About Us

Landscape Architect Shasta McCoy Publishes A Children’s Book

Shasta Uses Creativity In and Out of Work

Shasta with her daughter Luna
By day, Nelson-based Shasta McCoy is a Landscape Architect and Ecological Designer at Urban Systems. In her free time, she’s an author and artist who recently published her first children’s book: The Alphabet Mandalas.

Shasta says that landscape architecture is a creative profession, but she still often gets the urge to explore other artistic outlets. That creative pull led to her to take on the challenge of publishing her first book.

The idea for the book happened by accident. While on mat leave, when Shasta and her husband Richard were wandering a toy store one day, they found a very unusual alphabet book. They debated buying it, and in the end decided not to. When they got home, they decided to try to look it up and buy it after all. But they could never find that “magical” book again, no matter where they looked. One day Richard said to Shasta, “Well, since we can’t find it, you should just make one!”, setting her off on a labour of love that she says kept her very busy (particularly when mat leave was over and she had an energetic toddler running around), but also very creatively charged.

“Working on the book helped keep things in perspective. Being a designer by profession can be very consuming. If you aren’t consciously reminding yourself about the other things in life it can sometimes take over, so I think having other things going on creatively helps keep you fresh.”

Shasta thought creating her book would be straightforward, but she soon realized that the alphabet is actually quite long when you need to create original art for each letter!


“It’s no small thing to make 26 original pieces of art, especially when you change your mind a lot,” she laughs. In the beginning, Shasta started with a sketch book; brainstorming how to represent the alphabet. Eventually she landed on the idea of having each page feature a letter-inspired mandala made up of plants, minerals, critters and some elegant man-made contraptions. She used her own original photographs as well as those of her husband, parents and Urban colleague Darren Filipic, and started cutting out objects and placing into compositions. After three years of work, mostly completed in the evening while her daughter Luna slept, Shasta’s book The Alphabet Mandalas became a reality.

“I ultimately made it for Luna, as a way to show her things I think were beautiful, parts of the world that I found relevant and important, in a fun way. It’s meant as a fun, visual feast for the eyes.”

Shasta applied for and received a grant with a Columbia Basin Trust to get the book published. Since the book has been printed, she regularly drops copies off to local libraries while she’s travelling for work. She has already started work on a second book, which will be another mandala book featuring the colour spectrum: The Rainbow Mandalas.

“I like simple elegant beautiful things. Being creative in my free time definitely feeds into my work in Landscape architecture. I am so interested in finding different ways for people to relate to nature and landscapes—oftentimes, that’s where the heart of my art is at.

When she isn’t working or creating new books, Shasta also loves creating fiber animals—small sculptures made from felt and wool—and looking to the future, she’s set her creative sights on exploring how she might create unique videos to showcase some of the projects completed by folks at Urban. “I am not quite sure what I have in mind yet, but maybe showing people using our work actively—doing a time lapse of a plaza or street, showing someone riding through a multi-use pathway we have designed…there are so many ways we could showcase our work to people through video.”

Ultimately, Shasta says that fueling her creativity keeps her energized and grounded and excited to come to work every day.

Want to learn and see more of Shasta’s work?

Buy The Alphabet Mandalas on Amazon.ca
On Facebook

Check out some of her wool sculpture work

The Wool McCoy on Facebook
The Wool McCoy on Etsy


Copyright © 2020 Urban Systems. All Rights Reserved.