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Her creativity ran and joined the circus

By Anne O’Connor


PEPPERELL — Shenna Shepard is a clinical psychologist some days. Other days, her creative and entrepreneurial side govern her activities.

A self-taught artist, she assembles whimsical characters from bits and pieces both old and new. She has been at it for only a couple of years.

This year, she designed the Christmas display window at the American Folk Art Museum in Manhattan. It features her work — circus-inspired characters.

To see samples of Shepard’s work visit her website,

Q: Before you started making characters, you decorated boxes with vintage materials and sold them on Etsy. What was your plan?

A: My first thought was they really came out beautifully. I’m going to market to upscale candy stores. I didn’t do that either.

Q: Next you began to make characters and give them names. You mix things like porcelain animal or doll heads, tins and objects like door knobs to create one piece. How does this work?

A: I can take some odd thing and make it into something entirely different. Most of my pieces are all vintage. Sometimes I cull from new sources.

Q: What was your inspiration to sell your characters?

A: My sister-in-law came over from New York State. She said, “This is what you need to be doing.” It opened up the floodgates to go in that direction.

Q: You have work in several galleries. Was that hard to do?

A: I pound the pavement. They try and ship you out the door and tell you to send email.

Q: What was you first break?

A: I went into this gallery in Tubac (Arizona), a very, very high-end gallery. They ended up accepting my pieces.

Q: What was your next commercial success?

A: I got published in this magazine, “Just Steampunk.”

Q: You have printed books with your work to show galleries. What else do you use for sales tools?

A: I reached out to the American Folk Art Museum in New York City. I had just founded my website. She contacted me within four days. She said she was very excited about my work.

Q: Has the popularity of your work changed your process?

A: At some point I filled up my house. Now I’ve got to hunt for pieces for my artwork.

Q: Your house is a large Victorian, decorated with period pieces. Is this a good region for selling your art?

A: In New England it’s a little bit harder. Art tastes are more conservative.

Q: Where do you see yourself heading with your artwork?

A: This is my thing. I’m 55. I’m already thinking in my mind of what am I going to do when I retire. Hopefully it builds and it can be my retirement.

Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter and Tout @a1oconnor.