Sheila Howell Tuffanelli was born in Manila, Philippines a few years before World War II. The family managed to get to the United States in 1942.
Searching for the proper situation for her British father began a ten year journey. They settled for a while in San Diego near her mother’s large Irish family. After the war they moved back to San Francisco where she attended Presidio and George Washington High Schools. A final move was to San Mateo and Notre Dame High School, and then Stanford University where she met her husband of 49 years, Denny Tuffanelli.
The odyssey continued while Denny continued his medical training moving from Chicago to Minnesota to Los Angles and finally to Marin County in 1964, here to raise their five daughters.
In her early years Sheila created a make-believe world of friends, drawings, writing plays for her dolls, making costumes and dancing. Things haven’t changed much, except her friends are real, the plays became her poetry, the dolls became her daughters and dance remains important in her sculptures and paintings.
In between raising 5 children Sheila has performed in musicals, produced a weekly children’s TV show, refinished furniture, painted her house at least three times, driven 50,000 miles of car pools, established the first gymnastic training school in Marin (MEGA) , worked as a bookkeeper in her husband’s office and finally 12 years ago was able to concentrate on her art. Sheila defines the multitasking woman of today.
Sheila was an art major at Stanford University and continued her education at the Academy of Art in San Francisco and the College of Marin. In her sculpture she portrays the strength and dignity of women, the loving, nuturing yet fiercely protective nature of women. These attributes have been passed down to her daughters and 11 grandchildren.
She works mainly with tar paper in her sculptures . She has developed her own technique. Starting with sketches and then forming a wire armature, she layers torn pieces of tar paper, gluing layer upon layer until it forms a very strong shape. Then the form can be embellished with stitching or texturing the surface. This tactile process is very important to her and extending this component into painting with pastels has been the perfect bridge. It has opened up further experimentation. The true artist never stops learning and pushing the boundaries.
Absorbing, compelling, passionate, fulfilling… what an incredible gift to be an Artist.