Bay Area Eco Art – What brought you to eco-art?
Mary – I have been interested in conservation, ecology, and recycling on the one side and in the arts in general on the other for as long as I can remember. My formative years coincided with the beginnings of earth-awareness and Earth Day (back in the early 70’s) and I have always done what I can to lessen my impact on the environment. My children wore cloth diapers (most of the time), we put solar panels on our home, we have our own organic garden, we compost. I believe if we all do what we can, together we can make a significant difference.
I have been involved in arts and crafts all my life. I began sewing when I was six years old and have never stopped. Creating with fabric is my true passion. When my children went off to college and moved out of their rooms, I moved in with my sewing machines and fabrics! It is wonderful to have a dedicated workspace.
Bay Area Eco Art – What is your history? Have you always been an artist?
Mary – I have always loved the creative process, but I cannot claim to always have been an artist. I earned my degrees in English and taught writing and literature for years before leaving that profession to enter the technical world as a writer. Even though I was writing technical manuals, I learned about the creative worlds of bookbinding, graphic design, printing and publishing. I left all that behind to become a full time mom when my second child was born – still the best job I have ever had.
Being a mom was the ultimate release for all of my creative energies. No one loves to create as much as a child, and I took full advantage of my kids’ creative curiosity. Our home was a warehouse of craft supplies and the dining room table was always messy with the latest project. One year my kids and I rented a stand at the De Anza Flea Market and under the banner (homemade from scrap fabric) “Kids Can” they sold a wide variety of crafts they had made. That was during the Beanie Baby craze and my kids sold over $200 worth of homemade Beanie Baby beds!
When my kids entered elementary school, I served as Art Docent in their classrooms and, as such, taught art history and created art with the children. As a room mom, teachers welcomed me into their classrooms, as I brought with me all kinds of art projects: sock snowmen (and snow women), puppets out of kitchen utensils, edible stained glass cookies, painting like Jackson Pollack, and much more. Art in the classroom was more fun than I could ever have imagined.
When my kids were in high school, I began a new career as a costume designer and worked with the school’s theater group. I worked as a professional costume designer, for approximately ten years. During this time, I added jewelry making to my skill set and about twice a year had successful home shows to show and sell what I had made.
Bay Area Eco Art – So working with children has been an inspiration to you.
Mary – Yes. I have been very fortunate to be part of a community that both loves the arts and cares about the environment. Cupertino embodies both of these values. In fact, in 1994 I was commissioned by the City of Cupertino to put on an environmental puppet show for the city’s school children. The purpose of the show was to raise awareness among young children and empower them to take action to reduce waste. Even a child can take action and make a difference. Along with my friend, who teaches choir at a local high school, we wrote an original script, which included environmentally oriented songs for the children to sing and musical instruments made out of old milk containers, soda cans, and other discarded items for them to play. I made puppet characters, including Mother Earth and Tree, using, in part, old shirts and cardboard toilet paper tubes. For the month of April and in celebration of Earth Day, we took our traveling show to 13 different elementary schools. The shows were interactive, a great success, and so much fun!
Bay Area Eco Art – What inspires you now?
Mary - About three years ago, I discovered the upcycled fabrics from the couture design houses of San Francisco through the non-profit organization FabMo. These fabrics are so exciting to me! They are like an artist’s pallet for the seamstress – so many beautiful textures and colors! Often when I look at a fabric I will see what it will become: a handbag, part of a fiber landscape, or even a teddy bear. These fabrics are more beautiful than any I could afford to buy and they are finding a second life in my handbags and totes. Because the fabrics come in limited quantities and sometimes very odd sizes, they present an exciting design challenge, which I love. And because these fabrics would otherwise go to the landfill, everything I make from them is eco-smart.
Bay Area Eco Art – What advice do you have for aspiring artists and crafters?
Mary – Explore everything that excites you! Experiment and don’t be afraid to make a mistake and throw a project away. Talk with other artists and craftspeople and share skills and ideas. And always reduce, reuse and recycle!
Find Mary at www.cinderwooddesigns.com