A Sisterhood of Art

Writer Susan Kern-Fleischer

Photography Courtesy of Sandy Pendleton and Nancy Pendleton

Some sisters share clothes, and other sisters share recipes. Sandy and Nancy Pendleton share a passion for creating beautiful art, both independently and together.

Sandy, a glass artist, and Nancy, a mixed-media painter, are two of 199 artists participating in the 23rd Annual Hidden in the Hills Artist Studio Tour taking place Nov. 22-24 and Nov. 29-Dec. 1. 

Coordinated by the non-profit Sonoran Arts League, Hidden in the Hills is Arizona’s largest and longest-running artist studio tour. This year’s free, self-guided tour features 47 studios throughout Cave Creek, Carefree and North Scottsdale.

This is Sandy’s sixth year participating in the art tour, and her first year as host of Studio #20 in Cave Creek. Her younger sister, Nancy, returns to the tour after many years to exhibit her new work at Sandy’s studio. Nancy’s colorful, abstract painting graced the cover of the popular glossy Hidden in Hills artist directory in 2000.

A Love of Glass

Sandy Pendleton’s passion for glass art was ignited after she took a basic glass class at her local community college. She became fascinated with the way glass interacts with light, the way it moves with heat, and the creativity it allows. 

Her colorful fused glass sculptures include several series, such as her intricate, multi-layered glass houses; her captured motion sculptures, where glowing, molten glass is manipulated in a kiln to create unusual one-of-a-kind pieces; and her Earth-inspired sculptures, which are iridescent and accented with glass textures that allow for the pieces to react to changing light over the course of the day.

Using a series of processes, she introduces movement, depth and textures into her fused glass pieces. Bubbles and iridescent surfaces alter the path of light, allowing the glass to interact with its environment. 

“I think the little details in an artwork are what makes a piece interesting and speaks to the quality, so I put in the time. It may take several firings to make the small parts that I will assemble into a larger piece,” she said.

One of her collaborations with her sister Nancy had 1,600 tiny glass triangles that she hand-cut and placed. “I use a lot of textures, and that means I need to carefully control the heat in my kiln. Glass is not forgiving. You need to think through what you are doing, and you must be patient,” she said.

Inspired by Nature, 

Animals and Fashion 

Nancy Pendleton graduated from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in graphic design, with an emphasis on illustration. She worked as a freelance illustrator for several years before landing a job in the Arizona Republic newsroom as an illustrator/graphic artist. While at the Republic, she won numerous Press Club awards for her work.  

An acclaimed mixed-media painter, she is best known for her vibrant, whimsical mixed-media paintings of people, animals and desert flora. Some of her pieces are also abstract.

“I paint with acrylics and incorporate handmade paper to give pieces more texture. In the past, I have added sticks petals, leaves, found objects and fabric,” she said. 

Her intense love and devotion to animals is evident in her work, and she often donates her time and talent to many local animal-related charities. 

“My animal paintings are not portraits. They are about all the warmth and joy animals bring to our lives. My life would not be complete without my four dogs,” she said, adding that she also loves drawing cats, even though she is allergic to them.

Nancy recently did a series of paintings of women. 

“I admire women who are willing to speak their truth, especially in the face of adversity. My inspiration was the idea of women being strong and bold as individuals, but even stronger together,” she said. 

A Creative Collaboration

Sandy and Nancy began experimenting together in 2011. Their collaborations consist of glass focal points created with a variety of techniques. The glass is mounted to a textured and painted mixed media wooden panel.  

The sisters learned early on that, because the glass color palette is limited while the paint palette is infinite, it was best to start the process with the glass. They individually make samples, and then discuss color choices and how to build out their contemporary, mixed media panel pieces.

Collaborating has not only strengthened their bond as sisters, it has also helped their individual work.

“We work on art, we talk, we get a little silly,” Sandy said. “It certainly helps me creatively. Often the textures and color combinations I developed for a collaboration reappear in my individual work.”

Nancy agreed, saying that her favorite part of working together is brainstorming in the studio. 

“We push each other creatively in the pieces we do together, as well as in our individual pieces,” Nancy said, adding that she sometimes consults Sandy for input on her own work.

During Hidden in the Hills, Sandy and Nancy will exhibit their individual artwork as well as collaborative nature-inspired, colorful, abstract pieces with very textural finishes. 

Guest artists at Sandy’s studio also include mixed media artists Mark and Nancy Dabrowski, ceramist KimmBerly loane, and jeweler Carole Tenwalde.


23rd Annual Hidden in the Hills Artist Studio Tour

Friday through Sunday, Nov. 22–24 & Nov. 29–Dec. 1 | 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

Free, self-guided tour featuring 199 artists at 47 studios throughout Cave Creek, Carefree & N. Scottsdale

Maps available at Sonoran Arts League’s Center for the Arts | 7100 E. Cave Creek Rd., Suite 144, Stagecoach Village, Cave Creek


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