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Teacup Art is Good for the Soul

Michael Picarella
Acorn Staff Writer

July 2002

One might not see it in a photograph or even in home movies, but Calabasas resident Lissi Kaplan will find one’s inner spirit and bring it to life through her hand-painted flower garden portraits on porcelain teacups and settings.

Family members of Sept. 11 victim Shelley A. Marshall were recently reading Country Living magazine when they saw an article about Kaplan’s teacup art.

Her portraits were referred to as healing art and appreciated as art, but with a purpose; as tea sets and something that could be passed down through a family’s generations.

Marshall’s family knew she enjoyed tea parties and they thought Kaplan’s work—not only the art, but the teacups themselves—would be a great remembrance of Marshall’s spirit.

Marshall worked in the Pentagon and lost her life on Sept. 11 when terrorists crashed a commercial jetliner into the famous building.

In a Website dedicated to Marshall, her husband Donn said, "She lived her life with grace, intensity and fire… That fire burned in many places, and her family and friends know and miss the diminishment …"

Since May, Marshall’s family has been sending Kaplan pictures of Marshall, sharing stories about her and giving Kaplan impressions of her to help create Marshall’s set of teacups.

"They commissioned me to design a tea setting in Shelley’s honor to be presented to her mother," Kaplan said.

"The family has been sending little things about Shelley and what her essence was."

Kaplan said she paints portraits.

"But it’s not a face," she said. "When a client comes to me, we sit and have tea—people start opening up to me over tea—it’s a very healing ritual—and they start talking to me about their joys in life, their disappointments … I get a feeling of their personality and their essence and about what their inner garden might look like."

Kaplan might spend four to five weeks on an average just to get to know someone before doing a portrait.

But she’ll eventually translate what she feels about a person into colors and types of flowers. She asks herself, "What kind of flower would this person be if they were a flower?"

"When I did Hillary’s garden (portrait) for Hillary Clinton," Kaplan said, "because she has such a strong personality and she’s a very opinionated person, a very righteous person, my flowers for her were very strong roses with a very strong color—a purplish, reddish color."

Kaplan said Marshall’s portrait is the most unique teacup set she’s done because she couldn’t personally meet her.
"This is the first time that I’ve been approached to do something for a deceased person," Kaplan said. "Most of the time it’s for mother and daughters or for weddings—this is the first time I’ve done something this powerful. It just makes me feel like my work is so important. Like it’s beyond the painting. It’s memories."

Kaplan hopes the tea set will be completed by August so the family has it for the one-year memorial in September.

"They’ll have this forever and they can also pass it on to their children and one day their mother will say, ‘This is from your grandmother. This is what she looked like.’"

Kaplan has painted porcelain for five years, but was previously an interior designer. She studied art at UCLA and USC.

"I’ve always been in different fields of the arts," Kaplan said. "But this art form, which is a very difficult art form—because porcelain is a very slippery surface—I find it much more personal."

For more information about Kaplan’s work, log onto to www.lissikaplan.com.

For more information about Marshall and the foundation her family began in her honor, go to www.shelleysfoundation.org.
Copyright 2005 © The Shelley A. Marshall Foundation
14 Ryan Court
Shepardstown, WV 25443

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