So, in a recent post, I spoke about the importance of giving credit where credit is due. So, now it’s my turn to hand out so many credits!!!! I can start with the obvious…my parents who gave me the gift of LOVE AND PEACE so that I could go out into the world and nurture my creative spirit. My husband and kids give me KINDNESS when they know I have the neeeeed to create even tho they’d MUCH rather spend time with me. My education gave me CONFIDENCE! With my college diploma in hand, I set out into the world to see what there was! Do you see how the beginnings of an artistic career really don’t have anything to do with paintbrush and paper, or even talent? It’s just getting comfortable in your skin in this world, really. If you can do that…then, you can open yourself up to what comes your way. After college at UW-Madison (B.S. Interior Design), I pretty much landed in Miami FL. I was living in Atlanta with my uncle, doing nothing other than feeding his dogs while he was out of town. It was pretty boring. One weekend, he flew me to Miami in his airplane for what was supposed to be a “quick trip.” After a few days there, he said he had to “run” out to California and he’d be back to get me in a week or so. That week turned into 6 weeks. I stayed with his friends. I had enough clothes for 3 days and maybe $50 in my pocket and I was 23 years old. (LESSON #1: Always overpack.) His friends took great care of me. After a while, I took matters into my own hands and got the Sunday paper and answered an ad. A week later, I had a job at an Interior Design/Architecture firm in Downtown Miami. When he finally came back to get me, I told him I was staying in Miami! Everything I owned fit into a couple of boxes. He mailed it to me and I went apartment hunting. But, after about 6 months, I realized that I was MISERABLE in the job that my degree had prepared me for! Time to move on. (LESSON #2: I would never be happy in a 9-5 job.) I was too restless. I needed to keep moving. All I really wanted to do, was to see the world? Right>? Isn’t that what every 20-something year old wants to do?
I got a job as a flight attendant and moved to Hawaii.
I LOVED IT! I saw the entire world every week! It was the perfect fit for me! If I got restless, I’d go to Rome, if I got hungry, I’d go to Paris. If I wanted serenity, off to Bali. Good beer? Sydney. Skiing? Vancouver. I loved it. But after a while…that “need to create” kept gnawing at me. I answered another ad! For a freelance graphic designer at a T Shirt Company in Hawaii. I got the job! And that is how I met Manny. My first real mentor in the art world. Manny is the best best bestest graphic artist I know. I worked for him for many years during a time in the art world when computers were beginning to show up on designers’ workspaces and technical pens and “dark rooms” were getting dusty. I learned a lot. There are two things from that era that still resonate with me today. The first is composition. Graphic design is all about composition. You’re trying to get a cohesive design to look aesthetically pleasing and you can change up the style and the colors and the words and the bling all you want, but it’s the composition of all those elements that will make or break your whole design. The second thing I learned is to rise above those that trouble you. Manny
has a gift. He can freehand just about anything beautifully. He came up with top-selling designs that earned him a lot of respect from his peers. And then other designers tweaked his style a little and put their own brand and name on it. It dove me nuts. It didn’t bother him at all! One day I asked him how he put up with it?! He peacefully smiled and said…”Oh! It’s Ok. Those guys don’t have anything on me. They drive me. They make me a better artist because I KNOW I can do WAAAY bettah than them!” It had never even occurred to me to look at it like that! I can’t tell you how many times Manny’s words have been replayed in my head. (LESSON #3: With CONFIDENCE, I can be better than I ever thought possible!)
After a lot of tee-shirt designing, and luau-living…I ended up on a cruise ship from Rome to Athens, Greece. It was great. Except for Athens. I’d been all over the northern and southern islands of Greece, but Athens really didn’t do much for me. I saw the Acropolis and the Parthenon in half a day and I still had two more days to go and there was NOTHING really exciting. So, I wandered the streets looking for something but I didn’t know what I was looking for? It was weird. And then, I found beads! Stores and stores FULL of beads of all size and shape and color and most of them WERE GLASS! I LOVED the glass. I didn’t know a thing about glass or beads but for some reason, I had to have them! SO..I filled up one of my suitcases (remember lesson #1?) with 50 pounds of beads and dragged them back to Hawaii! I took some beading classes but I didn’t really LOVE them. I decided it was really the GLASS that I loved. SO, I found a master lampworker living in Aiea, HI. And that is how I met Calvin Orr. He taught me ALL about glass, how to make beads, how to fire glass, annealing glass, how to cut glass, drill glass, it was all about the glass! I was hooked from Day 1 and have been ever since! Calvin was another great mentor for me. His patience and kindness and willingness to share all he knows about glass was just what I needed. When I teach ShardART classes nowadays, I think back to my first glass classes with Calvin! He says now I’m “really out there” in the glass world. Yep! I agree.
Just after I got hooked on glass, I got unhooked on Hawaii. It was just time to leave. I had been living in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for 14 years and the ocean kept getting bigger every time I wanted to see my family.
It’s a short story on how I ended up in Northwest Florida. It was my husband’s idea. He’s a Florida boy and he wanted to be closer to his parents, and I wanted to live near the ocean. And that is how I met KK! She had lived here for awhile and was a seasoned faux artist. I was a newbie to the area and knew no one and was still working with glass. She loved glass, and I wanted to see what painting was like. Painting was SO FOREIGN to me! I didn’t “get it,” I’d taken painting classes and I guess I liked it but I really struggled with it. I begged KK to give me some tips and she did! She taught me about “The Magic Brush.” And, when I got REALLY impatient, she would calmly remind me…”Mary, it’s JUST PAINT! Don’t worry if you don’t like it! You can always paint over it!” She was right. It just never occurred to me. Those words helped me. It also helped when she decided to move abroad and left me with ALL of her studio supplies. She gave me all her specialty brushes, weird powders, palette knives etc etc. An entire faux-artist-collection-of-goodies for me to play with was an eye opener. (LESSON #4: Start with billions of supplies and something will eventually come of them!) But more than painting, KK
taught me to be a professional artist! That is HUGE! She wasn’t the most organized person at all. But, she worked hard and she made a living at it! It had never occurred to me that I could make sustainable income as an artist. It had always been a hobby for me. The idea of retiring from flying always floated through my head, but the raging spotlight came on when I became pregnant with twins! I quit flying and dove head first in to motherhood. Art popped back into my life when they started school. It was Sharra Frank who, through many emails, encouraged me to teach. I really struggled with teaching too. I knew I was destined for it, but I really didn’t know exactly HOW I was going to “pull apart” what I do, and lay it down in a series of steps. Sharra is an amazing mosaic artist from Minneapolis. I’ve taken her classes and I love HER twist on mosaics. Check out what she does with beads here
…if you think I’m glass-crazy…she’s pretty insane too! I’ll end with Beeb! She’s another mentor and friend who really helped me see that making art was fun and part of everyday life….even if the life has kids in it. She would sit with me at art shows, in 80 degree Florida heat, with my kids in tow, and laugh at the insanity I would put myself through! Beeb..what was I THINKING? (LESSON #5: Don’t do an art show with kids under the age of 10! And, don’t do them when you’re pregnant with twins!)
PEACE and LOVE to all of you…I am where I am because of you!