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Community : Top Stories Last Updated: Feb 6, 2013 - 9:31:01 AM

Familiar Faces: Artist Rebecca Shaw frames up life at Island Expressions
By Elizabeth Bush
Feb 6, 2013 - 9:29:06 AM

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You won’t find the typical office items on Rebecca Shaw’s desk. Exquisite paintings by renowned artists, a signed document from Abraham Lincoln, treasured coins and sports jerseys, African-art made from butterfly wings, and even a sentimental piece of drywall from a customer’s burned home have all made their way to her work station in the back room at Island Expressions on Daniel Island.
As the shop’s head framer, Shaw is in the business of preserving memories and other keepsakes for her customers, and she never knows what might come through the door.     
“If somebody’s got it in a drawer, and it means something to them, they can frame it here,” said Shaw. “I love that everything is different every day. I don’t come in and sit at a desk and tinker at a computer all day and then go home. Every day is a little bit of a challenge to try and figure out the whole framing side of things. It’s always interesting!”  
The New York native certainly has an artistic eye to lend to the process. Shaw has a degree in Art, Painting and Drawing from Anderson University. Her own portfolio, much of which is on display in downtown Charleston at the Social Wine Bar, reflects a variety of mediums – including oil paintings, photography and India ink. She also offers pet portraits at Island Expressions, and even co-created a commemorative, limited edition print featuring Daniel Island history (it has since sold out). Overall, she seeks to elicit a response from those who view her art.
“Maybe a different perspective than what they normally would be faced with,” she said, while working at Island Expressions on a recent Friday morning. “It’s kind of difficult in art because there is a big division between the stuff that will sell and the things that you might really, really be passionate about, but no one can really identify with…My art work, my contemporary art work, is usually about my life situations, so it’s very personal.”
And it is those things that are most personal to her that have had the biggest influence on her life, such as the recent ending of a serious relationship. The pivotal experience has awakened in her a new passion, one that prompted Shaw to begin an online Master’s Degree program in professional counseling with Liberty University.
 “I see that as my calling,” she said. “I’d love to work with vets on the side…wives, fiancées, girlfriends of military (servicemen)…that’s really where my passion is. My dad was in the military and went to West Point and was a captain in the Army. Another person close to me also served in the military and suffered from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). It was definitely a learning experience and I just grew to have a heart for it. I feel a big duty.”
She even hopes to one day combine her love of art with therapy for her patients, a full circle plan that makes perfect sense to Shaw.
“Something big was going to come out of (my situation),” she said. “And this was it. I couldn’t ask for anything more. It made it worth it.”
In the meantime, she continues to enjoy her work at Island Expressions, where she treasures helping her customers frame those things that are most precious to them, even if it means seeing something through their eyes and not her own.  
 “A lot of (my customers) rely on my experience, but the other side of that is giving them what they want. I think being a part of this you gain appreciation for all different types of styles. And I’m able to recognize what looks good, even if I wouldn’t hang it in my house!”
Shaw knows from experience the value of art and all that it symbolizes for people. The affirmation she gets from those who purchase her work is the best payback.
“It’s wonderful! It’s probably the most wonderful experience, especially with the contemporary work. I’ve had a few people purchase those, and it’s like a match. It’s like somebody has literally found their art soul mate. It really describes something they’ve been through that’s significant, or something they are currently experiencing.”
One of Shaw’s personal pieces offers an especially intriguing look at the artist’s perspective on her own life. In the thought-provoking India ink image, a long-haired woman looks up at a flock of white birds with her graceful arms extended towards the sky. A hint of a smile is etched on her face as she appears to ponder what lies ahead. The image, entitled “The Release,” expresses the end of a relationship…and the hope in starting anew.  
“It’s about letting go,” said Shaw. “Letting things go and allowing them to do what they’re supposed to do, instead of trying to control them.”
Beside her in the drawing is another bird, this one seemingly attached to her instead of flying away. As Shaw explains, it reveals that a part of everything we experience stays with us, ultimately shaping who we become. For this artist, framer and soon-to-be counselor, it is indeed the perfect backdrop for her life, a canvas that continues to evolve into its own work of art.

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