|he possibilities are endless, says Mary of her richly hued,|
|one-of-a-kind decoupage designs, each glowing through clear glass plates and trays.|
|In the studio of her New York City apartment, Mary has filed away 'tens of thousands of pictures--animals, angels, flowers, art. An image suggests other images, themes, colors until the picture play comes together in a unique and often witty way. On the octagonal piece at upper right, 19th-century Staffordshire evokes a period mood in a plate about plates. Most of Mary's are made of clear, tempered French glass. At bottom right: A family photo can be the basis of a very personal custom-made gift.|
Glass seems to enhance colors; it gives the vibrant effect of something seen underwater, says Mary Anderson, who for many years was a prolific writer of children's books. Now, under her crafts name of Mary Nell, she is just as prolific as a decoupage artist, having created nearly a thousand imaginative designs on usable glass plates since the art took over full-time three years ago. I never get bored, because, just as in writing for children, there are no boundaries, no rules, no limits to what you can try or imagine. Mary did not have a crafts-rich childhood, so when her three daughters arrived, she made sure there were lots of materials always at hand.
|I found I had a tremendous need to be making things--dollhouses, fancy packages, anything. She first discovered the intensifying quality of glass when dreaming up crafts projects for her girls to give as Christmas presents. They each did a little drawing, and we glued them on the back of glass coasters," she recalls. "I loved the effect-but I had no idea it would one day lead to a real business!|
For a special wedding anniversary, birthday, or other family commemoration, Mary specializes in creating custom-designed plates from old family photographs, like the symphony of sisters above. It's a unique and very personal sort of surprise, she says. I love working with old photos--they have so much personality. Often I feel I'm entering a family's history. For example, one woman wanted to let her mother know how much her childhood summers, in a wonderful house in an apple orchard, had meant to her. So we decided to surround the family picture with apple blossoms. For another family, I created six plates, each in a different color. And then they all got together and had a picnic with them! Or I can make a set to match a fabric. Mary points out that her creations are entirely usable, and easily cleaned by handwashing. And, once photocopied, the precious family photographs are returned.
Mary points out that creating a collage on the back of a plate is actually decoupage in reverse: Because rather than build up the picture, background to foreground, you are laying the foreground image down first. She manages this front-to-back challenge by assembling her design elements between two glass plates: like making a transparent sandwich. When she started doing decoupage, she began using up her precious picture files fast, until I discovered the wonders of high-quality color photocopying! Now I can use the same images in different ways.
One plate can take days to complete, because each stage--from gluing the scrap to backing the whole with patterned tissue, to painting and then scaling with several coats of polyurethane--has to dry before she can start the next. It's painstaking work she admits. Which may explain why Mary is often still up at 2 A.M., playing classical music as she snips tissue or pores through garden catalogs for just the right pansies or peonies.
Although her one-woman business has flourished, she insists that, for her, the bottom line is: Am I having fun? You can't guarantee success. But you can guarantee that what you do is fulfilling. And after three years, I still can't wait to start something new each day.