Shelly Svonavec

  • Name: Shelly Svonavec
  • Business Name: Svona Studio
  • Year: 2017
  • Type of Products: Wall Art, Home Decor
  • Price Range: $50 – $1,500
  • Website:
  • Workshop: By Appointment Only & Private Workshops, 3619 Walton Avenue, C100, Cleveland, Ohio 44113

At what point in your life did you decide to become a professional artist?

I have a degree in Art Education and taught high school art in Charlotte, NC back in 2014. I really believed in my kids when I was teaching and I always wanted them to reach for their full potential, but I didn’t necessarily feel like I was following my own advice. So, in 2017, I moved back to Cleveland to open my studio and experience the freedom of expressing my art in new, inspirational ways – independently. I really wanted a place to connect with people, and my studio is designed to host others.

What’s one of the most special items you’ve ever made for a customer?

The school in Charlotte where I taught was in kind of a tough neighborhood. We had a student die in a car accident while I was there. The students asked that I do a mural for the memorial.  So, I did a large 24 x 36 painting of her face. It was such an emotional and powerful experience working on this close-up – based on a picture – viewing this person so intimately. How it was placed on stage during her memorial really made it seem as if people were talking to her directly, as it was a realistic painting. It hung in the school for a year and then her mom took it home.

If you listen to music while creating, what’s on your playlist?

I do listen to music and podcasts while I’m creating. I have a few different moods, mostly newer artists that my friends recommend like Jessie Reyez and Reagan Capaci. I like funky R&B and reggae vibes. For podcasts, I love “This American Life.” That podcast really inspires me. It drives my work emotionally – these different perspectives from people across the country. I try to stay connected with these experiences and the feelings they bring me to express through my work.

Where do you go to find inspiration in and around Cleveland?

I live in Ohio City. There’s something so unique about this area. For 16 years, my dad owned the house that I currently live in and I was fortunate to experience the rebirth of the community over time. Returning to the area after a few years away was really special.  I love walking around my neighborhood and looking at the architecture of the houses – each house is so individual and expressive. I’ll usually throw on an audiobook, wander around, and soak it all in.

This summer, I went to Lake Erie more than I have in the past. A lot of my work is tactile and there’s something magical about being surrounded by the water. I would go out to Edgewater first thing in the morning and swim way out. It cleared my head in a way I didn’t expect – looking out and meditating.

I also teach an arts integration program to different school systems around Cleveland. I had a tough day at one of the schools on the East side. As I was leaving from school that evening, the sun setting on the boarded-up houses with broken windows gave a sense of hope. This created a lot of stir within me, the gold against neutral colors. I was so struck by finding optimism in the dichotomy; art has caused me to appreciate areas of Cleveland I wouldn’t typically appreciate.

What type of artistic style do you feel best represents your work?

I work abstractly. Nature inspires me – rocks, landscapes, sky, sunshine. Wind has an electronic quality. I have a lot of Pinterest boards of different colors and vibes. I like the juxtaposition between hard and soft, struggle and triumph. Visually, I have these inspirations, but then I have more emotional and humanistic inspiration: what’s happening in the world, other people’s stories, my kids’ trials and tribulations.