Jessica Sanders: My Life has Been a Tapestry, Inside the Artists Studio


Inside the Artist’s Studio:

Jessica Sanders

My Life has Been a Tapestry

By Derrick White

“My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue. An everlasting vision of the ever-changing view. A wondrous, woven magic in bits of blue and gold. A tapestry to feel and see, impossible to hold,” these lyrics come from American singer-songwriter Carole King’s song “Tapestry” from the album of the same name. It is one of the best-selling albums of all time. It received four Grammys in 1972, including album of the year. I mention this because when one first experiences the amazing artwork of local artist Jessica Sanders, it is so incredibly beautiful that you will actually feel the earth move under your feet.

If you would like to experience this visceral sensation for yourself, visit “Shape and Form,” a two woman exhibition featuring Cierra McGuckie and Jessica Sanders on view through May 31st at the Martin Walker Law Firm (121 N. Spring Ave., Downtown Tyler). The gallery space is the historic, former Arcadia Theater. Displayed are large-scale female face oil paintings by Cierra McGuckie, and ceramic, porcelain, tapestry wall mounted sculptures by Jessica Sanders.

Cierra’s work creates a kind of psychological acumen with powerful, emotional intensity. They are visually entrancing and one’s mind begins to create narratives and starts to piece together genealogies while unable to look away from haunting stares.

Jessica’s sculptures are painstakingly assembled (or sewn) small, handcrafted, fired and glazed, geometrically shaped porcelain tiles. Her creations are hung on the wall and seem sinuous, soft, and organic. The undersized individual pieces transcend their uniqueness and become a complete form which is much greater than the sum of its parts. After you get over the initial fascination with the amount of labor devoted to creating each one of these pieces, you will start to see the immense exquisiteness of configuration and texture and a transformation of small and geometric into monumental and environmental. It is magical. It is truly a next level art experience.


This show is curated by local, visual arts juggernaut Dace Lucia Kidd. Also, if you really hurry, you can view Jessica’s work in a three person exhibition titled “Transitions” (works by Sanders, John Miranda, and Lisa Horlander) in the Fine Arts Complex Gallery at UTTyler, up through March 2nd.

“I love the intellectual side of art and the idea of the contemporary conversation going on. Art for me has been an exploration for truth, for beauty, and understanding. The fact there is always more for me to explore is really exciting. The most unexpected things can be the most beautiful,” states Jessica Sanders. “My work is comprised of small ceramic pieces attached together to make a larger piece. The pieces are very flexible and often compared to fabric, this idea of taking something solid and hard and making it fluid is very intriguing to me,” affirms Sanders, adding, “I’ve dabbled in all kinds of media, painting, fibers, printmaking, mixed media, and sculpture. But right now I am focusing on ceramics. If someone had told me three years ago I would be working on a Master’s degree focusing on ceramics I would have laughed. When I was at TJC I was strictly a two dimensional artist. Once I got to UTTyler, the only advanced studio open was ceramics and the idea of taking advanced ceramics was terrifying! My first semester was pretty rough, I had no idea what I was doing, but in the last few weeks I found a pretty cool direction and ended up signing up for the next semester, and then the next. I’ve been interested in installation art for a while and have found ways to meld this with my ceramics, which has been a very exciting development for me.”

Jessica continues, “I come from a very artsy family. My mother was a drama and English teacher with a love of literature, so I grew up watching a lot of musicals and theater. I was exposed to things other kids my age weren’t seeing. My Dad is also an artist. I was very influenced by him growing up. He is a great draftsman and does really nice work with colored pencil, but my favorite things are his sketchbooks. They are goofy and zany and I’ve always loved watching him draw up jokes. When my brother and I were younger, Dad would take us to zoos and we would sketch animals. I loved doing it so much and I was inspired by how good my dad and brother were.” Jessica is also influenced by artists such as Sam Gilliam (color field painter and expressive abstractionist working on draped canvas adding sculptural, 3-D elements). “He creates beautiful drapes and folds with his un-stretched canvas and his color palettes are to die for! The Dallas Museum of Art has one of his works on view titled “leaf,” it’s a must see,” exclaims the artist.

“It just sort of happened, I had started a needlepoint tapestry a few months before we did the album, and I happened to write a song called ‘Tapestry,’ not even connecting the two up in my mind. I was just thinking about some other kind of tapestry, the kind that hangs and is all woven, or something and I wrote that song,” a quote by Carole King.

Jessica’s artwork will be included in the prestigious NCECA (National Council on Education for Ceramic Arts) Juried Show in Pittsburgh, PA March 9th – April 22nd at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. Sanders earned her Associate’s degree in art from Tyler Junior College, a B.F.A. from the University of Texas at Tyler, and is currently working towards her M.F.A. at University of Texas at Tyler. You can find more information about Jessica Sanders and her work at

“Once amid the soft silver sadness in the sky, every life, seemingly slow and dull, is in reality bursting with color. Matching a woven story on a tapestry, each life explodes with action, love, drama, sorrow, and more. Everyone experiences this same rich and intriguing story.”*

*Tapestry annotation by Gavin Matthews.

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