breath and a whole lot of heat. 

“I take raw material - glass made from sand in the Earth,” she says. “An idea, plus some imagination, and make it into something that will bring joy and enrichment to someone else.”

Sally is a resident artist at the studio, which she owns and operates with her husband, Michael Kerry Brown, and her son, Patrick Kerry Brown. Sally, who has a background in geology, opened the studio in 2014 after she retired from a 35-year career with ExxonMobil. Her husband, an experienced sculptor, had always wanted to open a hot-glass studio. And after a few glass-cutting and fusing classes, the two were hooked. Now, Sally says the best part of doing her job is getting to share her love of glass blowing with her husband, son, customers and fellow glass collectors. 

“We try to enrich their lives through artistic self-expression,” she says. “By making glass with them or for them.”

Creating glass art starts by melting a silica-based mix until it’s the consistency of honey. The glassmaker then takes a long pipe, swirls it into the molten glass and shapes her piece by blowing through the pipe. The glass is reheated and reworked until the glassmaker gets a perfect shape.  

Three Dimensional Visions is the only open-access glass blowing studio of its kind in the area. Aspiring glass blowing artists can watch a demonstration, host a party or take a six-week introductory class.  

“All it takes is breath, imagination, heat, and money,” Sally says. “Oh yes, practice, practice, practice.” 

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