Shirley began taking Ceramics classes at UAF in 1970 learning primarily from Stan Zielinski. She established her own studio in 1977, but returned to the University to attend workshops. Shirley was born and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada. She attended UAF, majoring in Biology with minors in French, Art, and Anthropology. Shirley’s grandmother learned to work with clay in Victoria, B.C., Canada in the 1930s. Although Shirley was not directly taught by her grandmother, she feels that the awareness of her grandmother’s clay objects influences her fascination with pottery.
After establishing her own studio, she was invited to teach Beginning Ceramics classes at UAF in the 1980s. She has also taught pottery in Yakutsk, Sakha, Russia. Influenced by her degree in Biology, she constantly uses her knowledge of geology, chemistry and biology in her studio. Shirley enjoys finding and experimenting with natural Alaskan and Yukon Territory clays, developing new glazes and allowing nature to contribute to her shapes and designs.
Working with the Fairbanks Potters Guild and the Fairbanks Community Food Bank, Shirley has made it her personal goal to make at least 100 bowls every year for the Empty Bowl Project. After a few trials and errors during construction, Shirley fired her new gas kiln in 2007. The results of that and subsequent firings have been a source of joy and amazement. In 2012 Shirley joined 7 other local artists to open an art gallery in downtown Fairbanks, Two Street Gallery.