An independent day school serving grades K-12 | St. Paul, MN

Valerie Sands ’81



Becoming a graphic designer has been an amazing journey for me that started in my early youth. I wasn't sure of this particular calling until I had a few years doing it under my belt. Then I realized, that I was pointed in this direction all along. 

My years at SPA gave me a safe place to explore graphic design before I even knew it was for me. My art teacher, Hazel Belvo, was dedicated to the beauty of art and what it can do for your soul. She was so encouraging while I painted with acrylic on canvas using a hard edge for everything I did. The paintings I completed while at SPA were a hint of what my future held for me. 

As a graphic designer with an artist's heart, I'm continually looking to utilize my skill set to render a new art project. Whatever medium I'm working in for a client, I generally want to make something for myself.




My first paying job in this area was as a graphics specialist for a financial investment firm in the late '80s. This was at the dawn of the technological/informational revolution that's been happening since then. I was given cutting edge computer equipment and software. Long before the digital camera became a staple, I had an electronic box connected to my computer with an actual 35mm camera attached to it that took pictures of my computer files. Film would be removed from the camera and developed at a film processing company, delivered the next day. My main duties were to create physical slides from PowerPoint for the portfolio managers. My rolls of film only came in 36 exposure. 

I would get slide requests from portfolio managers they would generally need the next day. I decided to begin creating gradients and exposing them to film at the end of the film rolls. I cut off the sprockets, taped them down on a glass plate (covering the entire area) to resemble a stained glass window. Then I place another piece of glass over it, taped them together. 



Right before I graduated from college, I was walking down by the river under a railroad trestle bridge. The structure was so beautiful, I had to photograph it. After developing the pics, I wasn't quite sure what to do with them, so they lived in my ideas file. 

Then, in 2008, the 35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis-a bridge I had driven over hundreds of time while at the University of Minnesota. It struck me almost immediately what I would do. The time had come to revive my bridge pics. 

At about the same time, the print design industry started to nose dive from the move to online materials. A print design firm I had worked with for years, was shutting its doors and had loads of paper samples. Every type of color, texture, and weight. I walked away with so much. I knew I could create the trestle bridge at Piffer's using some of this paper. 

Original pics 



Thad so much fun creating the bridge piece that again my eye turned to another project. Trees. I have always loved trees and have often joked about wanting to be reincarnated as one. I started taking pictures of all kinds of trees by Lake Michigan in Lincoln Park, Chicago, IL. 

The tree that spoke to me first was a very large, dead tree with nearly all of its bark missing. I knew a shadowbox frame would capture, not only the beautiful shape of the tree, but add an extra dimension of shadow. I also used paper with an embossed wood grain. 



I wanted to do another tree project. On a walk through my neighborhood-a very highly densely populated area-I noticed some trees had been unusually shaped by the lumberjacks who work for the power company. I had to capture them. The four trees captured in the Surf 

Trees lived across from my place on Surf Street were most peculiar and misshapen. Once I put them together, I couldn't get over how the top tree looked like it was actually surfing. 



The art projects I have done in the past basically demanded that they be created (according to my brain). This is what happened with a simple white denim jacket I bought, but hardly ever wore because I thought it was too bland. It stared at me in my closet on me that it was basically just an open canvas that needed attention. I painted this jacket with Mondrian in mind. I looked up a recipe for clothing paint on line, and then, channeling my high school self, I painted the jean jacket. It turned out better than I could have ever hoped! It can be washed (with bleach!) regularly and the paint isn't corrupted, just makes it softer. 



My fascination with calendars began early in my life. As I began my graphic design career, I couldn't believe I had software that would allow me to scan and edit photos or create my own art. I was having so much fun with this new technology that I decided to create a calendar with my electronic creations then print. 

I have created many calendars over the years. The last calendar I created is a perpetual calendar and will last forever! This calendar is printed on high quality paper, then coated with clear contact paper. The month titles are hand cut. 



Examples from calendars created early in my design career. 

1992 Calendar: This was the first calendar I produced using what was state-of-the-art color printing at the time. The resolution is quite low. These 2 examples were created from scratch in a photo editing software program. The actual day squares were printed on white paper and displayed below the art. 

2005 Calendar: Although I produced several calendars after the 1st one, they were black and white, created by hand-not any photo editing software. I generally had photos or friends or things I liked and made collages for each month. 2005 was the next color calendar I created. The examples shown are a few examples of this calendar.

Valerie Sands ’81

Valerie Sands ’81

Valerie Sands ’81