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Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. (Image courtesy of Shelly Corbett).

Artist of the Week: Shelly Corbett

Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists who we love to feature weekly on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at hello@seattlerefined.com. And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you!

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating? Do you work with other mediums?
Shelly Corbett: I've been a photographer for over 30 years. I've dabbled in other mediums such as bead working and small metal works, but photography is my first love.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
My work with toys has two distinct aspects: the public and the personal. The public aspect includes supporting and growing the online toy photography community through my blog where I write about all aspects of the toy community and toy photography. We work to educate and inspire both beginning and seasoned photographers. The personal aspect of my work includes having fun and exploring the world on a macro level.

This journey started six years ago when I got hooked on Instagram and discovered the toy photographer’s community. This gregarious group of adults who love their toys and who never take themselves too seriously intrigued me. They’ve taught me so much that I'm inspired to give back through my blogging and other outreach activities. These activities include informational talks, organizing nationwide meet-ups, running an online community through G+ and being a liaison to the LEGO Group.

In my own work I’m exploring combining my photography with encaustic wax medium. I start with an image from my "Secret Life of Toys" series and I work to bring out the painterly aspects of these images. I enjoy taking photos with a very short focal range. This blurs the background and blends the colors in a way that feels very painterly to me. I use the wax, and other traditional painting mediums to blur the line between photography and painting even more.

Tell us about where your inspiration for your art comes from?
My current work has evolved from my family's love of LEGO. I had to make a choice: embrace the plastic madness or be stuck forever sorting our LEGO collection. My own obsession with LEGO started when I was gifted a set of Series 1 Collectible Mini Figures. This gift has blossomed into a six-year love affair with these fun characters. Through them I've learned to tell stories; sometimes the stories I tell are my own, sometimes they're stories the toys want to tell. Hopefully these stories resonate with both humanity and humor.

Do you have a specific “beat” you like best – nature, food, profiles etc?
My photographic 'beat' is rooted in the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. I like to explore this beauty from the level of a toy that is only 4cm tall. My toys and camera are always with me when I go on hikes in the summer or snowshoeing in the winter. I'm always on the lookout for new places to explore as well as returning to old favorites like Magnuson Park.

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
I don't have one piece of art that I've created that is special to me; I have many. The images that I've taken in and around water hold the most meaning for me; these images represent the idea of seeking, an adventure or a traditional heroes quest. They also represent my connection to the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. I love how the water can ripple with a slow shutter speed, how it sparkles in the sun and how reflections can feel like a view into another world. I love the challenge of bringing my toys to life; they help to remind me that magic and mystery still inhabits this world. Something my inner child approves of.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
There have been starts, stops and roadblocks in my life that have affected my artistic journey. Each experience, big and small, has been important in its own way. But being a mom has probably had the biggest effect of all. Through my children I've learned the value of play - at any age!

If we want to see more of your work where should we go to find?
The best place to get more information about my work, and find out about upcoming exhibitions, is on my web site: sjcorbett.com.

What is next for you? Anything you’re working on right now that you’re really excited about?
I'm excited about all the possibilities that 2018 holds. I will continue to pursue opportunities to show my work locally, nationally and internationally. I will continue to support and advocate for the worldwide toy photography community and I will keep writing for my blog: toyphotographers.com. Basically, I'm looking forward to doing more of the same while growing as an artist.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? We ask everyone!
I like my tea hot with a little sugar.

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